Catherine Called Birdy Brings Feminism to the 13th Century
Adapted from Karen Cushman’s Newbery Medal winning novel, Lena Dunham has made period film fun, frothy, modern and seen quite delighftully through the eyes of a spirited young girl nicknamed Birdy, a 13th-century teen fends her father off as long as possible while vehemently rebelling against her father as he makes attempts to marry her off to a wealthy man.
Bella Ramsey, who is absolutely engaging, takes a delightful detour from her role as the no-nonsense Lyanna Mormont on Game of Thrones to play the title role of Birdy, who revels in causing minor mayhem around her family’s village and their lives..
With Catherine Called Birdy, Dunham finds a fresh angle on themes she’s explored before. This time, she confronts sexism by situating it amid the absurdly arcane customs of 13th-century Europe, noting wryly in the process just how far back the patriarchy stretches and highlighting the cheeky resilience that has kept girls like Birdy from letting it defeat them.
With lines like “bleeding by birthright.” Dunham throws her unique stamp into the 13th-century medieval world we have normally seen from one narrow vantage point devoid mostly of humor. Bringing in the amazingly gifted Sophie Okonedo, as well as, a gifted interracial cast paying slight homage to the fact that Black people existed and were viable members of society is more than refreshing. One of my favorite scenes is the explanation of sex using the metaphors of a sword and box…pure comedy!!!
At the same time, watching scenes where women are reduced to being useful as to only pro-create, makes me cringe and gives me pause to be grateful that I grew up during a time where choices, being an individual and having a voice was embraced. It is precisely these reasons and Dunham’s unique, blunt, tongue-in-cheek dialogue which makes Catherine Called Birdy rollicking, reawakening and reinvigorated entertainment.