I sit in the theater between my mother and my grandmother, all three of us with tears in our eyes and pride in our hearts as we cheer for women who remind us so much of ourselves and of people we love.
“Little Women” follows the story of four sisters: Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth March. These four women are similar only in their love for one another and their fiery determination to chase after their dreams; their dreams and desires all look quite different. But, I think that’s the magic of the story.
“Little Women” celebrates the beauty of choice. Women having choices, people having choices. It celebrates and (at the time of it’s publishing) paves a path for all people to have liberties to pursue their individual choices and dreams, especially people who are denied one.
The novel, written in the 19th century by Louisa May Alcott is widely known and loved, though it is not always highly regarded. I’m struck by how, even in the 21st century, we still do not seem to fully value a woman’s work. Glimpses of that can be seen in Greta Gerwig’s lack of a nomination for Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards, though “Little Women” has arguably made her deserving of one. Yet, there is so much power and excitement in the characters Alcott created, that I would argue it deserves recognition as an American classic.
There are parallels between the time depicted in the film and the time we live in now. “Little Women” is a story that has bypassed many generations and holds something for each.
Though set in the 1860s, the story echoes sentiments and causes that people still advocate for today. Whether that be the right for women to own their own works (a very public debate happening in the music industry) or the space to explore their dreams and be seen as equally capable of achieving them, much of it seems all-too-familiar.
I realize that this is why films like Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” are important. Though there are 60 years and three generations between my grandmother and I, we feel connected as we watch the story of the March sisters unfold. We both have experienced the frustration of Jo — frustration that we are not seen as important or thoughtful or ambitious.
When I first read “Little Women” in middle school, Jo March made me realize I wanted to be a writer. When my mom read it in her teen years, she felt encouraged to pursue her love for teaching. People from different backgrounds and experiences and lives can find familiarity in the desire to create something that lasts and is respected.
All the March girls want is to have opportunity. That is all my mother and I wanted, too. That is all most people want, though it is something that is still denied to so many.
My grandma, on the other hand, was experiencing Alcott’s story for the first time in the theater. At the end, she looked over and said to me, “I wish I had seen that 70 years ago. I needed that.”
That is why films like “Little Women” are important, in my opinion. Though progress has been made since my grandmother’s youth, she and I still have a similar sentiment.
We want to have the freedom to pursue the things that we love, fervently. The same thing Jo March wanted.
Amy, the aspiring painter, says, “I want to be great or nothing,” and I feel my mom tap my arm. These are words that I have said to her.
Ultimately, what Alcott was arguing for in her novel and what Gerwig is reiterating today is that women’s stories are just as worthy of being told as those of men are. “Little Women” has always advocated for the lives and the words of women to be heard. But, it isn’t just the story of women that need to be told. My wish is that this film sparks conversations and motivates us to highlight the stories of all people, not just the few.
I hope we never stop making movies like “Little Women,” ones that allow people to feel seen. I hope we never stop telling the stories and amplifying the voices of people who have been silenced. I hope this is a step we are taking to learn to value the experiences of people who have always been told they are less valuable.