For those who love reading classics like me, the 2019 film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a godsend. I've always been attracted to stories set in a time where women make their voices heard despite societal restrictions, but this newest spin by director Greta Gerwig adds an updated touch to it that perfectly resonates with the modern woman. Whether you love period films or not, Little Women is a movie any woman can relate to: It's empowering and stubborn—a love letter to the strong, independent, single woman.
TBH, I cried buckets while watching the movie. Here are all the reasons why this film can make you feel like a different person coming out of the theater—in a good way, of course! Warning: If you haven't read the book or don't have any idea about the plot, there can be some light spoilers ahead!
1. It gets real about what society often expects from women.
At the beginning of the story, Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) pitches her story to a publisher using a different name. This is what he suggests to make her stories sell: "If the main character is a girl, make sure she's married by the end. Or dead, either way."
As a 30-something woman, I'm fortunate enough not to hear advice this...backward, but that doesn't mean I've never been bombarded by sub-messages that tell the same thing. Relatives, friends, and people I've met for five seconds have said versions of these statements one way or another: "You're getting too old," "You NEED to get married," "You're going to end up miserable in your old age." It says a lot about this standard put upon women that our happy endings should always end up standing beside someone at the end of the altar; either that or you'll wither away and die alone. This isn't 1868 anymore, but not a lot has changed about how we define a woman's worth and path in life. It's exhausting. It's irritating. But the fact is that there are still a lot of people who think this way.
2. It opens you to different life choices—and makes you learn to respect them.
In one of the scenes, Jo begs her sister Meg (Emma Watson) to run away with her instead of getting married. She tries to convince her that they can live a life together—her as a writer and Meg as an actress. Meg politely says no even if she's always dreamt of the glamor of the stage and serves this hard-hitting line: "Just because my dreams are different from yours doesn't mean they are unimportant."
This is probably one of the most in-your-face lines for me from the film. I've always been the type of girl who has a clear-cut view of what I want in life: I want a career. I want to be successful. I want to be independent. I believed in it so much that it came to a point where I couldn't understand the dreams of others. I thought acquaintances who married young or chose to have children were throwing their lives and potential away. "Why would they do that? They have so many things left to do and enjoy!" It was only during my late 20s when I realized that just because they don't want the same things that I do, doesn't mean that they don't respect themselves or have dreams of their own. Some want to power through their life alone like me, while others find motherhood a blessing. As long as we are the ones who chose our path and it makes us happy, then it MUST be respected, no questions asked.
3. It makes you question what's really important to you.
Not everyone in the movie is as bull-headed like Jo. Her youngest sister Amy (Florence Pugh) is the type of woman who understands society's rules around her. She submits to them, but she still keeps her own way of dealing with things. "I'd be respected if I couldn't be loved," she said in the scene where a dejected Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) tries to compare himself to her. She knows the time will come when she will have to choose convenience over love, but she retains a sense of herself despite it all.
This, I think, is something we can learn no matter what age we are. How many times have we said yes to something just because it will make things easier for us? I'm not saying we should think less of ourselves during these moments—if we're going to be realistic here, some situations call for us to do exactly this so we can do what we want and be where we want to be. But it's up to us to make our own rules even if we are adapting to a situation and to make sure that we don't lose ourselves in the process.
4. It gives you the license to explore and make mistakes.
Marmee (Laura Dern), the March sisters' mother, had this to say when she sent Meg away to her debutante ball: "Girls have to go out in the world and make up their mind about things." For a week, Meg gets lost in the lavish parties and gaudy ball gowns. She even considers getting engaged with one of the flashy men she meets. In the end, though, she returns home and chose to marry for love.
This is something I can relate to personally. In my early 20s, I made a lot of rash decisions that I admittedly didn't think through. I'm not saying they were wrong, though. Of course, I had my fair share of pitfalls and wrong turns, but at that time, I knew I needed to take those risks or else I wouldn't grow in life at all. And I say this for all the women out there too: For all the successes and the failures and the mistakes we will make, we can build ourselves up from them and get closer to where we want to be.
5. It says A LOT about singlehood.
In one of the most touching scenes in the movie, we see Jo having a conversation with her mother about getting married. Marmee asks her if she loves Laurie, and she replies not with a yes or a no, but with a line that anyone who has ever felt lonely in their lives can relate to.
"Do you love him?"
"I care to be loved. I want to be loved."
"That is not the same as loving."
We're constantly bombarded with encouraging messages about how being single is so wonderful and hip—it is, but not all the time, at least.
I can personally talk for hours about the wonders of singlehood, but I still cried when Jo was talking about the power of being alone and then followed it with "But I'm lonely. I'm so lonely." Because frankly, that's how it is. I'm content with my life, but even I have moments when I feel like I want someone by my side. There are times when I think of settling down just because I don't want to be the trophy single person in her barkada where everyone else is coupled up.
And yet that doesn't mean you're a failure just because you're single. Times like these will come because we're human and we FEEL things. It, however, doesn't erase the fact that we're doing wonderfully in the way we choose to live our lives. I do feel lonely, yes. But there are also a lot of moments when I feel happier to be doing what I want with my life the way I want to, and that's greater than my vulnerability.
6. It's empowering AF.
Little Women takes you into a roller coaster ride of emotions. One second you will feel proud that you are a determined woman like Jo, the next second you are questioning yourself and your choice to be alone. What makes the film so wonderful, however, is that it boils down to the power that women hold, regardless if they want to be married, engaged, or single. It doesn't say one life choice is better than the other but focuses on what we can do with our lives because we are women. And that is wonderful.
So, when we feel a little lost or confused, we should all remember Jo's wise words:
"Women. They have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they've got ambition, and they've got talent, as well as just beauty. And I'm so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for."
Because maybe we ARE meant to fall in love—not with another person, but with ourselves.
And that is okay.
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