When a fellow bookish friend of mine messaged me on Instagram and asked if I would be interested in seeing an advanced screening of Little Women in mid December there was practically a cloud of dust left in my wake as I rushed out the door to the theatre. To be honest I wasn’t really sure that we needed another Little Women adaptation (after all, how could you do any better than Winona Ryder? And wasn’t the 2018 PBS version with Scoop Troop extraordinaire Maya Hawke superb enough?), but I’m not a monster either! I wasn’t going to miss seeing it just because I didn’t think it was necessary.
I am happy to say I was wrong.
We needed this Little Women adaptation.
After thinking about it for weeks, I realized that the reason that this movie was such a revelation to me starts and ends with the true MVPs of the story: each individual March sister. Throughout this adaptation I was able to connect to the generally overlooked and definitely underrated sisters in a way I hadn’t before. This is not a story about Jo, this is a story about family, about legacy, and about female agency. After being an evangelist for Jo March my whole life I, like many of us, have some apologizing to do. Here I attempt to make amends with characters I have misunderstood and mistreated for the past decade of my life.
To my dear Meg: I am sorry for judging your dreams for being too small. I am sorry for agreeing with Jo and for thinking that because your efforts were turned toward your family and your home that you were choosing to give up the best things life has to offer. I apologize for thinking your life was the least adventurous of all you sisters. I have a two year old now too Meg, and I can say with certainty that it’s never boring and it’s certainly never easy. You gave birth to twins with no pain medication or modern medicine and we all just acted like that wasn’t a herculean feat of grand proportions. Shame on us. Thank you for teaching me that dreams matter even when they come in the form of a quiet life.
To Beth, you angel: I’m sorry for ever looking at you as plot device for Jo’s growth. I’m sorry I probably didn’t listen as well as I should have when you talked. I’m glad you taught us all about true bravery and how it doesn’t always need to be loud or demand attention. Thank you for reminding us that sometimes the strongest people are also the quietest people. I will stop to listen to the Beths of the world more often.
To Amy, the one who I owe the most humble and sincere apology: I’m sorry for calling you the worst for the last decade of my life. I’m sorry for looking at you in judgement because you had blonde hair and liked pretty things and got to go to Paris instead of Jo. You shouldn’t have burned the book but Jo’s no picnic either. I apologize for ever thinking of you as the villain of this story. You are a sister who is completely opposite in the direction of Jo but you are also the only one who is her equal in tenacity and determination. Thank you for teaching me that people can have nice things, maybe even things that we ourselves want, without having to be competition or antagonists. I’m glad to say Amy, that I am finally so very happy for you.
And lastly to Jo, you beautiful powerful musk ox: I don’t buy into the “not like other girls” narrative the way I used to anymore Jo, and I think you would be proud of that. I saw myself in you first before I recognized my traits in any of your sisters. I’m grateful you taught me to be brave, and to believe my gut, and to strive for things that scare me. I’m sorry to say though Jo, I don’t think this is a story just about your journey anymore. I hope you understand that I have made more room in my heart for the complex and beautiful young women that are your sisters. Like in my own life, I learned that your story is not just your story, but instead a combination of stories belonging to the women who come alongside you in support on the way.