I spent significant portions of my childhood creating and wearing hoop skirts, so I have been curious about screenwriter and director Greta Gerwig’s new Little Women film coming out this Christmas. During middle school, I was a huge fan of all things Alcott. I read all of her works and watched every film adaptation I could find.

I couldn’t agree more with Gerwig when she recently told Vanity Fair, “This feels like autobiography … When you live through a book, it almost becomes the landscape of your inner life … It becomes part of you, in a profound way.” Gerwig’s will be the fourth major Hollywood adaptation of the classic novel. The story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy seems to stand the test of time. Which has recently struck me as somewhat odd.

The evangelical, homeschooling world I grew up in promoted Little Women as espousing the lost values of America. Alcott frequently talks about a young woman’s ability to gain or lose virtue, and her characters find happy endings through marriage and children. There is no hint of sexual revolution in her pages.

Yet feminists in particular keep retelling the story. With the exception of the 1950s version, each adaptation of Little Women has featured some of Hollywood’s most outspokenly feminist actresses. Katharine Hepburn, who famously wore pants in public (a significant statement on gender in her time), played Jo first in the 1930s. The 1990s version featured Susan Sarandon, who had become a feminist icon in Thelma & Louise and publicly encourages men to identify as feminists.

This year’s version comes from a director who previously received accolades for writing and starring in the explicitly pro-choice romance, Francis ...

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