Just days ago, a New York Times opinion writer was bemoaning the limited appeal of the Greta Gerwig re-re-re-make of “Little Women,” chastizing men who refused to spend several hours being inculcated in femininity in the company of their significant others, and blaming the film’s lack of recognition on abject sexism among critics and audiences.
But now, it seems, the tables have turned. Teen Vogue (of course) penned its own review of the acclaimed adaptation of the American classic and, it turns out, the Civil War era epic about a family of women struggling against the misogyny, gender-based expectations, and institutionalized sexism of their time, is just far too white for our time.
“It’s time that classics that are constantly remade to better incorporate diversity,” Teen Vogue’s astute film critic, Natalie de Vera Obedos, says. And “Little Women” must be the first to go.
Casting any of the female leads as “racebent” — that is, filling the roles with a non-white actor — would be difficult, de Vera Obedos acknowledges, because the film’s protagonists — four sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy, and their mother — are all related. But, de Vera Obedos says, there’s at least one character, Laurie, the love interest of two of the sisters, who could have been portrayed by a person of color.
De Vera Obedos uses the film’s source material — the Louisa May Alcott novel, first published in 1868 — as proof that Laurie is, indeed, a person of color, even though it would have been unheard of for any white woman of means to pursue a relationship with a minority man during or in the immediate wake of the Civil War. Such historical accuracy, however, is immaterial. This is 2019, and the American classics are simply outdated.
“While many are excited to see Timothée [Chalamet] bring this character to life, his iteration and many of the previous films have failed to properly contextualize Laurie during this time period,” de Vera Obedos writes. “In the original novel, Laurie is described as a young man with ‘Curly black hair, brown skin,’ and ‘big black eyes’ (Alcott 42) — he is canonically half-Italian. It is through Laurie that Little Women offered Greta a very unique opportunity that she could have taken: Laurie could have easily been played by someone non-white.”
“The added diversity of casting the character with someone non-white would have added a richness and context that has been lost on the character by contemporary audiences,” she adds.
Instead, the movie is simply a paen to white privilege.
Hilariously, National Review’s critic was similarly concerned about the film’s pre-occupation with the decidedly un-woke, but for different reasons. Armond White calls “Little Women” a feminist diatribe that Michelle Obama could love,” and points out that, in a desperate ploy to attract a feminist audience, the characters are anachronistically — and illogically — concerned with girl power. The original book was a study in Civil War-era gender roles and the plight of women left behind by the thousands of men conscripted into the conflict to be sure, but White charges that Gerwig fills her film with “pussyhat speeches” and lines that “blend cultural illiteracy with feminist blandishment.”
Perhaps, if she wanted to make everyone happy, Gerwig should have passed on a true-to-story adaptation and gone for a more modern take on the story. As The Daily Wire pointed out last year, there’s at least one LGBT version available.