...alongside Girls Learning to Skateboard: Like Tinseltown's other adapters before her, Greta Gerwig made many changes in Louisa May Alcott's most famous book.
Most comical, but also just sad, would have to be the change which followed a reported declaration. "You know we can’t actually have [Jo] marry Professor Bhaer,” Gerwig is said to have said.
Too funny! This seems to have led to the complexified ending of Gerwig's film, which has fanpersons debating whether the pair actually got married or not.
Has anyone ever made this "adaptation" before? As far as we know, no one has.
That's the most comical of Gerwig's ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. The larger change is an adaptation which has been widely performed in the past, involving that school for those kids.
In the final chapter of Alcott's novel, Jo March and Professor Bhaer get married, then open and operate a school for destitute boys. Jo doesn't write a book. Instead, she's wasting her time doing this:
ALCOTT (chapter 47): It never was a fashionable school, and the Professor did not lay up a fortune, but it was just what Jo intended it to be—"a happy, homelike place for boys, who needed teaching, care, and kindness". ...Very precious to Jo was the friendship of the lads, their penitent sniffs and whispers after wrongdoing, their droll or touching little confidences, their pleasant enthusiasms, hopes, and plans, even their misfortunes, for they only endeared them to her all the more. There were slow boys and bashful boys, feeble boys and riotous boys, boys that lisped and boys that stuttered, one or two lame ones, and a merry little quadroon, who could not be taken in elsewhere, but who was welcome to the "Bhaer-garten", though some people predicted that his admission would ruin the school.Five years have flown by as the novel ends. The married couple is still engaged in this tedious work. This includes the fellow who's too stout, and too unromantic, for the modern progressives of Vox.
Yes, Jo was a very happy woman there, in spite of hard work, much anxiety, and a perpetual racket. She enjoyed it heartily and found the applause of her boys more satisfying than any praise of the world, for now she told no stories except to her flock of enthusiastic believers and admirers...
As far as we know, no adapter has taken much interest in this, the actual ending to Alcott's book. Tinseltown has tended to substitute a closing adventure in which Jo publishes a book, an exciting event which doesn't occur at the end of Alcott's novel.
In these adaptations, we see Jo gain the applause of the world. Modern thought leaders still want this!
Unless you've been alive for the past many years, you might be inclined to think that we modern progressives could take interest in Alcott's fictional school for those fictional destitute kids. Like other adapters before her, Gerwig largely blew past those events, substituting a thrilling adventure which doesn't occur in the book.
That said, how intriguing! Last Sunday night, in Hollywood, a female director won an Oscar for a film about a school for impoverished kids! (For the full list of winners, click here.)
The director in question is Carol Dysinger. She won the Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for a 39-minute film with a beautifully poetic title:
Learning to Skateboard In a Warzone (if you're a girl)Dysinger's 39-minute film is built around the students and teachers of Skateistan, a school for low-income kids found at an undisclosed location in Kabul. We strongly advise you to find a way to watch it, perhaps through this site at A&E.
You'll come, perhaps, for the novelty. You'll stay for the youthful desire, for the reflexive smiling and laughter.
Skateistan serves girls and boys. Dysinger's film is about the girls. Its opening chyron says this:
17 years after the Taliban fell, Afghanistan is still one of the wort places in the world to be born a girl.Also, Afghanistan is still a war zone. The film takes over from there.
We won't try to list the many things you can see in this film. In our view, the film contains multitudes. We think you should try to watch it.
We were struck, on Oscar night, by the contrast between the demeanors of the little-known documentary winners and those of the Tinseltown stars. For Dysinger's occasionally acerbic acceptance speech, you can just click here.
Later, we were struck by an irony:
The female director we've been instructed to love could find no interest in Alcott's school for destitute boys. The female director who will go unmentioned built her film around a school—a school in a war zone—for low-income, out-of-school girls who hope for a chance in the world.
In Dysinger's film, beautiful children are learning to skateboard in a war zone. The one film touched off a tribal stampede. The other will stay unnoticed.
Alcott in a war zone: This morning, we reread one chapter in Susan Cheever's 2010 book, Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography.
The chapter in question is Chapter 6. It describes the time Alcott spent in a war zone during our Civil War.
In 1863, Alcott went to Washington to serve as a nurse in a Union hospital. Cheever's account is built upon the letters Alcott sent home—letters which were later published under the title Hospital Sketches.
Cheever's account is riveting. Eventually, we get to this:
CHEEVER (page 156): One man who stood out in the ward of dying men was a Virginia blacksmith named John Suhre. He had never married but devoted his life to helping his mother and family. Now he lay dying with a musket ball lodged in his lungs, but since his wound was in his back, he could hardly believe the pain he felt or understand his peril. Tall and extremely handsome, he was dying without complaint or remorse, and Alcott spent as much time with him as she could...Suhre wanted to know if he was dying. The surgeon charged Alcott with the task of telling him he was.
"This exchange brought the two of them even closer," Cheever writes, "and both waited for a letter that might reassure him that his mother and younger sister might be taken care of."
This was part of Alcott's time in a war zone. Cheever continues with an account of the night Suhre died.
"Alcott sat grieving by his bed" in these last few hours, Cheever writes. "After John Suhre's body finally failed," Alcott needed help to pry his fingers away from her own.
That was life in one of our war zones. Five years later, Alcott wrote Little Women.
Today, people are helping children learn to skateboard in a different war zone. You've never heard of the director who created a "love letter to the brave girls" of the country where these efforts are taking place. On the other hand, we've all been barraged with routinely illogical complaints about the heinous way the famous, upscale director allegedly got snubbed.
We'll be watching Dysinger's film again. More than anything else, we were struck by a mystery it contains—the mystery of youthful energy and desire, the mystery of where laughter and smiling come from.
Within our own tribe, Professor Bhaer was too fat for Jo to marry and destitute children are boring. These have been our values for a very long time.
Hollywood groans beneath these values. Does everyone know this but us?