Study Guide

Birdman What's Up With the Title?

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What's Up With the Title?

Why Not Riggan Thomson?

Don't get us wrong, we like the title; it reminds us of our favorite lawyer.

But isn't this movie all about Riggan Thomson? Riggan's in almost every shot and Birdman has only one real scene and a little extra dialogue. So what gives? We know Birdman is a fiend for the spotlight, so maybe being the title character was worked into his contract along with the birdseed and the apache attack helicopters.

The point is that we spend a whole lot of time re-envisioning Raymond Carver on the stage, but we never even see a single clip from Birdman 1, 2, or 3. And yet, Birdman is still the title of the film.

Was What We Talk About When We Talk About Jellyfish just too long?

But we can't underestimate the significance Birdman and Birdman play in the film or, more specifically, in Riggan's mind. Riggan is in many ways defined by his past success in this blockbuster series.

Birdman isn't just a fictitious character; Birdman is Riggan…or at least a part of him—the part that wants to throw away his useless, worthless pursuit of "art" and go back to something a little flashier.

So while Birdman as a physical manifestation doesn't take center stage, the film's title isn't about him but what he represents, and what his existence and persistence mean to Riggan.

Tabitha's Labels

But let's not forget about the second part of the title, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. This subtitle appears in the film—it's the title of Tabitha's review of Riggan's play.

So what in the name of all that's pretentious does "the unexpected virtue of ignorance" mean? Like so many aspects of Birdman, we never get a concrete answer on this one. It's not like we can call up Tabitha and ask her, and even if we could, we probably wouldn't want to.

Probably the whole point of The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is that it's vapid and meaningless; it's just another instance of Tabitha throwing some big word labels around and making people think she's smart and insightful without really saying anything about with substance.

Sylvia's reaction to the article as she reads the paper says it all; while Jake is ecstatic, she understands that this stellar review cannot make sense of her husband's attempted suicide…just like it can't make sense of the play.

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