(Or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy)
Once upon a time there were four sisters named Amy, Meg, Beth, and Jo. One day, a film director from the future came to Concord, Massachusetts, and taught the sisters many things: For example, that sisterhood is a stronger bond than marriage. That men shouldn’t impose morality on women. That nineteenth-century life is unjust because women can’t vote, drink, own property, or pursue careers.
The enlightened sisters threw off their corsets, traveled to Hollywood, and made a movie called Little Women.
If that doesn’t sound like the Louisa May Alcott classic you read when you were young, it’s because the latest film adaptation gives us little women who, as the Orlando Sentinel puts it, “valiantly strive . . . to maintain an atmosphere of 1990s political correctness.”
To be sure, Little Women is a joyous film with much to recommend it. It was filmed in lush British Columbia. It stars four fresh-faced actresses, including Winona Ryder as Jo March. There are many warm and humorous glimpses of family life during the Civil War.
But the book’s nineteenth-century attitudes, including much of the Christianity that permeates the novel, have been replaced by today’s politically correct dogma gussied up in period costumes.
For example, in her book, Louisa May Alcott writes that the March sisters spend most of their time striving to become more godly and lovable young women. That’s because, their mother tells them, to be “loved . . . by a good man is the best . . . thing which can happen to a woman.” Part Two of the book is even subtitled “Good Wives.”
But in the movie the sisters worry less about becoming good wives than about reforming society. These little women are concerned about child abuse, discrimination, and getting men to respect them as equals—issues from the pages of today’s newspaper, not from Alcott’s story.
And what about the Christian faith that permeates the book? It’s gone. For example, the novel opens at Christmas. The sisters receive Bibles from their mother. They vow to read them every day, and to act on what they read.
But in the film version, the girls don’t receive Bibles. Instead, we’re told they’re disciples of Transcendentalism—a philosophy diametrically opposed to Christianity.
Of course the beloved characters Alcott created were no such thing. But this is the kind of nonsense we end up with when classic literature is reinterpreted through twentieth-century attitudes.
Loxley Nichols of Loyola College writes in Chronicles magazine that the politically correct critics of today reduce classics like Little Women to “polemics devoid of their original meaning.”
Nichols could have included film directors, too. Because despite its charm, that’s exactly what has been done to the film Little Women.
There is some good news about Little Women: Movie-goers are swamping book stores for the Alcott original. I’m glad to hear it. It means that our children will be introduced to a literary classic that emphasizes the importance of Christian faith.
So go ahead and take your young friends to see Little Women. But then buy them a copy of the book. They’ll discover a story that’s at once highly entertaining . . . and rich in the beauty of Christian faith.
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