“Little Women”: What Is It Like Being a Woman in Old-Timey Arts?

Little Women!

You can have your Charlie’s Angels. I’m here for the March matriarchy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: writer/director Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was one of my favorite films of 2017 and left me looking forward to her future endeavors. She’s finally returned to theaters with her take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the 1868 novel that many of you were probably required to read in school, or perhaps cheerfully read on your own because someone trustworthy recommended it to you or it was shelved in a special library display alongside numerous other 19th-century books written by women that you’d already read. Either way, chances are your Little Women experience goes back farther than mine.

How far back are we talking? Full disclosure: prior to 2019 my Little Women experience consisted of a hazy memory from decades past in which I saw the scene where one of the girls-who-would-be-women gets a drastic haircut for altruistic reasons. I have no idea if I ran across one of the first four cinematic adaptations on TV when I was a kid, or if some sitcom paid it homage. All I know is I already knew of that plot point. I deemed that insufficient data and decided to do some homework before heading out to the theater: I rented Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version on YouTube. I enjoyed that in and of itself (so many familiar faces!), and appreciated that it conveyed the novel’s basics so I’d have an idea of what was supposed to happen in case Gerwig sold out and bowdlerized the whole thing into a ripoff of Hustlers.

Thankfully this did not happen. Little Women is among the hundreds of “classic” novels I failed to read in my youth, but if it intrigued the director of Lady Bird, then it was bound to intrigue me. I was a little annoyed in advance that one site recently chose to run a dubious thinkpiece about how men were supposedly avoiding the film in droves, based entirely on one (1) tweet from one (1) critic who cited her scientific research drawn from chats with three (3) whole males. It’s been 28 years since my last statistics class, but I still recognize an extraordinarily poor sampling pool when I see one.

Regardless: I, a male, willingly saw Little Women in defiance of the three dudes who purported to represent the grossly generalized aesthetic will of 150 million other dudes. And it was my idea to see it in theaters, not my wife’s. I refuse to pretend this counts as some groundbreaking accomplishment.

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