Lucy Mangan

Lucy Mangan: “Why men should make a point of watching Little Women”

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Lucy Mangan
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little women

After Oscars and Golden Globes snubs, Lucy is fed up with women’s stories being over looked as a ‘subset’ by men. “Greta Gerwig’s sublime movie with the acting talents of Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh? Didn’t really fancy it. Wasn’t their kind of thing.”

Let us examine the Little Women problem, shall we, little ladies? Which is that male friends (#notallmalefriends but many of my own and, I discovered once I started asking around, a disproportionate number of those among other friends’ circles) wouldn’t go and see it with us. Just… not that interested, you know? Louisa May Alcott’s classic story of the challenges experienced by the March sisters? Didn’t really see the point. What did it have to do with them? Greta Gerwig’s sublime movie with the acting talents of Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh? Didn’t really fancy it. Wasn’t their kind of thing. 

Now director Gerwig has been ignored by the Oscars and left off the all-male nominations list for Best Director despite Little Women being nominated for Best Film. The movie was also snubbed by the Golden Globes, nominated only for Ronan’s lead role and Best Original Score, and the Baftas where it was not nominated for either Best Director or Best Film. The Baftas faced further criticism and a trending hashtag #BaftasSoWhite for not nominating a single person of colour in any acting categories, showing just how rotten the system is.

Little Women 2019: Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen on the red carpet.
Little Women: Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen on the red carpet.

The phenomena – lack of male interest, lack of awards– are linked. They’re linked by a worldview that says women aren’t relevant, aren’t important. That their stories, especially when made by women – I mean, talk about a closed shop – are only for women. Because men and their stories are what matter. They are universal. Women are a subset, with women of colour as an even smaller subset, useful for facilitating plots and playing bit parts in life and in movies but the things men do are the ones worth narrating, examining and recording for posterity.

Anyone can enjoy Gerwig’s film, of course – if they just go and see it. It is a story, after all, about working out who you are and what you want in life. There’s the heroism of Jo, the kindness of Meg, the introversion of Beth, the temper of Amy, all qualities relevant no matter what your gender.

 It will, I think, inevitably be appreciated best by women for who the March sisters’ experiences of defining the kind of women they want to be will resonate so hard they make your insides hum.

And so the movie fails to be officially anointed the masterpiece that it is, and everyone who didn’t bother to go because it wasn’t for him has his decision a little more justified, and the next time someone decides whether or not to greenlight a ‘women’s picture’ he will be less likely to do so. And on the cycle goes. 

Things are changing of course. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag came away from the Globes with a decent haul, and more spaces are being made for women writing, directing and acting in the tales we want to tell. 

But to break the cycle once and for all we need more. We need men to stop thinking of themselves as the standard from which all else deviates.

And we need men to stop being the standard. We need women on panels and in every other position of power in every field of endeavour – creative, social, political, everything. And sometimes that will mean artificially appointing them rather than letting things happen organically or ‘naturally’. Because the world isn’t natural– it is literally manmade. And deliberate action is how you break a stranglehold. Now, go and dress your hair and put on your wraps. Marmee’s calling us in for tea.

Images: Getty

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