Warning: This post contains spoilers for Lady Bird.
Around the time I turned 15, my best friend and I decided on the songs that absolutely had to be playing when we were to eventually lose our respective virginities. This was a Big Deal: these carefully selected tunes would set the mood for what would probably be the most magical, special night of our lives.
Spoiler alert: I did not in fact lose my virginity to "Fall to Pieces" by Velvet Revolver, and I'm pretty sure Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" was nowhere to be heard when my best friend had sex for the first time. The point here is that as young women, we are fed a lot of crap about what losing your virginity is supposed to be like. In reality however, it rarely — if ever — plays out like the Hollywood fantasy of candles and music and soft silk sheets.
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig's fantastic directorial debut starring Saoirse Ronan as Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a teenage girl coming of age in early aughts Sacramento, is a refreshing departure from that unrealistic trope.
Shortly after breaking up with her first boyfriend, a sweet Catholic boy played by Lucas Hedges (for reasons I will not disclose here), Lady Bird meets Kyle (Timothée Chalamet). Kyle is that guy in high school who read one chapter of Slaughterhouse Five and is deep. He doesn't smoke commercial cigarettes — he rolls his own. He doesn't buy into mass consumerism, yet his hair is perfectly styled, just so. His band has a casually cool French name.
The two make out at a party, and Kyle assures Lady Bird that he, too, is a virgin. Armed with this information, she decides that they will be each other's firsts, and they have sex in his bedroom one afternoon. She's on top.
Kyle isn't a virgin at all, though. He's slept with "like, six" people, and casually tells Lady Bird so post coitus, conveniently amnesic about his former statement. She is understandably outraged — how dare he lie! But what's interesting about this scene is that she's not just angry about Kyle's lack of honesty. She's mad that her first time didn't happen the right way, which is to say the way she was told it was supposed to happen. He wasn't supposed to have slept with enough people that he can't remember an exact number. She wasn't supposed to be on top. It was supposed to be special.
Only for a lot of women, losing your virginity isn't a fairy tale. It's awkward. It's weird. It's a moment you look back on with a mix of fondness and embarrassment: Why did I do that thing with my leg? What was I thinking with that strange term of endearment? Did I really make that face? To see that very relatable experience represented onscreen is a testament to the need for female filmmakers.
The female gaze isn't just about great sex (although it can be — *cough* Outlander); it's about telling stories a woman's perspective. With Lady Bird's messy tale of botched first times, Greta Gerwig has reclaimed the narrative around virginity — and it's all the better for it.
Lady Bird is out in UK cinemas in February 2018.
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