Little Women

I fear my writing is getting worse. It’s definitely getting less efficient. In the USG, the emphasis was putting the bottom line up front. Our instructors or bosses told us that we should do that to provide busy leaders with a roadmap. They’re reading so much daily that they needed to be able to pick something up and immediately know what it was talking about. I think in theory that’s good advice for writing, but I also call bullshit. Our elected officials don’t read. They have a Twitter-level attention span.

I digress. I saw Little Women about a week ago. I loved it for a lot of reasons. I had some complaints. My complaints are a jumbled mix of thoughts that I can’t articulate. Luckily, I don’t need to. Kaitlyn Greenidge took care of that better than I ever could. But I’ve strayed from the bottom line up front model, so you can either read through my ramblings before the bottom line, or you can scroll to the bottom. Or, if you’ve heard of Google, you could just type in Kaitlyn Greenidge. I wouldn’t blame you. But my post will only take 10 minutes.

I thought the actors were fantastic. With that cast, not much of a surprise. With a lot of movies, you’re just a witness. You’re invited in to observe for two hours. Watching Little Women was more challenging. You’re watching great acting while also thinking about America at that time, what it meant to not be a white dude then, how the situation then compared to our past and now, and how much the narrative of now might be influencing the adaptation of that book’s then. That’s just the start of it.

That wasn’t a great paragraph. I’m no Charles Mudede. I hope Charles Mudede writes a review of Little Women. This is not a review.

I haven’t read the book. I loved the movie. I loved seeing it with my mother, my sister, and my father.

The women in Little Women couldn’t vote. The Civil War was raging. The women couldn’t vote. I was pretty damn obtuse for a good chunk of my life. I’d like to think I’m getting better. But for an inexcusably long period of my life, I didn’t give a lot of thought to post-Emancipation or post-1920. Slavery, over. Women got the vote. Cool, it all got sorted, time will do its magic (note to self: revisit MLK’s thoughts on white dudes’ perception of time…hint…we always recommend patience).

The women persisted. They went for theirs and supported the people around them.

As I was watching and hoping for the best for the protagonists, I tried to see it through my mom’s and my sister’s eyes. The Little Women’s struggles, ambitions, and strides must have resonated more deeply. My mom studied history, has traveled the world, is incredibly organized, can cook and mend anything, and runs a tight ship. She can do anything. She helped pave the way for her daughter to become a lawyer, take on fraud, challenge corruption, and raise three amazing daughters. I know they watched the Little Women and reflected on their lives, but I suspect they spent as much or more time thinking about the opportunities my nieces will have to write, act, work, and raise families. (Climate-related extinction notwithstanding.)

But I also had some complaints. Not about the story so much. More about how we tell the story now. I know that life was hard for the characters in the movie. But the movie romanticized the difficulties. People who are worried about their next meal or their next rent check would probably wish for the hard life portrayed in the film. That house looked big and Instagram-ready.

Their aunt and the salty old man across the way had massive homes and more money than Croesus. It was a touching scene when the Little Women delivered their Christmas meal to a poor family. I loved that they did that. But the entire time I was thinking it might have been better if they took that wonderful meal over to the rich salty guy, sat him down, and explained that the poor family stood a better chance if they could live in one of the 15 empty fucking rooms he had in his house. Mr. Generosity with the grand piano, the grand piano that was nothing more than a paperweight in his mansion. Scale back your grandson’s Grand Tour of Europe and give that poor family a job and some food.

There were two Grand Tours of Europe in that movie. Several large mansions. A poor, starving family. When the rich guy realizes that Beth has a fever, a doctor appears immediately. Hey rich dude, a little too little a little too late. Help out that poor family and your beloved Beth might have avoided the fever.

I know, it’s a creative movie version of a book. There are so many incredible things about the story. I wanted it to touch more on the plight of black and poor, but it’s a mistake to ask every story to be about everything. It’s ok, it’s more than ok, to tell a story about strong, courageous women. We need more of those stories, a lot more of those stories. And let’s hope that more and more of them are about women of color, marginalized communities, the list goes on.

So, as promised Kaitlyn Greenidge

The Bearable Whiteness of ‘Little Women’