By Lucy Osborne
Greta Gerwig’s 2019 interpretation of ‘Little Women’ orchestrated a flurry of praise and augmented opinions on the rediscovery of Amy March as a contemporary feminist icon. Typically, the eldest tomboy sister, Jo March, was esteemed as the epitome of the feminist movement. With Gerwig’s new film however, it portrays Amy in the gracious light she deserves.
Even from childhood Amy’s bratty behaviour, from destroying Jo’s beloved novel in a fit of rage to curating hilarious caricatures of her teacher, possesses the same feisty spirit of a contemporary feminist icon. We of course cannot forget Amy’s fascination with her apparently beautiful feet and hated nose. It reflects her unbridled honesty throughout the film as she displays a startling sense of self-awareness for someone as young as she is. Whilst many of Amy’s actions in the film are heroically selfish and vengeful, her self-confidence in her artistic talent and self-respect is truly admirable. Most notably, when she denies Aunt March’s request to drop out of her painting course in Paris due to her supreme talent.
From an outside perspective it is easy to view Amy’s courtship with Fred as a spineless submission to patriarchal society. Amy however, appears painfully aware of the reality of life in society for a woman of her class. In an intimate scene with Laurie her emphatic lines, “and if we had children they would be his and not mine” and, “I’d be respected if I couldn’t be loved” show her unrivalled self-respect; she courts Fred as an economic proposition rather than a submission of romantic fantasy.
Everyone that has watched Gerwig’s film can agree that the pivotal turning point for Amy is her rejection of Laurie. She delivers the gut-wrenching lines, “I won’t do it. Not when I’ve spent my whole life loving you” and, “`I have been second best to Jo my whole life. In everything”. This startling confession from Amy only allows us to respect her more as it would’ve been so easy for her to succumb to her feelings and accept Laurie’s proposal (despite his recent afflictions with Jo). This is an integral lesson to all young people in the art of love and rejection, where we must prioritise ourselves and our own self-respect above all else.
Just after this, Amy’s shocking rejection of Fred (much to Aunt March’s utter despair), cements her further as the true feminist icon of the film. Despite laying out all of the economic benefits of marrying Fred she simply acknowledges, “I just didn’t love him as I should”. She rejects Fred’s proposal knowing there is a high probability that she will end up alone after rejecting Laurie too. It reflects her concrete self-respect and flaming determination. Surprisingly, despite being so outwardly defiant against marriage, Jo reconsiders her decision after denying Laurie her hand in marriage; she is sick of being alone. Their mother asks Jo, “But do you love him?” repeatedly when she considers marrying Laurie, as it is evident that she does not. As an audience it was rather shocking to see such a lapse in Jo’s flaming feminist views, however we must also recognise that Jo simply wanted to be happy, even if it meant abandoning some of her principles.
At the end of the film when Amy reveals to Laurie that things are over between her and Fred, Gerwig’s direction of the cinematography perfectly captures the sweet moment of their first kiss. The shot composition begins with their heads entwined and then pans out to a long shot displaying carriages coming and going with life going on as normal. The image of them at the epicentre portrays their worlds as just beginning with the seal of a first kiss. It captures the time stopping magic of a first kiss with the person you are so sweetly falling in love with.
I think that Louisa May Alcott (the writer of the original ‘Little Women’ books) would be immensely proud of Greta Gerwig’s interpretation of Amy March as the feminist underdog. Now would be the perfect time to re-read the books and I’m sure we’d find Amy to be the powerful feminist icon we need in 2020, rather than Jo March, all along. Amy encapsulates the immense highs and lows of denying what the heart truly wants because of the constraints of a patriarchal society, but she ultimately gets the chance to relish in the wonder of falling in love whilst still retaining her feminist ideologies.