Jo March: I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country. Mr. Mayer: You should have been a lawyer, Miss March. Jo March: I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer.
For the past year or so I’ve discovered there’s a common theme that pops up in my writing – it’s either geared towards film or women’s rights. Both are subjects that I’m passionate about – film informs us on how we live life. They’re an evolving, moving picture that reflect our follies and our successes and in recent years it’s been a sore spot when it comes to equal representation. There are few films – especially high budgeted ones – that are directed by women or that have three dimensional female characters. So after reading a fellow blogger who seemed to share my ideas, I decided to start a new column that combined the two subjects I find myself talking about most. Welcome to my first installment of Women in Film Wednesday. My first pick is one of my all-time favorites, Little Women,which was released in 1994 and directed by Gillian Armstrong. Here is a story about women, directed by a woman, adapted from a story written by a woman, and it’s beautiful, touching, tough and completely whole. I’ve loved Little Women ever since I was a little girl, and upon re-watch it struck me just how much this film had informed my growth. Its message about sisterhood and the protective nature of family. The idea of how gender shouldn’t define a person’s passions. The film is subtle in its message delivery, slipping them in in such a way that it creates further moments of thought. It treats women as real people with flaws and strengths who are neither villain nor saint. Jo March is an absolute star of a character. She is her own person to her own faults and strengths. She is strong willed and temperamental but also wholeheartedly sensitive. She adores her sisters even if they do something rotten, she adores Laurie, her best friend and confidant, and does so unconditionally. I’ve always been a bit of a hothead, and I’ve always had an inkling towards writing – no matter how good or bad I was or am – wanting to tell stories in any manner. Being a sister has been an enormous part of my identity, and in all regretful honesty, my hair has always been a great concern to my vanity. I always wanted to be Jo. Jo was a woman in my eyes worth striving to be like. Winona Ryder is perhaps at her best in this role, imbuing her natural toughness and charisma with a lesser seen vulnerability. Jo’s relationships with Bhaer and Laurie also help undo typical romance storylines in film. Altough I’ll admit that I believed Jo and Laurie to be soul mates and was crestfallen when Jo broke his heart, I couldn’t help but admire the writer Louise May Alcott for choosing the less trodden path. Why should Jo feel obligated to return Laurie’s love? Why shouldn’t she want to cherish the friendship they have and admit the failings that could come from a romantic relationship? Women are so often told to feel guilty when they turn down a nice guy’s advances and here Jo was, making her thoughts known and breaking both of their hearts to save them later ache. Her relationship with Bhaer is also impressive. Neither of them have much to their name and despite him being more worldly she’s never shot to appear his lesser. They are true equals who complete one another. But let’s forget the men because it’s the women who are the true scene stealers. There’s Amy the youngest played by Kirsten Dunst and then later Samantha Mathis. Amy is the easiest to write off as being a brat or selfish when in reality she was purely a creature of her time. She was told how to make it in society and she followed the guidelines all the while loving her family. There’s Meg played by Claire Danes who’s sickly but kind. Despite her own health she’ll help any child or family that needs an extra hand. She’s happy to give her sisters the spotlight as long as she can live in their shadows with them. Meg finds love but must deal with the restrictions that come with being the eldest. She can’t be as carefree, selfless or vain as the others and instead must be consistent. She’s a constant in their lives. However, not as much as their mother played by Susan Sarandon. She’s the matriarch, the one who they all go to in a crisis, the one who can and will save the day. She’s their mom and despite their love for their often away father, she’s their hero. This movie makes me cry, but it also makes me smile. I love watching a movie that captures the essence of what it means to be a sister no matter what time period it’s set in. Little Women is a movie that understands it perfectly. It also understands first love, the importance of having a first kiss, holiday dinners with family, the cheer a song can bring, the pain of loss, the anger in inequality and the need to always feel, want and need as you please. Little Women above all else knows human nature and talks frankly about it through the eyes of Jo – a very fine heroine indeed.