The CW has been doing some pretty great work in recent years with stuff like Arrow, The Flash and The 100. I don't watch these shows, but people inform me that I should with the same sort of fervor white people reserve for being astonished that you've never seen The Wire. It's almost baffling how good The CW is at taking silly ideas on paper and transforming them into exciting products, but their latest plan is just plain baffling.
The network is currently developing a "hyper-stylized, gritty adaptation" of Louisa May Alcott's literary classic Little Women. You know, the pleasant yet thoughtful story of the March sisters - their lives, their loves, their endearingly relatable sisterly bickering and bonding. A series adaptation of Little Women sounds exciting, but a gritty, dystopian version of the story sounds... well, it sounds like what the fuck.
The new series comes from writer Alexis Jolly and NCIS star Michael Weatherly (I have no idea, but your grandma probably does), and is described as a story in which "disparate half-sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy band together in order to survive the dystopic streets of Philadelphia and unravel a conspiracy that stretches far beyond anything they have ever imagined – all while trying not to kill each other in the process."
Dystopic streets of Philadelphia. Conspiracy. Trying not to kill each other. Where to begin. If this description was for any other series on The CW with different character names, you might have the bare minimum of my interest. But co-opting a literary gem like Little Women is just harshly wrong. No, it's not going to sully anyone's memories of or affection for the original. No, it won't ruin it. But how does it even make sense?
As previously mentioned, The CW is definitely quite skilled in taking silly ideas and making them into entertaining and surprisingly good projects. This does not seem like one of those times. And pitting the sisters against each other seems almost offensive on a basic conceptual level - why do these women have to fight each other and avoid "trying to kill" one another? The March sisters did their fair share of arguing and engaged in some spiteful behaviors, but they ultimately loved each other and overcame terrible obstacles together. It's not a story that encourages pitting women against one another; it's a story about how we need to overcome those petty feelings and stand together.
The sisters only had each other and their mother with their father off at war - that very basic concept encourages feminist thinking. From the outset it's a story about women surviving without a man in a world that denies women basic rights and freedoms. Looking back, that sure does seem like a dystopian world, but probably not the kind The CW is thinking about.
What's next? A gritty reboot of The Babysitter's Club? A dystopian version of Emma? To be fair, many films have taken liberties with classic literature (Clueless, for one), but they've done so in impressively clever ways. Using YA buzzwords like dystopian and gritty and hyper-stylized isn't clever - it's like a lazy pop culture mash-up gone horribly wrong. And those things are generally horrible already.