The current passion for reinventing ‘classics’ to fit today is replete with both good intentions and overbearing ego. The core idea of a ‘classic’ is that it has something significant to convey over time. Updating ideas of significance for contemporary audiences can work wonderfully, but there are also huge opportunities to create flops.
The movie Little Women opened to popular and critical cheers this past Christmas. Director Greta Gerwig has explained that she loved the Louisa May Alcott classic as a child, but that it conveyed such new relevance when she re-read it in her 30s that she had to make it into a film. There have been earlier movie versions—notably the 1933 movie directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo—but Gerwig thought a new movie could beautifully encapsulate the book’s core ideas intersecting women with ambition, art, and money. Meryl Streep’s Auntie March gives an iron-fisted definition of how women in the 19th century had to marry unless they had their own economic independence—unless, as Auntie chortles, they were rich like she was.(more…)