Little Women Jo and Laurie growing apart

Niina Pekantytär

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Niina: I get this a lot from Jo and Laurie fans "Friedrich hated Jo´s writing" it doesn´t happen in the book and then in the book it is actually Laurie when he proposes he expects that Jo is going to stop writing and be sort of this mother figure/wife for him. That´s not good and in the 1949 film... I think it´s very subtle. There is a scene where Laurie doesn´t understand why Jo wants to work. It is a nice comparison to that Jo and Friedrich scene. Not only does he give her feedback but also inspires her to become a better writer.

Christina: In the 1949 version. like you said she is like "Oh I need it for the money" Laurie is like "I got plenty of that" he seems so confused, it´s not just the money, it helps, but it´s for a creative outlet and as you said, it´s very subtle. It points out that he doesn´t get it, that just because it doesn´t offer something that can already be had. He, thinks "I can give you the money, so you don´t have to worry about writing. He doesn´t realize that that is a passion. 

Niina: I think that reflects how Laurie views his music because he always speaks about how he is going to compose this great opera but then he doesn´t do the work.

Christina: Yeah, and again I think people don´t realize that like when they read the first book they just kinda go like "That´s it, she just gave up and never wrote again. No, she does manage to write and I think they try to give you that feeling when you see in the adaptations when he is helping her to publish her story whether it is Little Women itself or as it I kinda like in the 1949 version where it is the "My Beth" story. I totally understand when people do that, her writing Little Women because it is supposed to be like..we all know that Marches are the fictional versions of the Alcott´s but I feel like when you go a little too far you are sort of blending what is real and what is fiction. Almost crossing the realms as they say in Ghostbusters, which is something that really happens in Gerwig´s version which confused the hell out of me, particularly does she, doesn´t she end up with Friedrich kind of ending which I did not think was a great end but I like the idea that he follows her work. I think if he was in the publishing I think it would be the "My Beth" story or a poem and I think it is only in the 2017 version of the Masterpiece one where we see. well, I don´t think we actually see it but we get hints of it in the 1978 version that we see Friedrich kind of following Jo´s writing after New York and that tells a lot that he genuinely is watching how she progresses and is very proud of her to the point of cutting it out and putting it above his fireplace. Almost as if "Look at what the woman I am in love with just did. Isn´t that amazing!" For everyone to see whoever came to the room like "look at this!" 

Niina: I think in the 1978 version Mrs Kirk came in was like "Look Professor Bhaer Miss March has published a new story! in the 2017 series, you can see how he cuts Jo´s poem from the magazine. That was nice too. I really really hate when they portray Jo and Friedrich arguing and then she is mad at him and then she returns back to Concord. That´s not the way the book goes and I hate it when that happens. That´s in the 1994 version and the 2019 film.

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Christina: As much as I don´t like that comparing the two, the 1994 version did it better where it felt more like, oh these two are friends and they just got into an argument whereas in the 2019 version I sat there, after that argument I was like the first time ever I was like I hate Jo and I had never said that. We had to take a moment because we had to do something in the middle and we were discussing and I was like "I have never said this but I hate Jo" and it was amazing to me how again Gerwig was so confusing. She almost made past Jo to be almost mature than the current storyline Jo because I was just looking at the screen "You did not just say that" when Friedrich was trying to tell her his criticism. For her to blow out and say quite literally, I may be paraphrasing it but it´s the same feeling "you are mean and I don´t like you and I don´t want to be your friend" that sounds like a five-year-old would say. That doesn't sound very mature. I could go on about this split ending how in either way would Jo be happy but if you are trying to make me believe that Jo gets with Friedrich storyline it is going t be a happy ending. It´s not because we barely see any interactions with them. For most of the time she seems to be ignoring him probably only at the dance, that was probably the only time where I was like "Oh they like each other but other than that she ignores him or she is yelling at him then I´m supposed to believe that she is in love with him and that "we got to go chase him down". I didn´t like Meg and Amy following her to the train station. I just sat there going like, it is not a happy ending even if I try to make myself believe that Jo ends up with Friedrich part because it doesn´t seem like to that end that she was really all into him and almost seems forced to it. I don´t know, maybe that is just me but that is what I took from it, just that either one storyline where she gets her novel published but is lonely, after that whole big speech and her writing a letter to Laurie which never happens in the book, of saying I will marry you and then to find out that Laurie is with Amy, even though she has her book published she is still very lonely or you go with the timeline of her with Friedrich there is no proper development to make me think, first of all, what does Friedrich see in this Jo because this Jo seems totally disinterested and even mean towards you unless you are into for that kind of thing and wherein the hell that all "I love you" sequence come? It felt more like desperation to have someone in her life. Why? neither one of these endings I feel are happy ending because it doesn´t feel honest. It doesn´t feel true to either one and why would you do a split ending like that? I am assuming to try to pander to those who are pro-Friedrich versus anti-Friedrich but either way no matter who you are it is not a happy ending for Jo either way. 

Niina: Yeah I remember Jimena from the other-art-blog she said that the whole scene of Jo shouting at him made her feel very uncomfortable and then she read the book and it was completely different and she was really shocked by it. I talked to Alcott scholar Susan Bailey and she told me that she felt that "Gerwig´s film was all about money". If you think about it tries to appeal to asexuals, LGBTQ community, Jo and Laurie shippers, those who want Jo to be a spinster and those who want Jo to be with Friedrich, and none of the characters has their storylines because of this open ending, so it is all about the money, and hate speech because if you think about it, Gerwig made hate speech about Friedrich´s accent and him being German and when I read the 2019 film guide Gerwig also said that she felt really sad how Louisa May Alcott re-wrote her life into her books, so I got a feeling that Gerwig must have had some kind of feeling that Little Women was wish fulfilment and that she was very lonely and that is why she wrote these happy endings to her characters and yet Gerwig decided to go with this open ending and to make fun of the novel. I actually find that film very problematic when it comes to Little Women research and Louisa May Alcott research because I get so many people asking me to clarify things that happen in the 2019 film and don´t happen in the book. I read this blog post from Tumblr from someone who had seen the 2019 film and then they were trying to explain why Jo doesn´t end up with Laurie and they said "Oh it´s because Jo just wanted to live happily free in New York or that she wanted to travel the world" I´m like...well I have read the book. Jo is not very happy when she is in New York and somebody also commented that when people think about Jo being alone in New York and happy there, they are thinking Sex and the City or some other modern tv series because when the book Jo is in New York, she is actually 90 % of the time with Fritz and 10% of the time she is writing about the kids or she is writing, but honestly most of the time she is with Friedrich in different situations. When she writes to home it is all about Friedrich in her letters and she spends a year in New York. Very long time when you are trying to get to know someone. When I think about Jo and Friedrich in New York neither one of them actually wants to be there that much. Friedrich has this dream that maybe one day he could have a family and maybe live somewhere in the countryside or to have a closer connection with nature or to establish himself as a teacher again and Jo has this wish that she could live close to her family and to have her own family there as well.

Christina: And again that´s why it makes me feel like most versions of the timing of Jo going to New York is seen as almost being like "got to get away" in one hand for Jo it is kinda like "I was promised to go to Europe" it changed so I will go somewhere but not forever. I will want to come back I just need to see something and maybe it will be good for the writing, but as you said, she doesn´t want to leave home really and it is not until she makes friends with Friedrich she kinda feels more comfortable to be in New York because I think if she didn´t she would not have been there for as long as she was. I think she probably would have been there for a few months and then like "Okay I am really missing home. There is not much here for me. I´ll just go back but Friedrich is what helps her feel much more comfortable being in New York and it´s almost a sense for them "a home away from home". That they both understand each other and they both have that same sort of familiarity that makes the homesickness feel better. I think if there was no Friedrich she would not have stayed as long as she did. 

Niina: I agree. It´s like they both have the same goal of wanting to have a shared home. I think with Friedrich, especially because he is an immigrant it really affects that idea. I think in German they even have a name for it.  "Heimwech nach dem Frende" idea of a romanticized home". It means that there is a sort of familiarity within another person or a place. I think both Jo and Friedrich had that similar idea of what the home meant for them and then they saw that in each other. 

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN
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