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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Meaning at the Movies | ‘Are You There God?’ It’s Me, Lauren.

Meaning at the Movies is a biweekly blog that analyzes the depth and beauty behind different films.
Meaning+at+the+Movies+%7C+%E2%80%98Are+You+There+God%3F%E2%80%99+It%E2%80%99s+Me%2C+Lauren.
Carrington Bryan | Staff Illustrator

My relationship with religion is decidedly complicated. I grew up in a very religious Christian environment, and spent every Sunday morning, Wednesday night and the occasional Saturday of my childhood at the church. Yet, as I got older and progressed throughout high school and into college, I began to question more things and not accept things as truth so quickly. And so my religious beliefs became a bit less clear-cut and much more fluid. My relationship with God is now very different, but still important to my life. 

I want to be clear here — this is not my attempt to persuade you one way or another or to criticize religion. It’s an interpretation of where I am at this moment and the reasoning behind how the film “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” broke my heart wide open.

“Are You There God?” centers on 11-year-old Margaret Simon as she moves to the suburbs, begins to make new friends, goes through puberty and attempts to figure out her faith. However, this movie also does something very different — it gives just as much attention, care and even screen time to Margaret’s mother, Barbara, as it does to Margaret. This, in turn, works to establish both Margaret and Barbara as fully fleshed-out characters with whom the audience can emphasize and relate, and serves as a gentle reminder that our parents are doing life for the first time too. 

Watching this movie as someone who has dealt with religious upheaval gives this film a special kind of power. This power is then doubled for someone who exists in the space between Margaret and Barbara — being old enough to look back at being 11 while also rapidly coming to the understanding of my mother as a full person. In many ways, watching this movie hollowed me out — it felt like it looked inside my mind and my heart and threw so many things I was feeling onto the screen. There are so many hurt pieces of me I see in both Margaret and Barbara, but there are so many hopeful bits too. 

With Margaret, I remember being so much like her at that age. I was tender and unassuming, but also full of so many thoughts and overwhelming emotions. I also moved around the same age and had an incredible teacher, just as Margaret does, who helped me find a bit of self-assurance. I remember becoming a bit disquieted with faith at that time too — albeit slightly differently than Margaret. And to begin to have these big philosophical debates on top of puberty is hard and confusing, and just simply upsetting. This is shown so clearly with Margaret’s character too, as she goes to church and to the temple, but then talks about struggling to find God in those spaces — instead of only feeling God when she’s alone. 

Looking at that aspect of Margaret’s character, not from the lens of myself at that age, but from the lens of where I am now with my faith journey, is incredibly resonant and meaningful to me. I, just as Margaret, don’t quite know what God looks like or where exactly to find him, but there is still some kind of feeling, some connection I find in these quiet moments where I am free to imagine. There is a kind of freedom and relief in having those quiet spaces where you can feel God or at least feel something, even when you are so incredibly uncertain of what entirely you believe. Margaret’s character allows for the space for questions, confusion and uncertainty, and offers the assurance that that’s okay. 

Barbara is a living, breathing example of what it can mean to be an adult with those questions and confusions — and the stinging of loss that can come from a movement away from old beliefs. Barbara was estranged from her parents since she married Margaret’s father, Herb, because they did not support her marriage to a Jewish man. Later, when Barbara allows her parents to visit with the hope of a second chance, it only results in further disaster and an intensified estrangement. Barbara has a clear and painful background in her relationship to Christianity — but she doesn’t shy entirely away from it, allowing Margaret to explore it without pressuring her one way or another. 

For me, Barbara signals a kind of hope. A reminder that when there is intense pain, there can still be hope and joy. And that, perhaps, that kind of pain can create an openness, a willingness to sort through ideas and learn new things and have better, richer, more diverse experiences. Barbara deeply values choice and freedom, and she works hard to ensure that in Margaret’s life. She allows for the space for questioning, for big emotions, for tears — she makes the space for Margaret to figure it out, even as she is too. For me, Barbara is a reminder that pain can be turned into goodness and love, that a shift in beliefs isn’t the end, and that it can result in a better, richer life. 

In the end, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” isn’t just a celebration of girlhood and all its complexities, but also of questioning and curiosity and the idea that we can make that space for others.