Readers Hope
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Readers Hope

Jo, Friedrich and Adaptive Attractiveness

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Podcast Transcript Part 8.

I will end this with an analysis from blogger @wondertrevor I will put all the links to the sources.

I just saw someone say that “Meg names her daughter Daisy, like the nickname she was given at Sallie Moffat’s coming out party, and this proves that deep inside, Meg is still dissatisfied with her simple life and longs for luxury and fitting in with high society”, and it’s such a wild interpretation that perfectly illustrates how Little Women 2019’s mind-boggling decision to go with a revisionist interpretation of “Meg goes to Vanity Fair” affected movie-only viewers of her character development.

Brief recap: In the book, Meg is invited to Sallie Moffat’s coming out party, and is ecstatic with the opportunity to mingle with high society ladies, which had long been her dream. When she does arrive, she is made to feel self-conscious about her dress and is subsequently peer-pressured into unwittingly becoming the girls’ doll to play dress-up with. At the party, malicious rumours are spread about her and her family, and Meg ends up realizing that by trying too hard to fit into a perceived glamorous mould, she made a fool of herself. She tells Laurie not to tell Jo how badly she behaved, and the overall experience serves as a tough lesson for her in the folly of chasing materialism at the expense of your own identity.

The 2019 version of Little Women inexplicably turns all of that into Meg just wants to have some fun but Laurie shows up and spoils it by being a big meanie. She later tells him to let her have her fun for this one night and then she promises to be “good” for the rest of her life. There is no point being made about the toxicity of peer pressure or the loss of identity, nor is Meg confronted with the dark side of the glamorous lifestyle she so desperately covets. It’s just Meg’s Cinderella moment before she goes off to get married and be a miserable mother with financial problems.

I don’t think anyone needs an in-depth explanation as to why the 2019 version’s interpretation completely throws everything off track, but let’s get back to Meg and Daisy for one moment. It’s stated very clearly in the book that the reason Meg’s daughter is nicknamed Daisy is so that the family doesn’t end up having two Megs (the same way Amy’s daughter is called Bess, not Beth, and Meg’s youngest daughter is Josie, not Jo).

So why is it okay for one Margaret to be Daisy and not the other? Idk man, maybe it’s because…. Does Meg already have a name? And the rich girls disregarded it and replaced it with a nickname of their own liking, not-so-subtly turning her into an object of their own making. Because they don’t actually respect her as her own person, only as a version of her that has been made acceptable to them. Meg’s Daisy nickname is offensive, it’s derogatory, and Laurie points it out. It’s quite literally, a loss of identity. Even if you’re not a book reader, you should be able to glean that much from Meg goes to Vanity Fair.

But of course, with the way the 2019 version played out Meg goes to Vanity Fair, is it any surprise that some viewers ended up having this interpretation?

I need to add here that in the 19th century Daisy was a nickname for Margaret. Marmee’s name is Margaret and Meg is shortened from Margaret. Her daughter’s name comes from a place of love and respect, not a poor attempt to recapture a moment in her life.
Here is another quote from @the-other-art-blog

What a great analysis! I’ll admit I hadn’t thought about that particular scene in the movie. So Meg basically learned nothing from that experience!

This is one more example of how 2019 movies portray the girls’ flaws as minor things. Jo’s anger and Amy’s intentions of marrying Fred are glorified even though they could bring terrible consequences.

I agree! Laurie plays a “big meanie” in that scene. It shows how men are killjoys in this movie, mainly with Laurie and Fritz especially. Goddammit, Greta, a feminist movie is not about making men look bad. I wrote a whole article about Laurie’s line “fuss and feathers” but I forgot to mention something. Laurie criticizes Meg because as you said, she is not being herself. He has no problem with Amy being all dressed up because that’s who she is, she’s not faking anything.

Being yourself is a big lesson in the LW saga because it’s a fundamental part of the whole “coming-of-age” theme. The characters try constantly to please others at their own expense: Meg ➔ other girls, Laurie ➔ Jo, Jo ➔ her publisher, Tom ➔ Nan, Amy ➔ society? Fred’s family? I don’t know but she would have had to give up her art if she entered into the Vaughn family, as Kate did. The point is she’s making bad decisions too.
They failed every time.

Fritz is an example during the symposium because he stood firm and defended his beliefs in a room full of people who thought the opposite way. And at that moment Jo knew this was the man for her. While the 2019 movie makes men seem like party-poppers, in the book they help the girls once they are out of the nest.

When I have come across Jo and Laurie fans, or anyone with alternative fan theories for Jo, what they do is they close their eyes and their ears and say I don´t want to listen, when you are pointing out something that actually happens in the novel or happened in Louisa´s life. Instead of making a movie that would be truthful to the novel and open a dialogue about the novel and about the life of the author, we have a film-maker and with a huge marketing budget appealing to these different fan theory groups, not being truthful to the novel but actually making fun of it. You are not opening a dialogue or increasing people´s understanding of the author, you are in fact creating divisions.

Thank you for listening.
Take care and make good choices.

Sources:

Little Women 150 Years Penguin Edition, Louisa May Alcott

Jo´s Boys by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott life letters and journals by Edna Cheney

May Alcott, biography, Caroline Ticknor

Louisa May Alcott, A Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen

Meg and Daisy by @wondertrevor

The author-publisher relationships of Louisa May Alcott by Daniel Shealy

Louisa May Alcott´s juvenilia, blueprints for the future by Daniel Shealy

Only gossip prospers by Lorraine Tossielo (LMA and Frank Lesley)

Gerwig´s interview https://www.filmcomment.com/article/lifes-work/

Unpublished Alcott letters from her publisher, Louisa May Alcott is my passion

Read the full transcript: https://www.fairychamber.com/the-little-women-project/how-greta-gerwig-lied-aboutwell-everything-jo-friedrich-and-adaptive-attractiveness

Listen to the podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQxGobmml0o

Originally published at https://www.tumblr.com.

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Niina's Fairychamber

Niina's Fairychamber

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Illustrator, writer and folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. A host of the Little Women Podcast.