Merry meet fellow Little Women fans, today´s comment shout out goes to lovelacegsl who says:
"One of the things this podcast made me realize is that the adaptations always focus on the positive traits of Jo and Laurie´s friendship and the negative traits in Amy and Laurie´s relationship. That is why it is so hard for people to root for them. Even the 2019 adaptation did that and people were praising it because "it made a good contrast" anyways screw the adaptations and always book supremacy. Go listen to this! they literally transferred Jo´s and Laurie´s toxic traits to Amy and Laurie. What kind of bs is that".
What a sweet comment. One of the things that I do like to speak about in this podcast is the different narrative between the novel and the multiple adaptations. If you think about Jo and Laurie in the book, they argue a lot. In the novel Jo even says to Laurie, she notices that he does not argue with Amy. In the movies you see more conflicts between Amy and Laurie, than with Jo and Laurie.
It get´s worse. You see Jo and Friedrich arguing in the movies, you don´t see Jo arguing with Laurie. In the novel Jo and Friedrich don´t argue and there is a really great scene where the narrator says that Friedrich had the ability to calm Jo, because Jo is a person who gets easily agitated and she can´t control her mood changes, she needed somebody who could live with that and was able to balance her. Which is one of the best qualities in their relationship dynamics. It might have it´s base in reality since it has been speculated that Louisa May Alcott might have had manic depressive disorder, and she does write in her diaries, that all these real life Friedrich, had the ability to calm her.
It has become a custom for me to tell you guys the things that I have been reading lately. Since this is the Amy and Laurie romance episode (I do hope to make more of these in the future) I want to recommend you all to visit my fellow Little Women fan Jimena´s blog. I will put a link to her blog into the shownotes and I am going to be quoting her quite a bit in this episode. I´v had people saying to me that things that I post and the way I analyze Jo and Friedrich´s relationship make people love them more.
Jimena writes so beautifully about Amy and Laurie, she makes me like them even more. I have always liked Amy as a character. With Laurie it has been more difficult, because he is a lot more complicated in the novel and then he is very simplified in the movies, and sadly in Little Women circles, you will find lots of Laurie fans (most of them Jo and Laurie shippers) who really hate Friedrich´s character, but you will also find Friedrich fans who really hate Laurie. That kind of culture itself is very toxic, and one of the reasons why I wanted to do more in-depth exploration on Laurie was because I wanted to understand his and Amy´s relationship better. Also it is a very petty argument because in the novel, Fritz and Laurie actually seem to get a long pretty well, and Laurie is the biggest Jo and Friedrich shipper and he and Amy even plan to make a story of a rich relative who would leave Jo and Fritz a fortune because they want to support them.
This episode is sponsored by Audible and if you have not yet read Little Women there are no excuses to wait. You can get 30 day free trial with the affiliate link that is in the description.
This is Small Umbrella In The Rain Little Women Podcast: Amy and Laurie romance and the film makers Jo and Laurie obsession.
When Laurie and Amy meet in Nice they have not met for four years and Laurie is impressed how much Amy has changed.
Amy was gratified, but of course didn't show it, and demurely answered, "Foreign life polishes one in spite of one's self. I study as well as play, and as for this"--with a little gesture toward her dress--"why, tulle is cheap, posies to be had for nothing, and I am used to making the most of my poor little things."
Amy rather regretted that last sentence, fearing it wasn't in good taste, but Laurie liked her better for it, and found himself both admiring and respecting the brave patience that made the most of opportunity, and the cheerful spirit that covered poverty with flowers. Amy did not know why he looked at her so kindly, now why he filled up her book with his own name, and devoted himself to her for the rest of the evening in the most delightful manner, but the impulse that wrought this agreeable change was the result of one of the new impressions which both of them were unconsciously giving and receiving.
Amy and Laurie spent a great deal of time together in the books. They went to picnics, dancing, sight seeing...and it has been always rushed in the films (or not shown at all).
Laurie is disappointed when he hears of Amy´s plans to marry wealthy Fred Vaughn and he reminds her of the Amy he once knew. Amy who valued love more than wealth. At the same Amy is disappointed by Laurie´s behavior. The way he dwells in self-pity and doesn´t even try to be useful. They both remind each other of something they had forgotten about themselves and that unleashes process of self-discovery in both characters and this growth process that Laurie goes through has never been adapted.
The biggest problem with Jo´s and Laurie´s relationship is that they are never equals, and that bothers Jo. Even in the first part Jo is always aware of the financial difference between her family and the Lawrences but also when Jo grows she becomes a lot more interested in learning and she would like to go to university and she struggles to be the person she wants to become with Laurie- He is stuck and very lost about what he wants to do with his life and this maternal care that Jo has for him becomes more toxic. Amy is the one who gets through him and maybe the fact they had not seen each other for such a long time participated into that.
Louisa May Alcott´s original name for Little Women part 2 was "Leaving the nest" which suggests that Louisa had a plan what the life was going to be for her characters, and if you have listened the earlier episodes on this channel, we can trace the love stories in Little Women to Louisa´s favorite books, and the relationship between Jo and Friedrich, seems to have been something that Louisa wanted for herself. Little Women part 2 or Good Wives tends to be an underrated book. This is a quote from Little Women fan Dana.
Reasons I can think of are this: 1) people aren't interested in the characters once they've "grown up", and 2) they aren't satisfied with the ending, so by skipping/ignoring GW, they can avoid what they don't like
"I'm sure there are many different reasons for why Good Wives is underrated, but two very plausible ones I can think of are this:
1) people aren't interested in the characters once they've "grown up",and
2) they aren't satisfied with the ending, so by skipping/ignoring GW, they can avoid what they don't like And I bet you that part of that dissatisfaction comes from the group of fans who ship Jo and Laurie. Because ignoring GW, means they don´t have to worry about the pair not getting together, or Amy and Laurie, or Jo and Fritz.
The name Good Wives I believe was something that Louisa´s publisher in Britain came up and that is the name part 2 has been sold in Europe. I personally always thought that good husbands could have been a better name or good matches, but I suppose that was too modern.
Here are some more quotes from canon fans.
Jo and Laurie shippers want to believe Laurie accepted Jo for who she was and he didn´t care for high society. That´s a lie. He loved his rich life and Jo´s scribbling drove him crazy.
A good part of this is that they focus so much on the hypotethical happily ever after... instead of seeing what the happily ever after would look like.
When Amy and Laurie are in Nice the role that Amy takes it is traditionally seen as more masculine. She is stern but not provocative. The adult Amy is quite a catch she is worldly and uses all the right words. She even gives Laurie good advice how he could win Jo´s love or at least gain her respect but most of all Amy wants Laurie to shape up his act for his own sake. At the same Laurie reminds Amy isn´t love better option than money. Amy´s lecture proves how much deliberately Laurie was feeding his heartache out of spite. She was right to lecture him and only one who got through him. Also to be noted Fred wanted to marry Amy despite of her being poor but because Amy was a true lady and Fred genuinely liked her. Yet the reason why Amy wanted to marry him was that she could take care of her family in her heart she knew that it was wrong for both Fred and her and Laurie reminded Amy to examine her own heart. After leaving Nice Laurie went back to his grandfather. The relationship between the two has improved a great deal since he first moved to live with him but now it is even better because of the internal change that has started to happen inside Laurie.
When he looked about him for another and a less intractable damsel to immortalize in melody, memory produced one with the most obliging readiness. This phantom wore many faces, but it always had golden hair, was enveloped in a diaphanous cloud, and floated airily before his mind's eye in a pleasing chaos of roses, peacocks, white ponies, and blue ribbons. He did not give the complacent wraith any name, but he took her for his heroine and grew quite fond of her, as well he might, for he gifted her with every gift and grace under the sun, and escorted her, unscathed, through trials which would have annihilated any mortal woman.
Laurie goes to Vienna to compose but as being said it does not go that well and it is easier for Laurie to give up the idea of Jo being the lead of his great operetta than giving up the idea of himself as a romantic hero. Now the phantom that looks like Amy has become part of Laurie´s fantasy projection but this time Laurie himself breaks this bubble.
He comes to the conclusion that he does not posses the genius. He goes through the same process that Amy did. He has talent but he lacks vision. Largely thanks to Amy´s candidness Laurie grows a great deal during this winter. One way of reading Laurie´s time in Vienna is to see it as a rite of becoming independent. He comes to the conclusion that he needs a real earnest job which he had never wanted to do before and that is when Laurie goes to work for his grandfather. 100 years of Little Women adaptations. Not once have they included Laurie´s growth process and his time in Vienna.
Friedrich´s character tells probably more about his creator than any other character in Little Women. We can even see Laurie and Fritz as different aspects of Jo/Louisa. Laurie is the masculine energy of youth and Fritz is the academia and the mature emotional intelligence. Differences between Jo and Laurie rise when they are called to conform. From the start Jo is represented as a strong minded person with high-level intellectual curiosity where as Laurie takes education for granted. He goes to college to full-fill his grandfather´s dreams and partially Jo´s dreams as well but not his own dreams. Once again this is not a character flaw he is just a different type of person. From a very young age Jo has high work ethics and she has been raised on a very politically aware household. Value of work and social justice are not things that Laurie is that much interested which can be easily explained with his background but we never see that in film and tv adaptations and they have never really shown Jo´s and Laurie´s differences because his character arc is never there, his flaws are downplayed and Amy suffers from the opposite reduction-ism.
Because we never see Laurie´s pranks and the proposal dialogue is always changed we never see how much later Laurie matures compared to the sisters. Jo is looking for love and acceptance and validation for her unique sense of individualism. With Friedrich´s character Louisa makes a bold statement on class and wealth and she subverted the social expectations of a romantic interest. Man who Jo falls in love with is a poor scholarly immigrant during the time when there was deeply rooted antagonism towards European immigrants. Louisa gave him feminine qualities that she herself appreciated in a man and many of the real-life Friedrich´s who Louisa was attracted to possessed them as well. Friedrich is enthralled by Jo´s intellectual curiosity and he is not threatened by it (unlike most men of the time were).
In the novel Jo gets anxiety when she is writing the sensational stories. They are causing her a mental breakdown and Friedrich sees that Jo is not feeling very well and that she is really upset about something and that something is her publisher who wants her to write more racy stories and these stories they contradict with Jo´s own literal desires and she calls her sensational stories trash. So when Friedrich sees that Jo is upset he says that he believes that sensational stories corrupt the persons soul and the book Jo does not argue with Fritz, because he is saying aloud what Jo has been thinking and then Friedrich encourages Jo to study character and gives her books and she begins to write to please herself not the editor. In majority Little Women adaptations, film makers make Friedrich a villain who prevents Jo from writing and show them arguing. Which doesn´t happen in the novel.
was never a huge supporter of Gerwig´s version but after reading more and more of her racist statements on Friedrich´s character and that she believes that Laurie is “Jo´s first feminist ally” and that he “wants her to grow up” I am frankly disgusted. When Laurie proposed to Jo he wanted Jo to be his nanny and said she never needs to write again and Laurie was the immature party on that relationship and Louisa loved Germany (she was a freaking germanophile and studied German). Also the scene in the earlier script where Jo wanted to punch Amy after Amy and Laurie got engaged is so off and uncharacteristic I don´t think Gerwig wanted to justice for Amy, because if she wanted to do so, she wouldn´t have included Jo wanting Laurie back (which DOES NOT happen in the bok).
This is a quote from the-other-art-blog:
"In you podcast with you friend, one of you said how Laurie never does any work for Amy. That’s something that bothered me even before reading the book. We get that Amy said no to Fred because she didn’t love him, but there’s never a moment when Laurie proves that he really loves Amy and that he’s completely over Jo. And we never see him better himself.
And another thing is that he NEVER ever apologizes sincerely to her. Book Laurie did bad things to Amy, but in the movie he is even worse! He stood her up, he arrived drunk and insulted her and embarrassed her in front of everyone. The next day, he arrives drunk to the painting studio and acts as if he hadn’t done anything wrong. And yet, all he has to do is smile and Amy forgave him.
Book Amy doesn’t take shit from Laurie, that’s why she is not afraid of telling him the truth as it is and it actually had an impact on him. But here, Amy is weak. The fact that she is in love with him, allows him to treat her like crap. The garden scene actually works for me because it’s Amy telling him that he needs to stop that, that just because she loves him doesn’t mean he gets to do with her whatever he wants. But then again, he doesn’t work to prove her that he honestly loves her. So that strength that she showed at the garden goes away in the next scene.
Adding into the letter, the scene with the editor is also troublesome. When the Mr. Dashwood asked her “why didn’t she marry the neighbor”, Jo responds, “because the sister married him”. It implies that Amy got to him first, like it was a competition. And it only fuels the thought that Amy “stole” him from Jo (btw, as if Laurie had no will or reasoning capacity to choose his own wife). Jo should have answered, “because she didn’t love him”.
There’s actually an article that says that Greta’s movie proves that the marriages in LW are not romantic. And that just goes against the things we’ve talked about, like Louisa wanting to portray marriages based on love.
People saying that this version proves why Amy and Laurie are well suited is kind of confusing. It actually raises more concerns about Laurie’s feelings and adds Jo’s regret. That’s why JoxLaurie shippers love this movie so much, because they win".
Amy and Laurie 1970
In the BBC production from 1970 Stephen Turner´s Laurie actually has a temper and more complex personality. Adult Amy is played by Janina Faye and the dialogue of their time together is lifted straight from the novel. Same series completely butchers Jo and Friedrich. Why it is so difficult to find an adaptation that would treat both couples with respect? Janina Faye also plays the child Amy and every time when an adult woman plays a 12 year old Amy the arguments between Jo and Amy appear more as cat fights and not arguments between a 12 year old little sister and 15 year old big sister. This series it is the only version where I have seen Jo and Laurie arguing, but it also doesn´t show Jo questioning Laurie´s actions, in fact it shows how Jo very easily forgives him. Which is something that does happen when Jo was a teen, but it does not happen anymore when Jo is an adult.
Amy and Laurie 1978
In the 1978 series Richard Gilliland plays the part of Laurie. He does not look at all like the book Laurie but his personality is closer to the book Laurie than any of the film Laurie´s. He has a temper, insecurities and the series shows tricky relationship he has with his grandfather. Susan Dei´s Jo is the most feminine Jo in the history of Jo´s. She is extremely submissive around Laurie. We also get quite possibly world´s most entertaining Mr Bhaer in the form of William Shatner. Ann Dusenberry plays both child and adult Amy. Amy is taken bit too over-the top and Jo appears more as a saint compered to her. Series still manages to build a good base for Amy´s and Laurie´s relationship. This is another version which does not show Jo and Laurie arguing, but Jo and Friedrich argue almost through out the series, so it is completely opposite to what happens in the novel.
Real life Laurie´s
Laurie had two real-life inspirations. First one was Louisa´s good friend Alf Whitman who she used to act with in the Concord dramatic union. When they met Whitman was 15 years old and Louisa was 25 and they remained friends through out their lives. Alf also knew May and the age difference between May and Alf was only 2 years and they were close friends. Based to the letter exchange between the two they both seemed to have rather care-free personalities same way as Amy and Laurie. Second inspiration for Laurie was a young man called Ladislas Wisniewski. Louisa met Ladislas in Switzerland where she was working as a companion to a wealthy woman called Anna Weld. Louisa was in her 30´s at the time. The age difference between Louisa and Ladislas was 13 years. Louisa gave him a nickname Laddie. Laddie was a military man from Poland and an aspiring pianist. There is very little information about Laddie. He has been described to be a flirtatious prankster and he was romancing Louisa but it would seem that Louisa´s feelings towards him were more maternal. Laddie used to call her as his little mama. Some time later May also met Laddie in Europe and he showed her around. Neither Louisa or May married Laddie or Alf. "Laddie" and "lad" were umbrella terms that Louisa used as nicknames for young boys and young men (Reisen). Ladislas was not the only laddie but he and Alf were the "laurie-laddie´s". I read some of the letters that Louisa had written for Laddie and Alf (Reisen) where she told them that she was going to immortalize them into Laurie´s character and in Laurie she wanted to capture the essence of youth and the essence of boyhood.
In the 1933 film we get a full half-minute of Amy and Laurie in Europe together. Character arcs of neither one are included. In the 1949 film Amy and Laurie do not share any scenes together. They only appear together in film posters. There is one scene right before Laurie goes to propose Jo, you can see Amy played by Elizabeth Taylor looking at Laurie going with sad expression. That is how much this film cares about Amy and Laurie. To the defence of the 1949 film they do really good job with Jo and Friedrich and it is together with the modern 2018 adaptation the only film where Jo and Friedrich don´t argue and Jo actually embraces the feedback she gets from him.
Amy gets blamed on two things; stealing Laurie and stealing Jo´s trip to Europe. Movies have never adapted chapter calls and they just leave Amy and Laurie hanging. In 1933 and 1949 films aunt March and Amy just pop into New York to tell Jo that they are going to Europe and in both films Jo goes to New York after she has friend zoned Laurie and when she hears that Laurie has been in New York she is sad because he hasn´t come to see her (!?). In the book Jo went to New York because Laurie´s behavior made her feel uncomfortable!
Breaking Misconceptions of Manhood
There is a theory that Jo rejecting Laurie is actually Louisa rejecting Laddie Wisniewski. I say, theory because Louisa´s journals are censored.
She does have a diary marking where she mentions him trying to get physical with her, and she rejected him, and Little Women is a semi-biographical novel.
I´ve had some listeners saying to me that I am too harsh on Laurie, and then I´v had other listeners saying that I am too easy on him. That I don´t cristice his behavior enough.
Thing is Laurie does some horrible things in the novel, and that should not be ignored but his growth process is what matters because he grows out of that behavior, same way as Jo grows out of her misogynistic beliefs.
Little Women 2019 has really bad woke feminism, because the director objectifies the male characters and erases their arcs, shows Laurie being mean to Meg in the ball scene or Friedrich being a bully, and none of that happens in the novel. Feminism doesn´t have nothing to do with hating men. It is designed to also break stereotypes and misconceptions of manhood.
The portrayal of manhood especially in these more recent adaptations is quite misandry, which is complete opposite to what happens in the book. In Louisa May Alcott´s novels you can often find a so-called "Laurie archetype", which is a young man who is a bit lost in life and is more heavily guided by women. Jo has very maternal feelings towards Laurie and at the same time she has quite harsh views towards her own gender and other women and Jo is Laurie´s first female influence. Where that influence is leading is Laurie flirting and sort of belittling the ladies he is courting and eventually belittling Jo as well. When he meets Amy in Europe, she refuses to mother him same way as Jo has done and that is why Amy is the first person who Laurie actually listens. She shows him another version of womanhood, which actually allows Laurie to be more sensitive, admire beauty and truly inspire him to be a better version of himself, because what it came to Jo, there are times in the novel when Jo is actually making fun of Laurie´s over sensitive nature.
In away Jo is Laurie´s opposite. She grows up dismissing her own sex as weaker and she is heavily influenced by men in her life. Her mother and sisters play important role as well but more when she reaches adulthood. She always has a fondness for boys. Friedrich has two nephews and for a lot of women that might be a problem but Jo loves boys. She loves the energy of young boys and when Jo is a teen she admires Laurie and she can´t really see the toxicity in their behavior and how it is quite misogynistic. Best example of that is Laurie catfishing Meg and Jo didn´t really see any harm in it. She didn´t really care about her sisters reputation at all. Which shows how little she identified with women as a teen. When Jo grows she begins to question her own previous views on what is acceptable and what isn´t. There is a great scene in the novel where the narrator says that when Friedrich comes to court Jo, she forgot to compare him to Laurie, because Laurie had been her model of masculinity. Friedrich replaces him with a more healthier model, which includes respecting women, not belittling them. So you might even say that with their mutual partners Jo and Laurie are able to find their true selves.
Little Women 1994
Movie from 1994 is one of the most well-known Little Women adaptations. There are probably more people in the planet who have seen the film but have not read the books. Winona Ryder who plays Jo has great chemistry with both Christian Bale who plays Laurie and Gabriel Byrne who plays Friedrich. In an interview Robin Swicord who was one of the script writers of the 1994 film was asked about the sudden change in Amy´s character and she replied it is not until we get rid of the bitch-naming culture we can achieve equality. I do agree with this statement (and I know movies always have time restrictions) but the 1994 film doesn´t do many favours for Amy´s character because once again Amy´s character arc and Laurie´s character arc are completely missing. The film heavily idolizes Jo and romanticizes Jo and Laurie. When Laurie proposes he kisses Jo, and some people call this as a dribble kiss, but in the novel Jo and Laurie don´t kiss and Jo is actually really annoyed that he is interested in her, which is why she travels to New York. 1994 Laurie doesn´t have a temper so when Winona Ryder´s Jo says they would kill each others (if they would marry) it is hard to believe that because he doesn´t have a temper! Exact the same thing happens in Greta Gerwig´s film. Laurie doesn´t have a temper. Dialogue of the proposal is completely different than in the book. In the proposal scene Laurie has taken a job from his grandfather from London so that he and Jo could move there. The book Laurie is not at all interested from having a job and the main reason he is proposing Jo is that Jo could keep telling him what to do with his life. In the book it was Friedrich who had taken a job from another state so that he could provide a home and a future for Jo. This part is missing from every single film version.
In the 1994 film there is a scene where Laurie promises to kiss Amy when she is grown up because Beth is ill and Amy who is like 13 at the time is afraid that she is going to die as well. There are people who like this scene and believe that it actually foreshadows Amy and Laurie romance. Then there are people who think it is creepy because Christian Bale is so old and he promises to kiss 13 year old Kirsten Dunst. Christian Bale was 19 when he played Laurie and an interesting but not very relevant fact, at the time he was dating Samantha Matis who played the adult Amy in the movie. If he would actually kiss young Amy then I would be worried, but people really need to learn to understand the context since nothing physical happens between them. I´v read that Kirsten actually had a crush on Christian Bale, so maybe she would not have minded if he had actually kissed her.
Scene where Laurie says he has always meant to marry a March girl has made many to believe that Amy is some kind of second prize but he does´t say anything like that in the books. In the 1994 film Jo writes to Laurie after Beth´s death and asks him to come back to Concord. Jo does not do this in the book. In the book Laurie sends Jo a letter right after Beth´s death and proposes her for the second time right after when he has realized that he has romantic feelings towards Amy.
Coming of age novel
Little Women was a commission by Louisa´s publisher Thomas Niles to write a book for girls that would include morals and advice on good marriages. Louisa was´t sure if she herself could write such a book because she was´t used to writing children´s novels and she did´t really have experiences on young girls beside her sisters.The structure of the book that Niles ordered was Bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a literary genre that has it´s focus on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. Louisa was more than familiar with this genre because Goethe´s Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship was the start of it. Therefore Little Women is a story of identity with romantic subplots.
Louisa was advocate for girls marrying for love and not for money and not marrying too young. All March sisters are over 21 when they get married. It seems that Louisa planned both Jo and Friedrich and Amy and Laurie to end up together already when she was a teen ager. Amy knows that she wants to marry a rich man. Laurie is wealthy and Jo wants to keep Laurie in the family as her brother and May also knew both real-life Laurie´s. References to Germany already begin in the first chapter of Little Women, which foreshadows arrival of a German character. In fact March trilogy is constantly favorable towards German culture.
Louisa was frustrated by the little girls who were obsessed with the idea of Jo marrying Laurie. Laurie perfectly captures the 19th century male ideal but in modern standards Friedrich is more feminist and progressive. He is respectful towards Jo, supports female education, is abolitionist, hardworking and loves Jo unconditionally. The resentment that Friedrich´s character received in the 19th century (and still today from some sad people) seems to stem out from xenophobia. In the 19th century German immigrants were widely discriminated.
Laurie Growing, Moving From Jo To Amy
This is a quote from Christine Doyle´s essay German literature and culture in Little Women. I have quoted this before but it really captures Louisa´s views on romantic love and finding a suitable partner.
"The cultural level suggested by Friedrich’s profession and more specifically by his knowledge of Goethe also helps to validate the connection between Friedrich and Jo. Teen-age Louisa had scribbled a quote from her copy of Margaret Fuller´s Woman in the Nineteenth Century regarding Wilhelm Meister’s female connections.
As Meister grows in life & advances in wisdom, he becomes acquainted with women of more & more character, rising from Mariana to Natalia who expresses the Minerva side of things, Mignon, the electrical, inspired lyrical nature . . .
"Passage represents Jo´s transference of affection from Laurie to Friedrich through her own growth and advancement in terms of character. Laurie is the fascination of her youth who will always be regarded with affection, but Friedrich has more character. Laurie is always a “boy” to Jo, but Friedrich is a man. Laurie possesses charm and culture; Friedrich, as we see, is cultured but also steady and well-grounded. He speaks both to her down-to-earth practicality and to her imagination (Doyle)
This similar transference can be seen in Laurie as well in the way he moves on from Jo to Amy. Laurie has to go through the personal transformation first before he can truly love another. Fact that Louisa was very fascinated by this transference from a young age is interesting, because this transference not only happens in little women, but it is a narrative pattern that she repeats in her other writings as well.
Attraction in Little Women
Laurie in the books is described to have androgynous and effeminate looks. Jo is also androgynous but she has sharper features. Jo in the books is never sexually attracted to Laurie, which makes it pretty crazy that so many adaptations have hired Jo´s and Laurie´s who have sexual chemistry. What Jo is attracted to is Laurie´s masculine energy and that in their childhood plays she doesn´t need to be a girl. Features that are traditionally seen more feminine that Laurie has, like his sensitivity bring out Jo´s nurturing side (something that came naturally to her). In New York when Jo meets Fritz she is really attracted to him and his masculine looks (he is more build like a viking). Gender fluidly continues in the sequels. In little men it is once again referred how Jo prefers more "manly" boys. Little Men also introduces the character of Nat who is compared to Laurie. Nat has more effeminate looks, he plays music and he is quite sensitive. In Jo´s boys Nat and Meg´s daughter Daisy are in love but both Meg and Jo are worried since they don´t think Nat is man enough to take care of Daisy because Nat is quite a dreamer and probably because of his effeminate looks. Jo however thinks that Daisy will be a good wife for Nat because she is steady and down-to-earth. When Nat returns from his trip to Europe and he is now more solidly built Meg and Jo give their approval. In Good Wives Jo wishes that Laurie could find himself a steady and a competent girl who could keep him grounded (sounds familiar?) The way Laurie was not used to making decisions also effected to the way Jo thought of herself. Which was something she wanted to change.
More Screen Laurie´s
In the pbs series from 2017 Laurie was played by Jonah Hauer-King. Series received very mixed reviews from the fans. In an interview the screen writer Heidi Thomas said she never understood Jo´s chose of husbands. This definitely explains why Laurie´s flaws are (once again) downplayed and why he doesn´t have a character arc. Series also tried very hard to make Amy an unlikable character. Friedrich Bhaer who for once looks like he jumped straight out from the book pages gets very little screen time. Both Jo x Fritz and Amy x Laurie relationships are left underdeveloped.
We need to stop pampering Laurie and let him grow like the book Laurie does.
Little Women film from 2018 is set to the modern day. Film builds a good base for Jo and professor and it also builds a good base for Meg´s and John´s relationship. 12 year old Amy is played by Elise Jones and adult Amy by Taylor Murphy and Laurie by Lucas Grabeel. Having two Amy´s is wonderful because it brings more nuances to Amy´s and Jo´s relationship (and is truthful to the books). Film once again portrays Laurie as a flawless character and does not include redemption arc he has with Amy. We see young Amy having a crush on Laurie but we don´t see them bonding as adults.
No wonder people have had hard time to get behind this pairing. Laurie´s flaws have been downplayed and Amy´s flaws have been highlighted. During this personal growth process Laurie is forced to ask some real questions about himself. Questions that he had been afraid to ask; who he is and what he wants from life. When Amy´s letter arrives where she tells Laurie she has rejected Fred´s proposal something moves inside Laurie´s heart. Films have cut it short but Amy and Laurie spent a great deal of time writing to each others and after Beth´s passing Laurie traveled to Vevey to be with Amy.
Amy and Laurie 2019
Little Women is a story about identity. When adapting a novel you can´t erase a character arc of one character without effecting to the whole story. Amy is not a bitch and Laurie is not an award. When I type Amy March to google I get headlines like "Amy March was a total bitch" "Why we like to dislike Amy March". The only way to get rid of Fritz/Laurie debate and Jo versus Amy debate is to include Laurie´s character arc.
I greatly enjoyed Florence Pugh´s performance as Amy. Film build their romance quite nicely but once again Laurie´s character arc was entirely missing. Timothee Chalamet does great emotional roles, he could have pulled off Laurie´s character with it´s full complexity. In Little Women 2019 film guide Gerwig said that "Jo and Laurie could be a great couple if they wanted to". Louisa May Alcott wrote to her journal about Ladislas Wisniewski the words "couldn´t be". Only way that Jo and Laurie would have ended up together is if Louisa had ended up with Ladislas, but that never happened because he was too immature for her. It is very strange that Greta Gerwig said that Laurie wants Jo to step into to the world of adulthood. Let me remind you in the novel Jo is frustrated that Laurie is immature and in real life Louisa was 10 years older than Laddie. I used to read Jo´s and Friedrich´s age difference, meaning that Jo wanted to be with Friedrich because he was more mature and was able to help Jo to grow both as a person and as a writer. Of course now I know that, it was because Louisa was in love with Henry and they shared that same age difference.
The open narration of Gerwig´s film has created three types of interpretations.
1. There is now a whole new generation who see Jo and Laurie as the ultimately romantic couple.
2. The second group is people who praise this adaptation for erasing the romantic sub-plots, and this has been part of the film´s promotion. The correspondence between Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles shows that Louisa was the one who came up with the marriages. When Little Women became popular Louisa and her publisher turned Louisa into a brand. She became the "children´s friend". It is always quote strange when people say that Louisa didn´t care about romances. There was a real life Laurie and there was a real-life Friedrich but because she had her reputation to protect, she tried to keep these relationships hidden and even detach herself from Jo´s character. Yet, you can read about Louisa´s romantic endeavors from every single Louisa May Alcott biography and her personal journals and letters. This brand that was built around Louisa, she herself struggled with it a lot. It evolved into a person worship cult. Louisa lived in a time when most marriages were based on economical reasons. She was part of a movement that promoted marriage based on love as a priority and this was something she promoted in all of her novels.
3. There are people who loved both Amy and Laurie and Jo and Friedrich in this film, and now there is a whole new generation of Little Women fans who think that Laurie was more immature compared to Friedrich and he was better off with Amy, and yet the entire promotion of this film was based on Greta Gerwig making fun of the couples and telling one demographic that Jo is gay, another one that Jo is asexual and doesn´t want to leave her home, which doesn´t happen in the book. Jo quite literally says that being a care taker does not satisfy her, and she wants to find out what romantic love feels like and then third group that Jo and Laurie are meant to one another. Then she made fun of Friedrich´s looks and his accent, completely ignoring the fact that Jo is not written to be beautiful, and she even wants to study German because she is so in love with Friedrich and wants to learn about his culture.
There was an earlier version of the script that followed the novel more. Friedrich was German and the end was not written to be mockery towards romantic love. It also handled the immigration themes with the seriousness it deserved. It seems that these changes were made to maximize the films profit.
Here are some quotes from little women fan Jimena:
Jo was the matured one. She was the one who understood how unhappy they could have been. Their friendship was more valuable than a desperate attempt to be a couple. Just because Laurie was horny doesn’t mean he was ready to be an adult, do I have to remind you there are 15-years-old having sex already??
Can you imagine having a insisting friend and being very clear about the status of your relationship. And one day you arrive home and he prepared this big proposal with all of your family and friends. And it’s horrible because you don’t want to embarrass him, but you don’t want to say ‘yes’ and you have no idea what to do. It’s a lot of pressure.
But again, Laurie has no character arc, so there nothing much to do there.
They also can be quite bad influences for each other. There’s a scene in the book where Laurie is talking about running away and Jo encourages him! It’s Meg who talks to him and convinces him to stay with his grandfather and go to college. I just realized, Meg and Amy are the ones who push him to behave better, Jo just tells him what to do.
The letter why did Greta do that? She should have left it at the scene in the attic. The only thing she accomplished was fueling Jo/Laurie shippers, that is why they love this film. And it made Jo selfish. Even after her mother made her realize that being loved and loving someone are two completely different things, she goes and writes that stupide letter! What a jerk! She wanted companionship, Laurie wanted love.
The letter thing was so weird. First she almost confesses marmee that she has feelings for Friedrich and then she writes a letter to Laurie, saying that she wants to marry him. That doesn´t make any sense. This is what I mean when I say that Jo is really a blank slate in this movie. In the book Jo herself comes to the conclusion that she is in love Friedrich. She never gives Laurie any kind of false hope.
Laurie also comes to the conclusion himself that Jo is actually not that a great partner for him. He even calls her a torment and then he has these mushy thoughts about Amy.
Jo and Laurie stayed in a teen age mindset. The problem was not only their tempers but they were enabling each others good qualities. After Laurie forged those letters and hurt Meg and he asked Jo to run away with him. There is no project for the future. It was just another way to escape and not face consequences of his actions. It is uncanny how many people romanticize it (knowing that it happened just after he nearly ruined Meg´s and John´s relationship). In the chapter castles in the air Laurie is moping how much he hates the future his grandfather has planned for him. Jo tells him just to sail away with one of his ships, play music and be a composer. Laurie was used to do what other people told him so he might have done it but Jo´s advice was pretty terrible because Laurie wasn´t capable to look after himself. Meg was the voice of reason and reminded Laurie how much his grandfather loves him. Jo was very blunt person and Laurie highly sensitive which can be a toxic combination.
Fight me if you dare Amy was way more healthier for him (and Fritz much better for Jo because he was direct but much calmer person) Laurie thought he could earn Jo´s hand by graduating college and even that he did very lazily. Jo had already opened herself to the idea of loving Fritz which is why she defended him when Laurie proposed, which by the way is never in the movies. Little Women is incredibly nuanced story. It has lots of characters. It is difficult to turn it into a film. I would like to see an adaptation someday that would handle Amy´s and Laurie´s struggles with infertility and their interactions with their daughter Bess.
I will end this with a quote from Jimena:
It’s sort of popular in media to show the good influence women can have of men. And it’s certainly the case in LW. But it can also go the other way around.
In New York, Jo struggled with her sensationalist stories. They caused her some psychological distress, but those are the only stories that the editor wanted. Her necessity to have money led her to put aside her family’s teachings.
In chapter 34: Friend, Bhaer sees some of those stories (not knowing some of them were written by Jo) and he criticizes them quite harshly for spreading bad morals. And even if Jo tries to defend them saying that they are just stories and that they are popular, she agrees. And Bhaer has an amazing reply:
There is a demand for whisky, but I think you and I do not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm they did, they would not feel that the living was honest.
His answered reminded me of a critic (Horacio Villalobos) here in Mexico. Whenever someone defends a tv show/movie/play/book/whatever just for being popular he would say “cocaine is super popular, that doesn’t mean it’s good”.
Later on the chapter Jo says:
I almost wish I hadn’t any conscience, it’s so inconvenient. If I didn’t care about doing right, and didn’t feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. I can’t help wishing sometimes, that Mother and Father hadn’t been so particular about such things.
So Bhaer basically reminded her of her conscious that Jo has put on the side in order to earn money.
An ocean away, something similar happens between Amy and Laurie. People always point out the good influence that Amy had on Laurie and rightfully so. Amy scolds him, tells him the truth as it is and she inspires him to become a better person, to stop wasting his time and be a productive member of society.
However, that influence goes both ways.
When Amy and Laurie met in Nice, she had already decided to marry Fred Vaughn despite the fact that she didn’t really loves him. She’s determined to give herself and her family a better life and Fred’s money can do that. Painting won’t do it and Jo, at this point, was still selling stories for 20USD each. So, not a lot of options. She knows its mercenary and that the family won’t like it, but she feels it as her duty.
In Valrosa, Amy confesses her plan to Laurie. And he calls on her for not remembering her mother’s teaching!
I understand. Queens of society can’t get on without money, so you mean to make a good match, and start in that way? Quite right and proper, as the world goes, but it sounds odd from the lips of one of your mother’s girls.
Amy defends her resolution but Laurie’s words clearly had an impact on her as much as her words had an impact on him. While they are apart, Fred returns and Amy is unable to accept his proposal. She knew better now.
In a way, just like Fritz to Jo, Laurie made Amy remember her conscious and her values. Nobody else tried to stop Amy from accepting a proposal and get into a loveless marriage. Everyone around her just saw it as a good match not caring if there was love in there or not. I would even say that without that wake up call from Laurie, Amy could have gone through the marriage and paid the consequences. She’s an American, with very nontraditional ideas about women entering into an English family. I think she would have been quite lonely.
(In a way Amy-Fred parallels with Jo-Laurie in the sense that both sisters have these incredible opportunities to marry very wealthy men. However, both were doomed to be loveless marriages and neither Amy nor Jo wanted that. They would have lived in a golden cage.)
So yeah, Amy did lots of good on Laurie, but he also helped her. And Fritz did the same for Jo.
Jimena´s Little Women Blog the-other-art-blog.tumblr.com/LittleWomen
May Alcott biography, by Caroline Ticknor
Little Women 150 years, Louisa May Alcott, Penguin Edition
Little Women, 2019 film guide
Interview of Robin Swicord www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBhf8UJfz4M
sMALL UMBRELLA IN THE RAIN
Small Umbrella In The Rain is an on-going series of video essays, articles and podcast episodes that examines the different intersections in Louisa May Alcott´s Little Women.