The Oscars were held yesterday, and “CAW’s" were filling Twitter feeds as Birdman got some well-earned awards, including best picture and director. It was a joy seeing the Academy celebrating the weird and unusual, the indies and the films that not only made us cry, but put a smile on our faces. The fact that Birdman is a superhero movie also makes it even better.
And Birdman is truly special, for it has a message and a meaning that lies beneath the great acting and cinematography. In reality, Birdman is about each and every one of us.
Take a moment right now and listen. Do you hear that voice in your head speaking? The one who tells you that you need to remember to do laundry, buy food, stop wasting time on the internet? The reason I ask you to listen is because the answer to the open ending of the movie might just lie in all of us.
Think back at all the times that voice in your head was judgmental, mean-spirited, a know-it-all. Think about all the times it made you question yourself and your actions, made you dislike what you see in the mirror every day and stopped you from doing something you probably should have. Now, imagine that voice being a person sitting next to you, whispering into your ear, following you wherever you go.
Now, isn't that what Birdman is? A judgmental, mean-spirited know-it-all that wouldn't stop bothering Thomson?
When watching Birdman I found myself questioning what the movie was actually about- and I loved that. To me, much like with books, I find movies are at their best when they have deeper meanings hidden beneath the entertainment and creativity, the uses of symbolism, metaphors, and life-lessons to be puzzled together.
And if anything, that’s what Birdman is all about. It has subtle hints of future events, metaphors for life, questions about the human psyche and how we cope with the past, the future – and ourselves.
After watching Birdman I found myself contemplating all of these hidden meanings and what they would all mean if I put them all together. Was the play Thomson was setting up a metaphor for how his life could have been, how we all find ourselves at some point picturing how our personalities would have been, had we taken a different path in life?
And is Birdman just a symbol for that inner voice that controls our every move, that voice we all find it so hard to escape?
I believe so. Birdman as a character to me wasn't just a character that haunts Thomson's consciousness, a multiple personality disorder which took the shape of something that used to be part of his life. It's his inner voice which is making sure he doesn't forget his glory days. He's the voice that dislikes Thomson's new approach to life, that judges his lack of love for his past, that despises his coming to terms with reality and what he has become as a person.
Birdman is a symbol for what we all go through in life. Whether it's the voice of a past that's begging us to go back to being who we were, or a voice begging us to move towards our once pictured future. Regardless, it can be both an aid and a nuisance.
As people, most of us cling to some part of our past, and find ourselves questioning whether or not we listen to that voice enough. Should I travel the world like I wanted when I was a kid? Should I forget relationships and enjoy the single life I found so appealing when I was a teenager? Should I follow my dreams or the money I so longed for in my early 20s?
Endless interpretations of Birdman's ending have floated around the internet since the movie's release. Did he die? Did he fly? Or was it all just in his head? Personally, I think he was reborn. He came to terms with his past and made his life better, while letting go of the bad.
We are all superheroes in our own way. We've all done great things. In Thomson's case, what he thought was great was the fame, the glory, the mask he put on. Every superhero has their dark side, and in the chaos of his life, Thomson forgot about the real lessons he should have learned and fell victim to that darkness, much like we've seen the likes of Batman and Spider-Man do before him. Superheroes can be forgotten, but that doesn't mean that they're not still super. By the end of Birdman, Thomson understands that sometimes you must let go of the past in order to move forward.
When he flew out of that window, he was letting go of Birdman, the voice that was dragging him down and preventing him from moving forward, but keeping the ability to fly out of himself – to create and enjoy life without the mask. To me, Emma Stone was never there, leaning out the window – she was only a vision in Thomson's head, a visualization of how happy she would be to see him let go of Birdman and becoming his own superhero.
If my interpretation makes sense, the Academy did not only celebrate a well-made, quality motion picture – it celebrated all of us, our weaknesses and pasts, our constant pursuit to become superheroes of our own lives, and how even those of us who've fallen can always get back up again.
Now get up, dear reader, and shut that voice up. Spread those wings to the sky and shout CAW!
What does your Birdman-voice keep you from doing?
All GIFs courtesy of Fox Searchlight - see the full story here.