Recently, The CW bought a script for a TV adaptation of Little Women. Sounds great, right? What if I told you that this “gritty adaptation” re-sets our archetypal story of domestic sisterhood in dystopian Philadelphia? Would you ask the question I asked, the question on all Little Women fans’ minds: Why?
Don’t get me wrong—as a Quirker, I love a good mashup (PPZ, anyone?) and as a Philadelphian, I am pro Philly screen time beyond Always Sunny. But for a good re-imagining to make sense, it needs to take something from the original that would actually translate to the intended genre. When I think dystopian, I think of The Giver, The Hunger Games, 1984--all-controlling totalitarian regimes with ugly underbellies that heroes have to expose or escape from. The March sisters got problems, but government conspiracy ain’t one of them.
So on the 147th anniversary of Little Women’s publication, I propose four different genres for a Little Women retelling that would make way more sense.
The March sisters’ backdrop has more in common with the world of Mad Max: Fury Road than The Hunger Games. It’s the Civil War, after all, so their country is crumbling. Plus they’re dealing with poverty, disease, making the most out of limited resources--totally post-apocalypse concerns. Now, unlike the dystopian version, Post Apocalyptic Little Women would make sense to set in Philadelphia. Hard truth: this city would look amazing in ruins. We already have crumbling colonial architecture. Also, can we talk about how Jo was meant to be a vigilante justice warrior? I can picture her scavenging Reading Terminal Market to feed the poor, fashioning weapons out of wrought wire fences to defend her family, and commandeering trolley cars through ghostly SEPTA tunnels when escape is needed.
You don't notice right away because the prose is so cheerful, but half the events in Little Women are actually really dark. I mean, Beth gets scarlet fever. And remember that scene where Meg lets Sallie Gardiner's friends dress her up but really they're just making fun of her? Turn scarlet fever into a mysterious cheek-glowing plague and the Moffat gang into a hoard of psychic vampires and you have two horror episodes right there. And you know Beth's injured doll collection is begging to come alive.
In a romcom, Laurie and Jo would end up together. In a romcom, Amy would be the foil who almost gets Laurie, but at the last minute would marry some Frenchman or that drunk guy Fred Vaughn. In a romcom, Bhaer would be nothing more than the name of the craft beer Jo and Laurie clink as they sail away to their European honeymoon.
Cross-Dressing Comedy In Which Lessons are Learned About Equality
So remember how Jo crossdressed on the regular? And how she sold her stories under the pen name Joseph March in order to evade the patriarchy? What if, in the grand tradition of Yentl, Twelfth Night, and Amanda Bynes’ She’s the Man, Jo assumes the identity of Joseph March full-time to attend a boys’ college and pursue a respectable writing career? Think of the college pranks with Laurie! Or the boardinghouse scenes where she would trounce all the men in debates about women's rights! And what if along the way, some petticoated authoress falls for Jo, and Jo kind of likes her back but is afraid to reveal her true identity? (Okay, maybe I'm re-writing a little here, but you have to admit that Jo would make an awesome bi heroine.)
TV executives, take note! I would watch the crap out of any of these shows.