Little Women isn’t a feminist novel. Repeat with me: Little Women was never a feminist novel. It was never meant to be a feminist novel. Like, never ever. The victim of an irresponsible father who couldn’t properly provide for his family, Alcott needed money like the air she breathed and consented to writing this conservative novel which was immediately massively successful and led to even more misogynistic sequels.
Jo is a tomboy that is taught by her mother to shut up when men are around, to suppress her anger because women need to be graceful and loving, can’t afford to show drive, let alone any type of aggression (read: character and a personality). I mean, initially the second part of the book was published under the title “The Good Wives”, people! That speaks volume about how “feminist” this series is.
In the book, Lori goes to university, while Jo doesn’t and not because she’s too poor, but because women weren’t allowed to have a higher education (and the fact is taken and accepted by everyone in the book). Yes, Alcott, who was very frustrated in real life, kind of hints that Lori is an idiot who shouldn’t have access to university, while Jo should, but that’s it, reality is different and God forbid we protest and do something about it! Sure, the book is set during the American civil war and was written, just a few years later, the times were different, we can’t expect feminism from an era where women were supposed to get married by age 16 and considered like commodities and baby machines. Scarlet O’Hara marries for the first time when she’s 16, remember? And so does Beth, Jo’s social-climbing sister who, very matter-of-factly, lures Lori into marriage after preying on him in Europe, taking advantage of his broken heart. In the sequels it’s very clear that theirs isn’t a happy union (yeah, rebounds didn’t work back then either).
Alcott was gay and never married, her status of famous writer helped her society swallow it, but still … she was an old maid earning her own money without the burden of kids and marriage, men must have been mad at her and women, well, lots of them must have been envious
All this introduction to explain why I’m so baffled whenever a film based on this book is made, and everyone jumps on the feminist wagon. There is NO WAGON to jump on, girls, just a misogynistic tank painted pink to confuse enough to prevent us from fleeing.
This latest adaption, makes no exception. Here we have a stellar cast and a super-talented director, Greta Gerwig who does her best to once again twist the plot and characters to make them more digestible to a modern audience. And to achieve that, she changes the plot and characters so dramatically, that at a point one wonders what she’s actually watching.
Just an example: The book ends with Jo married with kids (of course!) and opening a SCHOOL FOR BOYS with her husband. Yes, you’ve heard me: A SCHOOL FOR BOYS! Not very feminist, eh? But women were allowed to be taught only at home, so no room for girls in “rebellious Jo” teaching career (she, like Alcott, needed money after all). In the MOVIE, on the other hand, we have childless and unmarried publishing her first book; a little different, eh? Pity that such a condition wouldn’t have been tolerated at the time.
In the book, Jo is an old spinster at age 20 (remember, Scarlet O’Hara married when she was 16) and therefore has no choice but to marry an ugly German professor 2 decades her senior; in the MOVIE, Professor Bhaer is turned into a charming, age-appropriate French man whom she doesn’t marry in the end, preferring hugging her newly published book than any man.
The above are just a few examples of how much Gerwig had to change to turn a conservative novel into a modern, feminist one. A similar process was made with the version starring Wynona Ryder, where all the preaching about silence and meekness told by her mother were completely eliminated and Jo-Wynona speaks passionately about the right of women to vote. Of course, none of this appears in any of the books.
I don’t really understand why such a huge PR machine was put in place to make a very conservative, misogynistic book appear as modern and revolutionary, but here we are. It worked. If you read the comments of young girls under this movie’s trailer, you’ll see that they are completely clueless about the book (thank God!) some even ignore that the film was based on a book in the first place! Little Women should be forbade to children, no one under 18 should be allowed to read it; one needs to grow first and become mindful, before being able to spot the sneaky trap hid between the pages.
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