I like good strong words that mean something.
August 13, 2019 11:32 AM   Subscribe

“Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. "It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress. "I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff. The Little Women may not get Christmas presents, but we'll get Greta Gerwig's version of Little Women!

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A First Look at Greta Gerwig's Little Women from Vanity Fair
Greta Gerwig doesn’t remember reading Little Women for the first time. “It must have been read to me,” she says when I ask for her earliest memories of author Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of four girls imagining a world beyond their humble surroundings outside Civil War–era Boston.“I always knew who Jo March was,” Gerwig continues. “She was the person I wanted to be.”
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What Is Gained by remaking Little Women as White as the Original? from the Mary Sue
For the record, yes, I know that all the characters in the source material are white and that it takes place during the Civil War, and all the historical trappings that I’m supposed to accept are a valid excuse for a movie made in 2019 to be completely white and (I’m guessing) heterosexual, but I have to tell you, as someone who does actually love historical period dramas and 18th/19th century literature, I’m kind of over that excuse.
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On the blackness of Little Women, by Utibe Gautt Ate
When I was a child, it was the Winona Ryder film version of Little Women which first led me to the book. When I heard that PBS and BBC’s Masterpiece series planned to re-adapt it, I was excited—although I knew that historically its adaptations excluded people of color. If we existed, we were peripheral, props that pushed the central characters’ story forward, as in popular dramas like Victoria, Downton Abbey, Grantchester, and Sherlock. After three well-known modern renditions—Katherine Hepburn’s turn as Jo in 1933, June Allyson’s in 1949, and Ryder’s in 1997—against logic, I hoped this year’s March sisters would finally resemble me.
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Go To The Mattresses, from This American Life by Elna Baker (full episode transcript)
There's a chapter about Meg and Jo going to a party in the very beginning. And they're not out yet in society. And I was like, oh my god. This 1860-something book is what's happening in Peshawar in 1990. Oh my god. It's the same thing. I'm not out yet in society, and I have to be very careful how I present myself.
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We regret to inform you that Little Women is not a feminist novel, by Hillary Kelly
Maybe it just feels better, in this climate of cultural emergency, to emphasize Alcott’s sense of subversive solidarity rather than the part where she sends her little women off to gender purgatory. Perhaps the first half’s devotion to the inner lives of girls, and poor girls at that, is so enduring that for many critics it neutralizes the second half’s blind obedience to patriarchy. Critics might also be making allowances for the mores of 1868 — though it’s worth noting that Alcott was close to the famous feminist Margaret Fuller as well as Elizabeth Peabody, the unmarried educator renowned for her groundbreaking work on child development. Friends of the family, they loomed large in her childhood, and the prospect of a life of the mind for women was hardly a far-fetched premise. Or perhaps readers aren’t remembering Little Women the book at all, but rather Little Women the feeling — the cozy domesticity of the movies, the costumes, the house and its knit blankets. In a moment when it feels more important than ever to honor their feminist heroes, they cling to that sense of safety and comfort they once found in a space dedicated to fierce young girls
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Why Little Women Endures, by Sarah Blackwood
In the 1960s the British critic Brigid Brophy asserted that the novel’s sentimentality was a form of “technical skill” on Alcott’s part, whereas Mary Gaitskill, writing in 1995, criticized the story as treacly: an “impossibly sweet view of life.” Yet Little Women is also an angry book (“I am angry every day of my life,” Marmee declares), and in a specifically feminist way. Alcott uses the structures that hem women in—marriage, home, religion—both to attract and repel her readers. The homes she depicts are both cozy and claustrophobic, the marriages companionate and perverse, and the March girls’ dreams both fulfilled and depressingly renounced. It’s certainly possible to read Little Women as an untroubled sentimental text about family bonds and individual development, but then, well, you’d miss out on the fun and insight of the novel’s deeply weird and frustrated relationship to femininity.
posted by ChuraChura (47 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Little Women is an immersive book! That's what I remember, and one of the things that holds up well about it. A 10-year-old can pick it up today and absolutely fall into Alcott's world (and time). It's also written by a woman, about women. That doesn't make it inherently feminist, but it did result in a different perspective than 75% of my assigned reading in English classes. That said, I do not especially care for it. My suspicion is that the people who grow up loving Little Women do so because they love Jo. I have never liked Jo -- she is the 19th century version of "not like other girls." The movie looks solid, If You're Into That Kind of Thing, which again I am not.
posted by grandiloquiet at 11:53 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Years ago I was assigned to lead a library book club reading of March, by Geraldine Brooks, which is told from the viewpoint of the father while he's away. It was almost unanimously hated by the group (who were all older women), who complained that it ruined their happy memories of Little Women. I can confirm that it is a grim, grim read.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:01 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


It’s hard to imagine a better film version than the 1994 one—that soundtrack! Christian Bale as Laurie confessing his love to Winona, excuse me, Jo! Susan Sarandon! Every detail of their house! Gabriel Byrne in the rain! Sigh.
posted by sallybrown at 12:01 PM on August 13 [10 favorites]


There are a couple of structural problems to filming Little Women (not that people don't keep trying!). First, there's just too much book to cram into a movie-length running time. So some plots (and sisters) get short shrift and it inevitably becomes primarily the Jo and Laurie romance which is awkwardly curtailed followed by a brief round of Jo in New York and a whirlwind romance with the Professor who makes her stop writing fun stories and start writing serious ones. You get little set pieces of other things, but it's all rushed. It's also not helped by the fact that the story spans from early-ish adolescence through adulthood for the girls, so getting an actor that will plausibly look that span of ages is impossible so you have adults looking adult through the whole thing.

Of course the only answer can be creating a Louisa May Alcott Cinematic Universe. Not only can you give all of Little Women the time it needs to develop properly (and cast at proper ages and watch them grow up Harry-Potter style), but you can continue on to Little Men and Jo's Boys, and even film all her pulpy stuff as in-Universe versions of Jo's writing before she got taken to task by the Mad German. And if you wanted to crossover with Lucy Maude Montgomery for a shared USA/Canada multiverse I wouldn't stop you.
posted by rikschell at 12:02 PM on August 13 [43 favorites]


I think another problem that adapters of LW struggle with, the same with adapters of Jane Eyre, is that with both books the morality tale is more important than a coherent plot. It looks like Gerwig is at least trying to put her own morality tale on top of the plot instead of ignoring it completely, so we'll see how that goes.
posted by muddgirl at 12:19 PM on August 13


The way they frame Jo is hard to square with her burning her sensation stories because Professor Bhaer shames her into it. I wonder if that will be included. rikschell, did she start writing "serious" stories at his instigation? As I recall, she just stopped writing.

But then, I read that Alcott herself was not pleased with her readers' clamor to see Jo married off. As a kid, I didn't understand why she couldn't love Laurie. I had no experience with being courted by charming, handsome, genuine boys, so I assumed that if it happened, I would immediately fall in love. It was good of her to introduce young readers to the idea that just wanting to be friends is okay and isn't wrong.

Thank you for all of these links --
posted by Countess Elena at 12:41 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


Recently I've been interested in the history of Fruitlands, which is the utopian community that Bronson Alcott co-founded and where the Alcott family lived for 7 months before the whole thing collapsed.

I've visited the site, and you could peek into the attic and see where the Alcott girls stayed (and in turn inspired the scenes in LW). The attic has largely been left alone, and despite an attempt to romanticize it, when you're standing there, the bleak reality of the girls sharing this cramped, fluctuating temperature space really added another layer of insight to the book.
posted by jeremias at 12:43 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


(I have to admit that I felt some kind of way for Professor Bhaer because I have a fondness for big beardy sentimental foreign guys. But if it were today, he would be an extremely serious dude who could out-woke the DSA and would scold Jo for producing Kindle fiction while the climate is being destroyed.)
posted by Countess Elena at 12:46 PM on August 13 [12 favorites]


I knew I hated Little Women when Amy burns Jo's manuscript. That's dead-to-me territory. Just more proof that the pretty girls get all the good things.
posted by orrnyereg at 12:53 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


No! Don't forget he was caring for two orphaned nephews! And helped the servants even though he was just a boarder! Overserious? And he didn't tell Jo to stop writing sensational fiction, he told her that she didn't have to write crap she was ashamed of, just because there was an audience for it. After all, she wouldn't put her name to the stories or tell her parents about them.
posted by muddgirl at 12:59 PM on August 13 [9 favorites]


Yeah, in the world of the book, Jo is at least somewhat ambivalent about her sensational writing and begins successfully writing about her family life instead, and it's seen as a happy ending. But it kind of reads as a thinly veiled cover for shaming her for writing unwomanly things.

And jeremias, my favorite book of Hawthorne's is The Blythedale Romance, which is a fictionalized version of his time at Fruitlands. It's such a shame that most people only read the Scarlet Letter in school.
posted by rikschell at 1:20 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


In the modern day he would be a single dad working two adjunct professor jobs, and he would encourage Jo to quit her freelance job as the token girl at Barstoolsports.
posted by muddgirl at 1:21 PM on August 13 [10 favorites]


"In 1867, Thomas Niles, an editor at a publishing house, asked Alcott if she wanted to write a novel for girls. Although she tried to get excited about the project, she thought she wouldn’t have much to write about girls because she was a tomboy. The next year, Alcott’s father was trying to convince Niles to publish his manuscript about philosophy. He told Niles that his daughter could write a book of fairy stories, but Niles still wanted a novel about girls. Niles told Alcott’s father that if he could get his daughter to write a (non-fairy) novel for girls, he would publish his philosophy manuscript. So to make her father happy and help his writing career, Alcott wrote about her adolescence growing up with her three sisters." (mental floss, summed up from better NEH article)
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:22 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


I knew I hated Little Women when Amy burns Jo's manuscript. That's dead-to-me territory. Just more proof that the pretty girls get all the good things.

Me too. I hated Amy so much. And then she gets the dude and the nice trip to Europe (I think?) and I was done.

Jo is such a great character stuck in such a mawkish, sentimental story. She deserved a better novel to be in.
posted by emjaybee at 1:24 PM on August 13 [10 favorites]


Recently I've been interested in the history of Fruitlands, which is the utopian community that Bronson Alcott co-founded and where the Alcott family lived for 7 months before the whole thing collapsed.

The new movie was shot partly on location in Harvard, MA, which is where Fruitlands is located (though as far as I can tell, not *at* Fruitlands.
posted by Jahaza at 1:27 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The link from The Mary Sue about a racebent Little Women is... interesting. I think there are good books from the white girl canon that could benefit from colorblind casting. Off the top of my head, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and All-of-a-Kind Family would have to have a big, diverse cast, and I Capture the Castle would work if the family was not white. I understand the objections that author is raising, and they are real and valid. Because Little Women is set during the Civil War, including non-white characters would be difficult.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:30 PM on August 13


I think most writers would benefit from having their first book burned on completion. There's a good reason most writers are protective of their juvenalia. Of course, it was a grievous wound to Jo, but she was a better person for getting over it. The Laurie/Amy ship I could never decide if he was settling for a Jo-like-object and she didn't care, or if they seriously grew to like/love each other. My favorite thing about the book was her rejecting Laurie and having it stick. I didn't buy her with Bhaer though, but I suppose it would never have been published had she remained as unmarried as Louisa May herself.
posted by rikschell at 1:31 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Folks looking for a more diverse intrepretation of Little Women might want to check out Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women.
posted by oceano at 1:39 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


My remembrance of Laurie is that he wanted to marry into the March family more than he wanted to marry Jo, he had a mother-sized hole in his heart that Jo couldn't fill. But he was played by a young Christian Bale so that makes him a romantic figure.
posted by muddgirl at 1:39 PM on August 13 [6 favorites]


Laurie didn’t really seem to actually know much about Jo, which was always important to her. (This scene still gets me every time though.) I mean, anyone who could fall in love with both Jo and Amy is kinda...???
posted by sallybrown at 1:54 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Jo and Amy are both strong-headed, hot-tempered, artistically driven women who will boss Laurie around, except Amy actually likes society and all the stuff that goes along with being wealthy. Amy is a literal child at the beginning of the book, a sin she never recovers from in readers' eyes.
posted by muddgirl at 2:03 PM on August 13 [15 favorites]


I'm never over Beth.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 2:14 PM on August 13 [9 favorites]


I think there are good books from the white girl canon that could benefit from colorblind casting. Off the top of my head, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and All-of-a-Kind Family would have to have a big, diverse cast […]

Indeed, explain to me how the children's series that uniquely describes the Jewish immigrant experience would be improved by presenting them with a non-Jewish cast.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:17 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Amy was a palette-swap of Louisa's sister May Nieriker, a truly promising artist who died after childbirth. Once I learned that, I was able to understand why the narrative seemed to find Amy more lovable than I did.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:18 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


"And if you wanted to crossover with Lucy Maude Montgomery for a shared USA/Canada multiverse I wouldn't stop you."

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

*hyperventilates in bookish adolescent girl*
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:32 PM on August 13 [9 favorites]


I don't know if you can write about the feminism of Little Women without addressing the other novels Alcott wrote about girls/young women like Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom, where, for instance, Rose's guardian is strongly against her wearing the then-fashionable corsets on both health and freedom-of-movement grounds. (Also, Rose is under the tutelage of no fewer than six great-aunts, three of them unmarried!)
posted by praemunire at 2:40 PM on August 13 [9 favorites]


Indeed, explain to me how the children's series that uniquely describes the Jewish immigrant experience would be improved by presenting them with a non-Jewish cast.

Supporting cast. Yes, the protagonists would be Jewish (and played by a Jewish cast), but Taylor included several supporting characters who were not Jewish and who were from different backgrounds.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:11 PM on August 13


>>Recently I've been interested in the history of Fruitlands, which is the utopian community that Bronson Alcott co-founded and where the Alcott family lived for 7 months before the whole thing collapsed.

>The new movie was shot partly on location in Harvard, MA, which is where Fruitlands is located (though as far as I can tell, not *at* Fruitlands.

Honestly, the movie that needs to be made in 2019 is not another remake of LW but the "biopic" version of when Louisa May Alcott was 10 and living in Fruitlands.

I mean, if you want to examine some of the origins of modern day emotional labor, what better example than this setting:
The Alcotts’ friend Franklin Sanborn later commented on who was doing much of the work [at Fruitlands] – Mrs. Alcott and her daughters.

On Oct. 12, Louisa wrote how she ironed after lessons, husked corn until 8 p.m. and then read Plutarch.

Her father and Charles Lane traveled to Providence, New York and New Haven, looking for new recruits and philosophizing along the way. They left the barley crop cut but unharvested. The granary was almost empty and no men were around. A storm approached, so Mrs. Alcott and her daughters gathered the barley, dumped it in the granary then ran back for more.
-Louisa May Alcott, 10: Child Laborer at the Fruitlands Commune
posted by jeremias at 3:15 PM on August 13 [14 favorites]


Louisa May Alcott Cinematic Universe

Hello yes how may I subscribe to your newsletter and/or Kickstarter?
posted by Mayor West at 4:03 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the movie that needs to be made in 2019

I am ready for a full-on miniseries of Abba, Lou & their wacky Concord neighbors.
posted by notquitemaryann at 5:23 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


She wrote a book that was posthumously called A Long Fatal Love Chase. I was given a copy as a gift, but I have yet to read it. I feel that the March family's story lacked long, fatal love chases, and could use one.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:31 PM on August 13


The link from The Mary Sue about a racebent Little Women is... interesting. I think there are good books from the white girl canon that could benefit from colorblind casting. Off the top of my head, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and All-of-a-Kind Family would have to have a big, diverse cast, and I Capture the Castle would work if the family was not white. I understand the objections that author is raising, and they are real and valid. Because Little Women is set during the Civil War, including non-white characters would be difficult.
She's not arguing for colorblind casting. (And yeah, the Jewishness is completely fundamental to All-of-a-Kind Family. You could make a movie about five sisters who weren't Ashkenazi Jews in the Lower East Side, but it wouldn't be All-of-a-Kind Family.) She's arguing that Little Women was basically autobiographical, and the real Louisa May Alcott knew and interacted with a lot of people who weren't white. Her family literally housed fugitive slaves who were escaping to Canada. So instead of making the eighth movie that (sort of) faithfully retells the story of Little Women, why not include some of the details of the Alcott sisters' lives that wouldn't have been allowed in a commercial children's book when Little Women was published? I think that's a reasonable argument. I think it would probably be a more-interesting movie.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:39 PM on August 13 [13 favorites]


I’ve been to the Fruitlands museum complex, it’s pretty cool. According to Wikipedia:
Residents of Fruitlands ate no animal substances, drank only water, bathed in unheated water and "no artificial light would prolong dark hours or cost them the brightness of morning."[3] Additionally, property was held communally, and no animal labor was used. ... Diet was usually fruit and water; many vegetables—including carrots, beets, and potatoes—were forbidden because they showed a lower nature by growing downward.[14] ...

Fruitlands members wore only linen clothes and canvas shoes; cotton fabric was forbidden because it exploited slave labor and wool was banned because it came from sheep.[14] Bronson Alcott and Lane believed that animals should not be exploited for their meat or their labor, so they used no animals for farming. This arose out of two beliefs: that animals were less intelligent than humans and that, therefore, it was the duty of humans to protect them; and that using animals "tainted" their work and food, since animals were not enlightened and therefore unclean. Eventually, as the winter was coming, Alcott and Lane compromised and allowed an ox and a cow.[14]
A 19th century farm without using animal labor? In New England? Uh huh. It only lasted seven months. I guess the world needs its dreamers.
posted by Melismata at 6:20 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


So instead of making the eighth movie that (sort of) faithfully retells the story of Little Women, why not include some of the details of the Alcott sisters' lives that wouldn't have been allowed in a commercial children's book when Little Women was published?

I feel like that's what they've been trying to do with Anne (or Anne with an E, the Netflix title), with mixed success. So many characters and plot lines in that show have been made up from whole cloth that it's starting to feel more like Anne Shirley fanfiction than an adaptation. There's nothing wrong with fanfiction, but it's different from an adaptation. And when you're dealing with a classic story beloved by generations, it's trickier than something newer like The Magicians (another TV series that has strayed pretty damn far from its source material, but to generally really good effect.)

Adapting a story from one medium to another (especially across generations) is hard. And a lot of it is driven by the market, not the story. I maintain that the Harry Potter books would be perfect for a long-running animated series where each book chapter (more or less) becomes a half hour episode. (This may be heavily influenced by the anime Anne of Green Gables which was one of Miyazaki's first jobs, a really perfect and close adaptation of the first book that only strays once when it pulls in an episode from Emily of New Moon for some reason, probably a contractual episode count.) Maybe in twenty years we'll get a version like that.
posted by rikschell at 6:46 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I am ready for a full-on miniseries of Abba, Lou & their wacky Concord neighbors.

I am v. here for a smutty transcendentalist soap.
posted by thivaia at 6:56 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


There are definitely novels (in a variety of genres, even) that update Little Women in a variety of ways, including racebent. For me, coming as I do from a big close family, the core of the story has always been the four sisters and their relationships, and how they're all similar, but very different, and how they fight but support each other, and how they tell four different stories of female identity without demonizing or diminishing any of those choices of identity (link to where I went on about that before). So for me, that story could be told in a family of any race, or even in a college dorm among four best friends, at many points in history, or in fantasy, or in the future. I'd love them all!

But if the core of the story for you* (*hypothetical you, not you personally) is the Civil War transcendentalist story, that won't work as well because it's more specifically rooted in the place and time. Or if the core of it for you is the creative process of Jo and Amy, and their simultaneous rivalry and mutual inspiration of each other, that's a different story that maybe doesn't need four sisters (but could definitely be racebent in many directions).

But I am super fucking excited for Greta Gerwig's version, because I love Greta Gerwig and I love Saiorse Ronan and I love Emma Watson and THIS WHOLE CAST IS AMAZING and honestly I will collapse with the vapors for ANY Little Women movie. If Ava Duverney announces her Black version of Little Women tomorrow, I WILL BUY THOSE TICKETS THE DAY THEY GO ON SALE, and if Shonda Rhimes announces a 10-season serial to appear on ABC of Little Women in a multiracial Seattle neighborhood, I AM IN LIKE FLYNN. "Haq Se" is already giving Little Women the Bollywood treatment, and I will see it done by Bollywood, I will see it done by Nollywood, I will see literally any iteration of this book that anyone wants to put forward as a book, movie, TV show, or long-form album, I am THERE FOR IT, PLEASE give me more iterations specific to different cultural groups and different time periods, especially when written or produced by women, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:59 PM on August 13 [9 favorites]


Rose's guardian is strongly against her wearing the then-fashionable corsets on both health and freedom-of-movement grounds.

Yes! I think about that passage often. From Wikipedia (some of this I don't recall from the book ... but it's been a decade or so):

For example, in choosing Rose's wardrobe, Uncle Alec rejects current women's fashions (such as corsets, high heels, veils, and bustles) in favor of less restrictive, healthier clothing. Although he discourages her from the professional study of medicine, he educates her in physiology, a subject her aunts consider inappropriate for girls, so she can understand and take charge of her own health. Rose is prepared for a career as a wife and mother, yet is taught that she must take active, thoughtful control of her fortune so she can use it and social position to the best advantage of the larger community. Written in an age when few women had control of their own money, property, or destinies, Alcott's portrayal of Rose's upbringing is a good deal more revolutionary than 21st-century readers may realize.
posted by bunderful at 9:06 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Loving this post, those links, these comments. Still hating Amy. Jo may have forgiven her, but I sure didn't.
posted by emd3737 at 9:18 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


"PLEASE give me more iterations specific to different cultural groups and different time periods, especially when written or produced by women, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY."

And this is personal preference, but I absolutely adore when people iterate repeatedly on one idea or one plot and express it in a huge variety of ways, I find that so super-fascinating. Like one of the things I love about the "traditional American family sitcom" is that you can take the same sorts of stories (Son likes a girl for the first time! Daughter is getting bad grades!) and simply by telling that exact story in the American family sitcom frame, but with a specific family and its specific details, you can highlight so many interesting and diverse stories of being American -- right now, I'd point to Black*ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and One Day at a Time as sitcoms that are telling suuuuuuuuuper traditional sitcom stories but simply by being true to the families they're telling them about, make them incredibly interesting and fresh, and illustrate truths about the lives of different cultural groups in the United States.

It's like taking a sonnet, with its super-strict formal frame, and filling it with poems about an incredible variety of things. By giving a restrictive frame, you can induce incredible creativity.

So I would be crazy-excited to see dozens upon dozens of iterations on Little Women specific to dozens upon dozens of cultures and times, that is one of my absolute favorite things, when one story is iterated by a bunch of different cultures and individuals, and Little Women is one of my very favorite stories so I want to see it iterated like crazy! And I make a project of asking friends from other cultures: What books were on your high school literature curriculum that everyone in your home country has read? And what books were you absolutely in love with as a 12-year-old girl? And then I go read those so I can fall in love with them too (I'm still a 12-year-old girl on the inside), ebooks are amazing, you can get so many books in English translation, and I want to see SO MANY OF THOSE iterated dozens of times across dozens of cultures!

Like, I will usually watch a movie from another culture that's complicated and aimed at adults (El Abrazo de la Serpiente), but what I REALLY want to watch is that country's equivalent of the CW and movies made for adolescents (Siempre Bruja). That's what's in my heart!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:27 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


As a kid, the story was on my radar even before I read it, albeit inaccurately. My given name is Amy, and my mother once dropped that I was named after the "LW" character. With all my tween drama, I whined back: "Isn't she the one who DIED?"

Although I often abhor remakes, each new "generation's" take on this story fascinates me.

1. I wasn't that into "Lady Bird," and have seen little of Gerwig's other work, so we'll see how this goes. But I like that it was filmed in Mass.- looks gorgeous.

2. AND having been so impressed with Eliza Scanlen in "Sharp Objects," I finally get to see what else she can bring, starting with this film.

3. This past year, I made a point to watch (or rewatch) the other big Hollywood versions.
a. I was somewhat bored by '33 film (except for Hepburn), and fast forwarded it.
b. Young Elizabeth Taylor playing a spoiled Amy is a comical standout in the '49 film, yet that retelling completely leaves out the European trip.
Young Margaret O'Brien plays Beth throughout. She's good, but June Allyson (Jo) could be her mom. And SoCal soundstages and glaringly sunny backlots are a poor substitute for New England.

c. If you're a film buff, oh, to see the two lost silents, made just about a century ago. (Or to time travel and see theatre legend Katherine Cornell play Jo onstage.)

d. I luv 90s Winona. That is all.

4. Wikipedia says there was a Japanese miniseries of the story. It'd be intriguing to see that interpretation.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:58 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


She's arguing that Little Women was basically autobiographical, and the real Louisa May Alcott knew and interacted with a lot of people who weren't white. Her family literally housed fugitive slaves who were escaping to Canada. So instead of making the eighth movie that (sort of) faithfully retells the story of Little Women, why not include some of the details of the Alcott sisters' lives that wouldn't have been allowed in a commercial children's book when Little Women was published

Something like that is sort of what Patricia Rozema did with her version of Austen's Mansfield Park, bringing out directly the unspoken issues around slavery that inform the story, making explicit what only receives brief mention in the book and by drawing out different inferences from that and some other suggestive possibilities from Austen's life and books. It's more Rozema's take on Austen's story than a faithful translation, which isn't really possible anyway. That same sort of thing could be undertaken for Little Women and other books, but does tend to draw complaint from purists who want the movie to only show what they remember and not embroider at all.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:47 AM on August 14 [5 favorites]


My impression in from the trailer was that Saiorse Ronan's Jo was trying too hard to be Winona Ryder's* in intonation.

These are some terrible Google Books links, but there's been a fair amount of scholarship written about race and Alcott/her works. Though it can be seen as fairly racist and cringey, Black culture is mentioned in Little Men and Jo's Boys, and several articles have been interested in the "merry little quadroon" that Jo takes in at the school. Here is one such chapter, "Educating Jo March" that gets into it a bit. And here is Louisa May Alcott on Sex, Race, and Slavery that delves into the interest in abolition and supporting Black members of the community, none of which ever makes it into newer adaptations... So I likewise share the disappointment that the adaptations of LW have never dared expand into what else we know from Alcott and her works to widen the world a bit. I'm not sure anyone has ever seriously tackled the sequels, have they?

*(Also, I realize this is heresy here, but I haaaaaate the 1997 version. The casting was terrible in that none of those sisters seemed even remotely related! And WR is too petite for Jo! And Christian Bale wasn't a full-on creeper then, but seems too old for any of the girls)
posted by TwoStride at 6:33 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


NorthernLite: "4. Wikipedia says there was a Japanese miniseries of the story. It'd be intriguing to see that interpretation."

Not sure about a miniseries, but there was an anime adaptation, "Tales of Little Women", in 1987. It was broadcast on (I'm pretty sure) HBO throughout the late 80s, I remember watching it as a kid. I have had the intro theme as an off-and-on earworm for the past 30+ years as a result.

Way back when in 1863, now part of the American lore...
posted by namewithoutwords at 8:03 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Ah, namewithoutwords, you apparently are right about the Japanese version(s) being anime, not live action.

Here's a summary from PBS ca. '17-18, about various dramatized versions. (With a few good anecdotes and stills from one of the silents, supposedly shot in Mass. Weren't such location shoots rate for the era?)

I knew of - but am not familiar with- the Sutton Foster musical, but it has a life on the amateur group scene.

Oh, and have we mentioned the recent low-budget modernized version with Lea Thompson?
posted by NorthernLite at 9:59 AM on August 14


This is kind of a tangent, but it's a bit disappointing that they couldn't find a single American actress to play any of the four sisters.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:33 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


That's an interesting sidebar, though. Actors from the British Commonwealth and other regions are all over TV & film playing Americans.

Most of the time they're great. I'm a bit of a fan of Brits & Aussies myself. I do wonder if there's such a paucity of good American actors, or if it's become some vicious circle of: Hire a non-American, they get successful, they get more roles instead of USers.

Or do TPTB have an infatuation with and therefore an unconscious bias toward non-USers? (Oh, listen to that Brit accent, they must be brilliant actors.)

As far as I know, it doesn't work in reverse. There aren't dozens of American-born actors crowding British TV or film playing Brits.

In this case, it'll probably make good interview fodder, as the Aussie & Brits & Irishwoman discuss how they knew/related to an American classic set in our Civil War.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:26 PM on August 14


As an Australian, I grew up with "Little Women" only being Part 1. Part 2 was Good Wives and was a separate book that was harder to find. It made "Little Women" much more of a children's book, similar to Anne's of Green Gables. At the end, Beth recovers, Meg gets engaged and Papa comes back. Everyone is happy and full of potential.
posted by kjs4 at 10:21 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


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