It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Annemarie and Brooke are suckers for things that are classy — according to their own definitions of course. Costume dramas, teas, twee treats, nice parties, nice clothes and posh bits of decor have all fallen into that realm many, many times. Today we celebrate a picture that checks many of these boxes. It’s based on literature. It has a female heroine loaded with gumption. It’s full of old-timey dress and tradition. It has tea. It has romance. It has tragedy in spades. We watched 1994’s Little Women — with tea and treats at our beloved Alamo Drafthouse Afternoon Tea — and now we just have to talk about it. Why? Because it was classy AF. And we want to.
B: Before we get into the finer points of this picture, let’s first establish something. I know I have seen this movie before. Indeed, I know that there was a period when I watched it quite frequently. Other than Winona Ryder being in it and the iconic cluster-around-the-letter image above, I remembered absolutely NONE OF IT. And now I feel like I’ve been missing out for years. AM, how long had it been since you’d seen this movie? What was your relationship with it? Has the experience (and your reaction) changed since you last saw it?
A: I believe the first time I saw Little Women was its release year, and I have a distinct memory of watching it at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. That’s about the classiest establishment that Colorado has to offer, and they had a small movie theater that would play one new-release film a month. We had the VHS tape and I remember this film in heavy rotation from ’95 to about 2001 or so when I left for college. I am certain I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, but I don’t think I’ve seen it recently.
I remembered all the main plot points, but seeing it as an adult woman, the tone of the entire thing is changed for me. As a sixth grader, I could not understand why Jo would ever reject Laurie. How can you say no to Christian Bale?!? Now, it’s clear. She loves him as a brother and knows they aren’t meant for a great romantic love. It’s all the more tragic because I truly think he sees her that way.
Brooke, what amazing feminist things did the March family learn that you wish you’d also heard from Marmie? How adorable is their family home? Which sister’s life would you have rather had in the end? And which tea at the Drafthouse was your favorite? (For the last one, I almost always love them all equally…)
B: Marmie is such a badass. And basically everything out of her mouth was an inspiration, up to and including her disdain for corsets and belief that her little women should get to romp around every bit as much as little men. I think the most wonderful feminist nugget actually came from our girl Jo. The entire second half of the movie had the both of us sobbing intermittently, but the following exchange was so much more emotional for me than I could have imagined:
Jo: I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.
Mr. Mayer: You should have been a lawyer, Miss March.
Jo: I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer.
DAMN. Even reading that again now, it gets me. For a movie based on a book published in 1868, that statement is alarmingly relevant today. In fact, I don’t think there was a single theme in Little Women that failed to strike a chord. I can’t for the life of me decide if it was more hopeful or more tragic. What say you, AM?
Now as for this whole Jo-Laurie conundrum. In the moment, I was still a bit knee-jerk stunned that Jo turned him down. Yes, I understood why. She didn’t love him that way. BUT, this was a girl who never wanted to marry, but felt the necessity of it weighing upon her. Every ounce of reason in my body tells me it’s not a bad deal to make to marry the man who is your dearest friend in the world. There is a pronounced measure of tragedy in the idea, but some comfort too. Still, the proposal exchange was excellent, and it ultimately paved the path for Jo to find her own way. Which brings me around to the answer to one of AM’s questions. I would absolutely prefer Jo’s path — struggle and all. Her professor is sweet and she finds purpose. She confronts the possibility of going through the world alone with grace, and only chooses not to do so because she finds a good reason why she shouldn’t. To that I can only say, get it, girl!
The March family home is too adorable for words. I’ve said it before about similar charming houses in similarly toned pictures — give me a cozy house like that and I couldn’t want for anything more. Maybe that’s why I so understand Beth and Jo when they lament that all of them cannot stay there in the house together forever.
Why must Little Women break my heart so? Also, how is it that you managed to have it in such heavy rotation and never see the rest of the Winona Ryder oeuvre? Not Mermaids, Reality Bites, Edward Scissorhands, Heathers, none of them?! I’m so pleased that we’re halfway down the road of correcting this oversight. Wait, have you seen The Crucible? This is a shot at redemption!
A: I have not seen The Crucible. I don’t know how I saw this but basically nothing else before you made me, but such is life and it’s why we have this column. Does seeing Mr. Deeds count? Probably not, that movie is awful.
I think it’s probably more tragic that in 2016, almost a hundred and sixty freaking years after this novel came out, that we’re still having to fight our way in as women. It’s frustrating to know that a woman like Jo probably wouldn’t have had the vote in her lifetime. Patton Oswalt, as usual, said it better than I can:
What I’ve learned so far tonight: America is WAAAAAAAAY more sexist than it is racist. And it’s pretty fucking racist. #ElectionNight
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) November 9, 2016
Anyway, we here at We Write Things aren’t going to get tooooo political, but it’s something that I couldn’t help but think as we were watching this film.
Back to boys. I mentioned that I also didn’t understand Jo’s decision to reject Laurie when I was a kid, and I think now that we’re actual adults and practical, that’s why we understand it better. We’re so mature and classy, and also Professor Baer is pretty foxy himself.
I have to concur that Jo’s not only the hero, but she has the best “happy ending.” Amy will likely galavant around Europe and New York as only the very rich can in the 19th century, but she’s just not the one you root for. Meg’s is too suburban for my tastes, even though I’m happy she gets exactly what she wants and she certainly deserves it. And obviously, Beth’s story is one of the most tragic in literature. How could I have forgotten how epically fucking sad it is when Beth dies?! I am fairly certain I’ve ugly cried every time I’ve seen this movie.
Speaking of crying, we don’t get to see Claire Danes cry face in Little Women because you know, she’s the object of everyone’s tears. I love her and her work dearly, but she has such a distinct and scrunchy cry face that we can’t not embed this supercut:
Brooke, any final thoughts? You didn’t talk about the snacks yet!
B: Even though you didn’t watch The Crucible, I’ve never been more proud, AM. You know how I love the Claire Danes Cry Face Supercut and now you’ve invoked it. Clearly, I’ve enriched your life. “Why is she crying?” “I’m not crying!”
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned the snacks yet, I guess I was too caught up in all of the feels. All of the snacks, like all of the teas, were tasty, but the star of the day is a clear cut choice. The fried goat cheese with balsamic drizzle. 1,000 times yes. It was rich and savory, salty and sweet. It was absolutely everything. I could have eaten so much of that. Fortunately, they only give us one of each snack rather than turning us loose on them because they would have lost a fortune in goat cheese if we’d been unleashed.
I daresay we’ve covered the occasion quite thoroughly. I propose watching Little Women becomes an annual tradition — I have lost time to make up for!