P. L. Travers in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, circa 1924.
Today would have been the 120th birthday of the Australian creator of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers.
As an adult she travelled Australia and New Zealand, and later England as an actress, changing her name to Pamela Lyndon Travers.
Travers created Mary Poppins while renting a cottage in Sussex, England in 1933, and the first book was published in 1934.
The eighth and final book in the series was published in 1988.
Travers died, aged ninety-six, in April of 1996.
English novelist Emily Brontë, of Wuthering Heights fame, was born on the 30th of July, 1818.
There’s an excellent – and lengthy – interview with author Jennifer Weiner that is worth checking out over at Goodreads at the moment. She talks about her new book, writing in the era of Donald Trump, and evolving genres:
(I’m not sure if you need a Goodreads account to see it.)
Interesting article over at TIME Magazine:
“…After all, writers have always turned to each other for creative and moral support. The alliance between Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth is enshrined in literary lore. A mention of Lord Byron immediately brings to mind Percy Bysshe Shelley. And biographies of F. Scott Fitzgerald are incomplete without reference to Ernest Hemingway.
But where are the women in this roster of legendary friendships? Jane Austen is mythologised as a shy and sheltered spinster; the Brontё sisters, lonely wanderers of windswept moors; George Eliot, an aloof intellectual; and Virginia Woolf, a melancholic genius.
Skeptical of such images of isolation, we set out to investigate. We soon discovered that behind each of these celebrated authors was a close alliance with another female writer. But, to this day, these literary bonds have been systematically forgotten, distorted or downright suppressed…”
In the ongoing trademark wars, it seems there’s a new drama every day.
In court last week, the lawyer for trademark troll Faleena Hopkins attempted to have the real names of authors under attack made public. From what I understand, this is an ongoing dispute.
Here is one reason why it’s so awful to take away an author’s anonymity:
In 2012, erotic fiction author Deena Bright was “outed”. Her real name was not only revealed to her employer, but she was dragged through America’s national news because of the genre she wrote.
Bright (that’s not her real name) was suspended from her job as a high school teacher because of this, and subjected to public humiliation for no good reason.
Hopkins would like to do this to other authors who she sees as competition. Already, she is forcing them into the courtroom to shut down their careers (good God, her me and nobody else attitude is such a reflection of the Trump era!).
Authors use pennames for a million and a half different reasons, which I’m sure I don’t need to explain here. Add in the misogynistic stigma attached to the romance genre, and the issues surrounding the use of real names double or triple – or quadruple.
That this is an inherently petty and nasty thing to try to do to someone is obvious.
Dragging innocent names into public view to “punish” people for doing nothing wrong can seriously damage an author’s life. Especially so if she’s a woman. And especially so if she writes romance or erotica.
I do not know what possessed the BBC to send a cast and crew to Ireland to film a miniseries of classic American Civil War-era novel Little Women, but that’s precisely what they did in 2017. The series aired in some countries around Boxing Day last year, and now it’s America’s turn.
I first watched it in January, and – as a huge fan of the 1994 movie – have thoughts about it.
Because these thoughts turned into something of an essay, I’ll be discussing the casting on one day, and the production on another.
I’ll not be talking about the earlier adaptations.
These posts will also be on my history blog. There will be spoilers.
In case you’re not familiar with the story:
“Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books over several months at the request of her publisher. Following the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—the novel details their passage from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.
Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success with readers demanding to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume (entitled Good Wives in the United Kingdom, although this name originated from the publisher and not from Alcott). It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel entitled Little Women.”
Of course, the most important casting choices for Little Women will be the sisters. Other major roles are Marmee, the girls’ mother, Laurie, the young man who moves in next door, and the elderly Aunt March. There are other roles, but those are the three people tend to care about.
Firstly: I have NO idea why people have complained about the actresses’ accents. Three of the four actresses ARE American, including Jo, so I think people are simply looking for faults where they don’t exist.
Jo is the star of the book, and the series, and here she is played by Maya Thurman-Hawke. She is Uma Thurman’s (and Ethan Hawke’s) daughter, whom she resembles – but to me she is a lankier, younger version of Lynette Wills.
This is a very different Jo to Winona Ryder’s 1994 Oscar-nominated version. She is awkward, scruffy, and passionate. It is a great performance and even though she’s a newcomer you can see how much work she put into the role, but I’m still a Winona fan!
The problem with her casting is that she looks like the youngest of the March sisters, when two of the girls are supposed to be significantly younger than her. (Also, I nearly broke through the screen to try to do something about her unbrushed, unstyled hippie hair!)
This leads me to Amy – the baby of the family. She is played by a twenty-year-old Kathryn Newton here, though she is meant to not have even reached her teens at the start. She fares much better as the grown version of the character.
People love to hate Amy for three reasons:
- She is the youngest, and therefore does some immature things at the start that people refuse to forgive her for as she matures.
- She is supposed to be the pretty blue-eyed blonde of the family (and people love to hate pretty blondes!) – which leads to:
- She marries Laurie, and everyone wanted Jo to marry him, so they won’t forgive her for it.
I have always found the hatred directed at Amy abhorrent and enormously misogynistic. Amy is my favourite March sister because she grows and changes the most, and has a wealth of interests and ambitions.
In the 1994 version she was played by two actresses: Kirsten Dunst as the younger version, and Samantha Mathis as the grown version. While I always found it odd how different the two were from each other, they were both so brilliant in the role I forgave it.
The problem with Newton in the role in this new adaptation? There are a few.
Firstly: she is older than the actress playing Jo, and it’s obvious. She is a poised young woman to a Jo who is still mastering her teen awkwardness, and no amount of Amy skipping around the house and sitting on the floor with her legs splayed makes her seem any younger.
Secondly: this obvious maturity makes her childhood mistakes seem calculated and evil, and the writer and director lingered on them so long it painted a completely wrong picture of the character.
Thirdly: no time actually seems to pass. In 1994, we saw Mathis’ Amy had grown because she was in 1870s gowns and had 1870s hairstyles:
2017’s Amy is still in the voluminous Civil War-era skirts, with ear-hugging 1860s hair as an adult – the same fashions that were around when she was a child:
It results in an Amy who looks too old to be a child, and too young to be an adult.
Superficially: nobody in a period drama should have dark eyebrows and bleached blonde hair.
Now… there are two more March sisters, but I need to mention Laurie.
Jonah Hauer-King actually physically resembles the book character better than 1994’s Christian Bale, but: 1994’s Laurie was Christian Bale!
He was simply brilliant in the movie, unsurpassable.
2017 Laurie and Amy are below. I think they suit much better than Laurie and Jo.
On the other hand, Hauer-King does an excellent job. He’s likeable, loveable, and IS a good match for Amy when he finally realises Jo is his best friend, not the love of his life.
The other two March sisters are the two people tend to overlook more.
In this version, tragic Beth has been given a whole new level of “homebody”. She has a full-on anxiety disorder in this incarnation, which is not something I have ever seen before, and I’m not sure was necessary.
Welsh actress Annes Elwy (as in, the only sister not played by an American) does a great job with what material she has, but she is written to fade into the background at so many points. I still find her highly likeable, however.
Beth’s death in the movie was a hugely emotional scene with only Jo present; in this miniseries everyone’s crowded around and I really don’t think it had much of an impact, despite Emily Watson’s good acting…
The eldest March sister, the sensible, motherly one, was played well by Willa Fitzgerald, even if she does come across as a bit of a bore! I actually think that overall this was the March sister who was the best cast. She is everything Meg should be, but the actress simply does not have enough to work with to make her as interesting as Jo or Amy.
Emily Watson’s Marmee is a much more harried, rough-around-the-edges mother than Susan Sarandon’s version in 1994. I think it suited this scruffier production of the book, and she is always a great actress, but I still prefer a warmer interpretation.
Watson also gets extra points, because Susan Sarandon – the real woman – has emerged as highly unlikeable since the 2016 US election.
Angela Lansbury (of recent “women need to take some blame for getting raped” infamy) plays Aunt March, the elderly aunt who takes Amy to Europe. She is a different aunt to the 1994 version, but she is really good in the role.
This is VERY different casting to the ’94 movie, but that is a good thing. I do prefer the movie cast overall, but there are some interesting changes in the 2017 version.
This article was published in The Guardian on International Women’s Day last week, and even though it rehashed some things from recent articles (1 2) on the quickly evolving romance genre, it is definitely worth a read.
I like this part:
Rich heroes are big: a quick google throws up all sorts of novels about Greek tycoons and Italian billionaires. “It’s the fantasy that you’ll walk into a room and some guy will literally treat you like a princess … It was a clear trope – and then we elected a maybe-billionaire to president. And the way he treats women made that trope suddenly incredibly problematic.”
However, this part…?? The bolded bit is ridiculous; we’ve ALWAYS known it was a problematic series. (But: bonkbuster!)
EL James’s hugely successful bonkbuster Fifty Shades of Grey came out only six years ago, but its questionable gender politics have begun to niggle at some; the recent film adaptation of the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, was criticised for being out of step with current sentiment.