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“Luxury communism now!” The rise of the pro-Corbyn media

How a new generation of radical activists have set up their own news sites to take on the established press.

One afternoon in early August, Michael Walker was perched on a fake tree stump in a corner of YouTube Space, a studio in King’s Cross, north London, which is adorned with artificial foliage, carpeted in astroturf and lit luminous green. Electric guitars line the wall opposite, beside an Xbox “lounge” and coffee bar.

With his sharp buzzcut, silver studs, big brown eyes and easy east-London twang, Walker looked at home as he directed a team of young videographers. The subject matter – explaining internal Labour-party structures – was less in tune with the edgy surroundings, but Walker was determined to make it interesting. The previous episode of his series Party Time featured him dancing in a black vest, explaining how branches and constituency parties work. (“I might go for more clothes this time,” he says later.)

“To really influence the party, you’re gonna have to get involved at a local level. Labour can only be changed from the bottom up,” he told his audience, before adding. “And like a butt without lube – apologies – this episode’s going to be a little bit dry.”

Michael Walker

A self-described “activist first, journalist second”, Walker, 27, is one of the rising stars in Britain’s growing alternative left-wing media, which supported and has subsequently been fuelled by Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. He is a host on Novara Media, which produces videos, podcasts and articles about left-wing politics for a UK audience fed up with mainstream publications. Along with Novara’s combative founder, Aaron Bastani, he presents the twice-weekly live politics show, The Fix, and co-hosts the podcast TyskySour. Both men call themselves “class war social democrats”.

Other nascent left-wing media organisations include the Canary and Evolve Politics and blogs such as Skwawkbox and Another Angry Voice. Their approaches and tones vary widely, but what unites them is an uncompromisingly socialist perspective, sympathy towards Corbyn, distaste for the mainstream media (MSM) and a heavy reliance on social media such as Facebook to spread their message. While some traditional Labour voters will not recognise the names of these outlets, the influence of Novara et al on the political conversation is undeniable. Labour MPs grant them interviews – Jeremy Corbyn says he reads the Canary – and stories they publish (such as doubts about the homophobic abuse suffered by Corbynsceptic Labour MP Angela Eagle in 2016) can gain wide traction.

Willing readers are not hard to find. Research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shows that people who identify as left-wing in the UK have “far less” trust than the general public in established media organisations. “This has created a niche, an opportunity for these sites to find an audience,” says director of research Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. “Even if their reach in the general population might sometimes be limited, they can still be quite important in terms of influencing elite debate.”

Following Labour’s better-than-expected showing in June’s general election, the left-wing media sites feel vindicated – as do their readers.“We were calling things right at that last election that many journalists missed,” says Walker. “It’s becoming ever more apparent that the commentator class is from an increasingly narrow group of people – both politically and sociologically – where everyone hangs in the same SW1 circles. There’s clearly a desire to consume media from different sources that have a slightly different outlook and potentially broader perspective.”

***

Novara – named after the Italian town in Elio Petri’s 1971 political film The Working Class Goes to Heaven – is the most established of the new left-wing media organisations, having been founded in 2014, a year before Corbyn’s unlikely rise to power. “The New Statesman or Guardian either didn’t see it [the Corbyn surge during the election], or didn’t think it would be particularly consequential – and, in fairness, nor did many of us,” says Bastani, 33, over coffee by the river in London Bridge. “[But] we considered ourselves on the radical left, and that radical politics and intellectual curiosity has now been bolted onto the Jeremy Corbyn project.”

Today, Novara has an office and studio in Peckham, south London, an editor-in-chief, deputy editors, and a core team of 15 volunteers, who all have other day jobs. Walker is a private tutor, and Bastani does freelance communications work. The only people paid are the 200-odd contributing writers (£40 an article) and videographers (£90 a job). Novara makes money from its 700 or so supporters, who make regular or one-off payments, and the internet giants who host its viral content. “In five years we want a space, we want a bar, we want a three- or four-storey building, we want 15 paid employees, we want international bureaus,” Bastani says.

Novara estimates that it has 10,000 committed viewers and listeners, and produces videos that regularly hit 100,000 views. Although Bastani says the website doesn’t draw a mass audience – in July, it attracted just 80,000 unique users – he calls Facebook and Twitter “the main hubs” of the operation. He claims that Novara’s Facebook content reached 3 million people over the general election period, and about 5 per cent of its articles are shared by at least 30,000 people on the social network.

Aaron Bastani

Bastani’s politics changed during his twenties from “vanilla” (briefly backing David Miliband) to “fully-automated luxury communism” – he’s writing a book with that title – after becoming involved in the student protest movement following the financial crash. Images still circulate of him topless and hollering at a tax-justice rally, the Daily Mail in particular delighting in reducing him to his sculpted torso.

There is a macho feel to some of Novara’s output. Its most high-profile political commentators are male, aside from senior editor Ash Sarkar (Twitter bio: “Literature bore. Anarcho-fabulous. Muslim. THFC. Walks like a supermodel. Fucks like a champion. Luxury communism now!”). Along with Bastani’s street-fighting persona on Twitter, this blokey tone has been criticised even by otherwise friendly voices on the left.

Lack of gender balance is one example of how these new outlets share the problems of their establishment counterparts, even while striving to be a progressive alternative. The parallels are even more striking among fiercely partisan websites such as the Canary, Skwawkbox and Evolve Politics, which focus more on news than Novara; their output often mirrors the tabloids they despise, in both tone and approach. Pushing an anti-Tory, anti-MSM and usually pro-Corbyn line, their political bias is as aggressive as that of the pro-Brexit legacy press. The Canary’s biggest target is the BBC, which it sees as biased in favour of a “neoliberal” establishment. Upon parliament’s return from the summer recess, the Canary website ran three attack pieces on the BBC in two days.

“After taking six weeks off, it took Laura Kuenssberg just two paragraphs to reveal her true colours,” was the headline on a story about the BBC political editor’s reporting of how Labour MPs will handle the EU withdrawal bill.

Even some members of the pro-Corbyn campaign network Momentum dismiss the new left-wing media sites as “gossip blogs”, but they’re still essential reading for many on the left. Corbyn told BuzzFeed in May: “I think it’s good that people go to all the alternative sites and check out what they want.”

***

When I ask to visit the Canary’s office, the first thing I learn is that it doesn’t have one. Editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza runs the site remotely from her home in Bristol. Instead, we meet at a bar on the city’s waterfront. Mendoza, 36, wears a black-and-white breton, and grinds out her second Camel Blue of the morning into a cockle shell.

She started the Canary in 2015 with a team of five – including her wife Nancy, now director of communications and membership – who each contributed £100. The website’s name comes from a speech by the US civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson at the St Paul’s Occupy camp in London in December 2011, where Mendoza was present. Jackson referred to the activists as “the canaries in the coalmine”, who would increase awareness of homelessness and poverty and encourage others to join the fight for social and economic justice.

“There is literally no mass-market left-wing outlet,” Mendoza says. “The Mirror at best is centre left. [So] what if we had a left-wing outlet with the sort of reach and conversation size of the Daily Mail or the Sun? What would our political landscape look like if as many people were reading left-wing output as were reading right-wing output? Surely that would generate a proper battle of ideas.”

Kerry-Anne Mendoza

Mendoza has cultivated “tabloid styling, tabloid-level language” for her site, explaining that she treats each article like a newspaper front page. She has “deliberately styled the Canary to have a reading age of eight” – a policy reportedly used by the Sun. The Canary even uses software to ensure the language has this ease of comprehension, with a red, amber and green light system that keeps writers to this reading age as they work. “We have to make sure that anyone, anywhere can read this,” she says.

Mendoza claims that the number of unique visitors to the site overtook the Times in the month leading up to June’s polling day, though this is hard to confirm. The Canary has a large socia-media following with 49,100 Twitter followers and 154,753 Facebook likes. Its Facebook shares averaged 7,459 per piece in the first week of the general election, according to BuzzFeed. Turnover in its first year of operations was “not very shy of a quarter of a million”, according to Mendoza. Funds come almost equally from a membership scheme, where readers can sign up and pay to support the site, and online advertising.

Like Novara’s Bastani, Mendoza has become more left-wing with age. She tells me she used to earn six figures as a freelance project manager in the private and public sector. “I was always economically right-wing, socially left-wing,” she says, recalling her first attempt at political blogging in 2010 – an urge to give the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition a chance. “I’m nothing if not optimistic!”

The Canary has around 20 writers, whose articles are seen by five pairs of eyes before publication, Mendoza says. She doesn’t disclose their fees, but each writer gets a flat sum plus a proportion of the ad revenue their piece draws in. Some writers have earned more than £3,000 in a month, she says.

This payment method, also used by Evolve Politics – a slightly less sensational news site – is derided by some for creating a financial incentive to write “clickbait”. James Ball, the former Guardian and BuzzFeed journalist, last year accused the Canary of “irresponsible pay-per-click journalism”.

***

On 16 June 2017, two days after the Grenfell fire, a story questioning its death toll circulated on social media. VIDEO: GOVT “PUTS ‘D-NOTICE’ GAG” ON REAL #GRENFELL DEATH TOLL #NATIONALSECURITY shouted the blog Skwawkbox. The article was retweeted 373 times and shared 165 times on Facebook. When it quickly emerged that the government had not hidden the real figure from the public using a Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice, the blog was accused of spreading “fake news”.

Skwawkbox is run by 52-year-old Steve Walker, a software business owner who lives in the north-west of England. He calls himself a “citizen journalist”, is a member of the National Union of Journalists, and has been blogging on Skwawkbox since he set it up in 2012 to focus on the Mid Staffs hospital scandal. He has a team of six who help with fact-checking and information-gathering, but there are no salaries. “It’s a labour of passion,” he says over the phone.

Walker changed the headline and ran a correction at the top of his D-Notice article, although the piece and social media posts remain online. “There are obviously cases where we get it wrong,” he says, of his general coverage. “When we get it wrong we make sure we say so equally prominently, as quickly as possible.”

Walker believes he receives so much stick because established reporters are jealous of his work. His interview with Labour MP Laura Pidcock sparked a big political story over the summer recess, with the new MP calling Tory parliamentary colleagues “the enemy” and voicing “absolutely no intention of being friends with any of them”.

“People who seem to feel threatened by what we do will throw the fake news accusation or the conspiracy theorist accusation or whatever else as a lazy way of trying to downplay what we do,” Walker says.

The Canary’s high-profile blunders include suggesting that the public affairs firm Portland Communications masterminded a coup against Jeremy Corbyn, and a story criticising the Sun’s front page for ignoring the Manchester terror attack. (It was actually a first edition, printed before the explosion).

“It was really bad – totally me,” Mendoza says of the latter. She apologised in a newsletter to readers, and the piece was pulled. Corrections are pinned to the top of their Facebook page for 48 hours. The article about the Portland conspiracy, which resulted in an employee there receiving a death threat, remains online at the time of writing.

Like the traditional tabloids, the Canary and other left-wing new media love a hatchet job. But they also have an internet army of fans to propagate their message on social media. Along with Kuenssberg, Corbyn-sceptic Labour MPs such as Jess Phillips are often the subjects of attack pieces, which can lead to a cascade of criticism from readers online. Phillips became so exasperated by this, she tweeted last year: “If you send me canary [sic] articles be aware you’ve been muted. Save the seconds it took to tweet [to] maybe call a loved one or deliver a leaflet.”

Mendoza says the Canary is “anti-bullying” because it gave a hearing to Corbyn and his supporters, when mainstream journalists were “undermining and twisting what the movement is about”.

***

While they relish their outsider status, the new left-wing sites are becoming part of the formal media landscape. The Canary has joined the Max Mosley-funded alternative press regulator Impress, and Evolve Politics was recently granted a place in the Westminster lobby, joining reporters from all the major UK media outlets in covering parliament from the inside.

But won’t this make sites such as Evolve part of the very establishment they purport to scrutinise? “It’s not going to change the way we report,” says Matt Turner, the website’s deputy editor. An earnest and soft-spoken 22-year-old, he meets me after arriving in London from Cardiff, where he’s studying for a masters in political communication. He will now split his time between Wales and Westminster. “I can be in the same room as them [other reporters] in a press briefing but the content we produce is going to be incredibly different… We’re always going to be there to cause a bit of trouble.”

Matt Turner

Turner spends as many as 15 hours a week editing, and is paid 10 per cent of the website’s advertising revenue. Writers’ fees range “between about £7-15 per article, which isn’t a lot but it’s all we can do at the moment,” he says. Pay was one of many gripes a former Evolve team member Alex McNamara aired in a blog post disassociating himself from the website in August, concluding: “Evolve are, in fact, no better than the worst of the manipulative right-wing MSM publications they spend so much energy decrying.”

Either way, the MSM has found a place for them in Westminster, and the audience and budding influence of these news sites suggest they’re not just an online fad that journalists and politicians can ignore. Turner goes so far as to call it “the changing of the guard”. But the more popular the new left-wing media becomes, the more it will face the same scrutiny – as well as occupying the same spaces – as its mainstream competition. Will this pull it into line, or put its writers off?

Back at YouTube Space, Walker ponders this, as he takes pictures on his phone of Novara’s latest interviewee, Olly Alexander of electronic pop trio Years & Years, who has just arrived at the studio. “I’ve got no ambition to remain marginal,” Walkers says. “We want to make left-wing ideas common sense and mainstream. We want to be as big as possible.” 

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left

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“Senior year burns brightly. There is a vividness in worlds coming to an end”: Lady Bird’s aesthetic of memory

“The way time rushes forward is a theme of the film, one scene tumbling into the next. We can never hold on to it.”

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is acutely aware of time. She knows that her trip with her mother to a Californian college and back took 21 hours and five minutes, the same amount of time it takes to listen to The Grapes of Wrath, in full, on cassette. She knows that Alanis Morisette wrote ‘Hand in My Pocket’ in “only ten minutes”. She knows that, tragically, UC Davis, the state college she is accepted into, is just thirty minutes away from her house – “less, if you’re driving fast.”

She is less sure on when the “normal time” to touch a penis or have sex is – and seems, as she reaches for a more cultured, more independent, more meaningful future, quite unaware that she is rapidly passing through a distinct and special period of her own life. “I wish I could live through something,” she sighs, staring out of the car window at her hometown of Sacremento as it literally and metaphorically rushes behind her, into her past.

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is a coming-of-age film: like most works that fall under that broad label, it is more nostalgically concerned with the age its protagonist is forced to leave behind than the age she is coming into. It’s a loving portrait of Lady Bird’s senior year, told in a series of stylised, rose-tinted vignettes: brief shots of girls slow dancing with each other at themed dances, of parents cheering at graduation and school plays, of boys’ names inked onto walls like a secret tattoo. “I only ever write from a place of love,” Gerwig (who both wrote and directed the film, which stars Saoirse Ronan as the titular central character) has told Vulture. .

At a glance, the structure of Gerwig’s film is deeply traditional: it covers one school year in full, from Lady Bird’s first day of senior year to her heading off to college. It’s a formula that many high school movies rely on: from coming-of-age films like Juno (which is interspersed with title cards reading “Spring”, “Summer”, and so on), Mean Girls (documenting Cady’s journey from outcast on the first day of the year to crowned queen bee at the Spring Fling to fully-functioning human on the first day of the next school year) and The Perks of Being A Wallflower, to franchises like High School Musical and Harry Potter. TV series, too, often build each season around an academic year: from Freaks and Geeks to Gilmore Girls to Gossip Girl: is it any wonder that K. Austin Collins, in The Ringer, writes that Lady Bird is “packing an entire TV season’s worth of material into under two hours”?

It’s not surprising that cultural representations of youth are constructed around the fundamental timetable of most teenagers’ lives. As Gerwig explains in Lady Bird’s production notes, “When you are a teenager in America, you organize your life around academic years: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior. It always made sense to me to tell the story of the whole year. The rituals of the year, the circularity.”

So Lady Bird passes through many scholastic events during her story (the first day back and the final graduation ceremony; the fall musical and the spring play; the ice breaking dance and the last prom). Gerwig’s shooting script is segmented by directions in bold: “SECOND SEMESTER” (p. 50), “SUMMER (AGAIN)” (p.100).

But even as Gerwig speaks of her awareness of the organised, ritualistic structure of a school year, she does so with fluidity. Her conception of time is much less rigid, than, say, JK Rowling’s meticulous plans for her plots to be precisely timed to interact with Halloween feasts, Christmas and Easter holidays, Quidditch matches and final exams. “The way time rushes forward is a theme of the film, one scene tumbling into the next. We can never hold onto it,” Gerwig continues. “It is something beautiful that you never appreciated and ends just as you come to understand it.”

“Senior year burns brightly and is also disappearing as quickly as it emerges. The way we end where we began. It is a spiralling upwards. There is a certain vividness in worlds that are coming to an end.”

When Gerwig was first discussing Lady Bird with her cinematographer, Sam Levy, she told him she wanted the film to “look and feel like a memory”. Together, they collated images they were drawn to and reproduced them using a cheap photocopier, repeating the process several times, until the pictures were distressed and distanced from their originals. This was, for them, “the aesthetic of a memory”. They deliberately used older lenses to try and recreate this effect on screen: specifically combining the Alexa Mini digital camera with Panavision lenses from the Sixties and Seventies. “We wanted the colour to look like a memory of a time, not to be literally exactly how the world looks,” Gerwig adds in her production notes, explaining that she and Levy based their colour palette on the paintings of Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos.

She wanted each shot to be presentational and specifically framed, “like a Medieval triptych”. “We talked about always having a sense of the proscenium,” she adds, “of the film unfolding in a series of placed scenes like Stations of the Cross presents the story of the Passion.”

We see Lady Bird in her school chapel on the first day of term, her chin rested on linked fingers, her eyes raised to a biblical tableau high above her. We see her shot upside down, her head on a paisley carpet, giggling while chomping down on un-consecrated wafers with her best friend, Julie. We see her lying on the grass of a rose garden at night with her first boyfriend, Danny, shouting to the stars. We see her in just a towel, with wet her, talking to her mother about her father’s depression in an unusually small voice. We see her sat in the back of her parent’s car, on her way to the airport as she leaves for college, while the sun sets. Such shots are imbued with the blush and ceremony that we retroactively ascribe to firsts and lasts, and to moments that acquire increased significance only in memory.

It is also the specificity of Lady Bird’s 2002 setting, with references as wide-reaching as Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me A River’, clove cigarettes, Alanis Morisette and post-9/11 paranoia, that enables  it to achieve the status of memory for an adult audience. So, too, does its attention to the details of teenage life – a world of casts and nosebleeds as much as college applications and driving tests.

Lady Bird has been praised in several reviews (including those in the Guardian, the LA Times, The Atlantic and the AV Club) for its specificity, authenticity and sincerity. One of Gerwig’s other films, Frances Ha, opens with a montage that includes a few seconds of Gerwig, as Frances, reading Lionel Trilling’s work of literary criticism, Sincerity and Authenticity. “To praise a work of literature by calling it sincere,” Frances reads aloud, “is now at best a way of saying that, although it may be given no aesthetic or intellectual admiration –’”. We cut to a different moment. “Basically, the question she’s setting up is, what do we mean by sincerity, and does it diminish the thing?” Gerwig reflects to Vulture. “I’ve always felt like it heightens it.”  In Lady Bird, Gerwig attempts to unite deliberately stylised, artful aesthetics with an emotional authenticity and sincerity.

“I kept saying that I wanted to feel as if the film was ‘over there’”, she says in the production notes. “I always wanted to feel the frame and to feel the medium of cinema.”

Lady Bird is almost entirely composed of very short scenes – most are under a minute long. Some are mere flashes: Lady Bird screaming in the street after kissing Danny for the first time, brief glimpses of rehearsals for the school musical, or the three-second, three-shot-long scene of Lady Bird getting her cast removed while her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalfe) watches on. Many of them are non-essential for the plot: fleeting shots see Lady Bird wandering the streets near her home, working lazily in local cafés and supermarkets, cheating on a math final. “I wanted to bring in moments, pieces of B-roll, to create an emotional memory,” Nick Hoey, the film’s editor explains, in language strikingly similar to Gerwig’s. “The idea of things tumbling forward and things you hold on to.” The result is a film almost built out of a sequence of images.

Hoey “understood the tone we were going for,” Gerwig explains in the notes – the idea that the film was like an up-tempo pop song that you only realise is sad when someone does a slowed-down cover version. “Houy understood the lightness I wanted, the way the film would be frothy and exciting like waves breaking on a beach, but that then suddenly the undertow would become apparent and before you know it, you are in much deeper waters than you expected.” Nick Hoey insists that Gerwig’s script already “had editing built into it”.

Only three scenes are over three minutes long; two bookend the film. The first is the opening car ride that sees Marion and Lady Bird laugh, cry and scream with rage at each other, as Lady Bird expresses her desire to live a life outside of Sacramento, “where culture is”, and Marion wonders aloud, “How did I raise such a snob?”

The last is the scene where a desperately hungover, brand new to New York Christine stumbles across a church on a Sunday morning, slips in to hear the choir, and slips out again to call Marion. Interspersed with shots of both Marion and Lady Bird driving, it calls back to the opening, collapsing the time between. “Did you feel emotional the first time that you drove in Sacramento?” she asks her mother over a voicemail. “I did and I wanted to tell you, but we weren’t really talking when it happened.” She speaks of this experience as though it is a long-distant memory (and in one sense it is), but it could only have been a few weeks ago. In terms of viewing minutes, Lady Bird only passed her driving test ten minutes earlier – the distance this memory is held at encourages us to read much of the film as a memory, as though Christine has been looking back at her senior year from a future vantage point all along. Lauren Oyler argues in The Baffler that Lady Bird, with its precocious lead and loving tone, is essentially regressive nostalgia for infantilised grown-ups, popular because it allows audiences to “rewrite their adolescences from adulthood”. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Christine has been doing this all along.

The longest scene, at nearly four minutes, comes in the middle of the film, when Lady Bird loses her virginity to the alternative, posturing, popular Kyle (Timothee Chalamet). It’s a disappointing experience for Lady Bird, and one that punctures some of her own fantasies – she spends much of the film before this point trying to insert herself amongst the cooler, more sophisticated crowd of Kyle and his friend Jenna, and the time after it turning back to the friends she almost left behind. It also represents a point at which the narrative accelerates. Oyler writes that “from here, the pace becomes curiously quick.” While the remaining scenes are of a broadly similar length to the preceding ones, Lady Bird’s remaining time at school, which contains several key milestones, does seem to fly by. Her prom, graduation, driving test, 18th birthday, and college acceptance letter arrive in five consecutive scenes that, together, span less than eight minutes. Her entire final summer at home is a blur that lasts less than ten minutes in total.

Oyler argues that this speed is to enable the film “to tie up loose ends”. But the exponential passage of time in Lady Bird speaks to a larger experience of adolescence. Being a teenager feels both impossibly permanent and terrifyingly transient – then, suddenly, it’s over before you can process it. Many of my adolescent experiences were characterised by the pre-empting of future nostalgia, experiencing a moment not in a state of blissful ignorance, but with the awareness that it was formative, that I would look back at it in years to come through a hazy yellow filter – even if, at the same time, I held a quiet, unreasonable belief that I would remain a teenager forever. In the production notes, Greta Gerwig calls this “the pre-sentiment of loss, of ‘lasts’”. She explains she wanted to achieve “that sense of time slipping away, the future charging into the present, the bonds of childhood as only living on in memory.” In the words of film critic Simran Hans, Lady Bird’s “joyful, forward-rushing narrative rhythm captures the feeling of adolescence ending before it has barely begun.”

All that said, it’s hard to watch Lady Bird and actually envy its protagonist. As much as her teenage years are sanctified, they are not airbrushed. “It’s not a highlight reel—the movie is full of embarrassment,” Collins writes. Embarrassment, anger, shame, anxiety – the intense pain and awkwardness of being an almost-adult forced to still live like a child, or a child pretending to live like an almost-adult, is plain. “Whenever I feel nostalgic,” Tavi Gevison writes in The Infinity Diaries, “I try to remember that what I really want is not to go back, but what I have now: the image, the memory.” Lady Bird doesn’t encourage us to long for our teenage years back, but it does encourage us to cherish our own memories, to frame them with ceremony, to feel our roots.

“I thought the best way to write a love letter,” Greta Gerwig says in the production notes of Lady Bird – a love letter to a place, and a time, and a way of being, “is to frame it with a character who doesn’t realise she loves it – until it’s in the rear view mirror.”

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's deputy culture editor.

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left