Generations Later We Are Still Listening, Margaret

Culture critic reviews movie based on beloved book by Judy Blume

When I initially learned that “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” was being made into a movie, I didn’t give it much thought. Given that it tells the story of twelve year old Margaret who moves from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey right before sixth grade, I assumed it would be something intended for prepubescent girls, and I hadn’t anticipated seeing it. But after getting the opportunity to see the premiere, I was wrong to assume that I wouldn’t be interested. 

“Are you there God? It’s Me, Margret,” has the most female representation I have seen in any film. When I saw Margaret on screen, it was like looking in a mirror, face-to-face with the exact experiences I went through at her age. I saw the fear in her eyes when she got her first period and the joy in her smile when she first made friends at her new school. When the credits rolled, I had the urge to cry. I truly saw my 11 year old self reflected on screen. 

Watching this movie was the first time I have ever felt like I could relate so intimately to a main character. There is still a lot of stigma associated with a first menstrual period. Why? I will never know. However, periods are one of the main topics in this movie and are discussed on a more personal level. We get to experience, through a screen, Margaret’s struggles with her social identity, religious identity, and her relationship with her body. Margaret experiences difficulties as she grows from a girl to a woman. 

Although this topic is “taboo,” and everyone in the theater was slightly uncomfortable at the image of a young girl at this particular rite of passage, I was so pleasantly surprised that the director perfectly delineated how girls experienced puberty. It was as if I was watching my seventh grade self staring at me through the projector lens.  Everyone who menstruates is able to identify with some of the humorous incidents or feel the same way Margaret did while purchasing her first pads. When the book first came out in the 70’s, Blume’s open discussion of puberty was ahead of its time. Even after all these years, the film’s focus on periods still feels new and exciting. It kind of feels like we haven’t come that far since the seventies.

I was able to interview the director of the movie, Kelly Friedman Craig. As I sat down with her downtown for our interview, I immediately felt comfortable with her presence, and I could tell she loved the movie as much as I did. Her passion for presenting this stigmatized subject as something personal yet universal brought the entire movie to life. She explained how, after directing and writing ‘“The Edge of Seventeen,” she chose to adapt “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margret,” into a film because it had such an impact on her when she was growing up. 

Craig wanted to use Margaret’s voice as a guide for young girls navigating their way through the world. But, is this just a movie for young girls? Or is it relatable through many generations? Well, she explained that it was important to the creators “that everyone can come and enjoy Margaret’s life. That it isn’t a film just for 12 year old girls. It is a film for women of all ages, and I think men that get dragged to it actually end up liking it.” 

“Margaret was written in a way that we all feel as if we are Margaret,” Craig said. “We all project ourselves on her. It’s such a magic trick that Judy Blume wrote this character that we all think is us.” Craig was in constant contact with author Judy Blume to translate the written story to the screen. Blume originally didn’t want an adaptation of her novel, but after a lengthy email from Craig, decided that she could get on board with the production of her story. Craig also stated that, “I wanted girls today to watch this and think that everything I went through, my mom went through, and my grandmother went through, and every woman goes through. No one is alone.” She accurately captured how I felt while viewing it.

I think that anyone would love this movie. I think we need more movies like it. For some people, talking about periods may be awkward or uncomfortable, but this is a great way to de-stigmatize the subject. It resonates with anyone who has gone through an awkward phase in life, and tackles many tough topics that other productions tend to avoid. The film struck me as a symbol for all the girls who want to see their lives reflected on screen. We are all Margarets.  “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” is proof of progress in finally breaking the stigma around tabooed and hushed topics like… puberty. 

I was, and probably still am, Margaret, and I hope girls who read this book when they were younger go and see the movie too. It was relatable, hilarious, and amazing how someone can take such a sensitive and personal subject and find a way for everyone to relate and connect to it.