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09 November 2014 @ 01:31 pm
…what, now?  
I Smell a Gritty Reboot: "Modern Take" on Little Women Coming to ABC

(link via Bookshelves of Doom.)

My actual problem with this is that I simply can't imagine it. Sherlock, and then Elementary, was an easy fit for imagining how modernization might work because people had been telling Holmes-inflected stories on TV for years before that (House, Psych, The Mentalist, a host of shows I've forgotten - and even crime procedurals that aren't explicitly wedded to the "super-smart and observant male detective" model draw on some of the same elements). I don't know how closely Revenge hews to its original source material, but the idea of revenge was still a part of the TV landscape before the show aired.

The thing I keep getting stuck on is that the concerns of the March family, and the ways those concerns are dealt with, are so located in their specific time period - not the fact that the father is away at war (sadly - although I don't understand the "military scandal" part in the synopsis), or the family's straitened circumstances while he's away - but the way self-abnegation is such an important part of the story, for example. (Not that this isn't a modern value, but it's not one we see on TV all that often.) I guess this is the question I have about the difference between "inspired by" and "retelling" or "adaptation of." House is not really an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, even though it's clearly inspired by them - and that's fine. Reign would make fifteen times more sense to me if they just told a story inspired by Mary, Queen of Scots, instead of purporting to be based on her life but getting every single detail of it wrong and having no allegiance to anything resembling actual history. A modern story inspired by Little Women is one thing - and actually, the more it makes sure to stand on its own without constantly looking back to the novel, the better it would probably be - but an actual adaptation is another thing entirely, and much harder to figure out, especially when the original has such specific and important values at its heart.

(This is also why the two recent-ish adaptations of Mansfield Park - the Rozema film, and then the miniseries with Billie Piper - annoy me so much; they both rewrite Fanny Price entirely, to make her more "palatable" to a "modern" audience, instead of taking her seriously as a character with values that are important to her role in the story.)
negothicknegothick on November 9th, 2014 06:41 pm (UTC)
I just finished writing a handout for my class with summaries and "for further reading" of the many famous texts we did not have time to read in the Brit Lit I survey. One is Pilgrim's Progress, which the canonizers of literature, the Norton Anthologies, have almost erased from the canon. There's a six-page excerpt, and the introduction has a somewhat condescending tone, using the phrase "no longer a household book." In my handout, I wrote "If you grew up reading Alcott’s Little Women, you know that the March sisters treasured Pilgrim’s Progress and played games based on its depiction of Christian’s journey to the Celestial City." Why do I think that the "modernized" adaptation will miss that theme entirely?
tempestsarekind: manuscript [little women]tempestsarekind on November 9th, 2014 06:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's exactly what I'm having a hard time imagining! I've never been a big fan of allegory, whether it's Piers Plowman or The Faerie Queene (I can only do allegory in little bits), so Pilgrim's Progress was not something that appealed to me, but I always respected how *very* much it meant to the March family. And without those specifics - aren't you just telling a story about four sisters? Which is perfectly fine, actually, but is it an adaptation?
negothicknegothick on November 9th, 2014 08:23 pm (UTC)
Who among us (at least on your Friends list) didn't want to tell Jo "don't listen! Don't control your temper and your wild imagination! Keep writing transgressive Gothics, don't tame yourself to suit Professor Bhaer!"
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on November 9th, 2014 09:45 pm (UTC)
Heh - that's probably true! Given how many writers Jo inspired, it's always struck me as odd that so much of her narrative as a writer is about giving up her subject matter, and then (in Little Men) even giving up writing altogether.
negothicknegothick on November 9th, 2014 11:05 pm (UTC)
There's no doubt that LMA got pretty weary of producing "improving, moral fiction"--you can see that in Jo's Boys, in the introduction and in that wonderful episode where Jo tries to evade the gushing female fans.
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on November 9th, 2014 11:06 pm (UTC)
Yes - and given that she wrote thrillers herself…it's interesting that she has Jo give up that sort of writing!