Why do you think so many film adaptations of the novel make those changes to Bhaer, Jo, and Laurie’s timelines and personalities? Do you think it’s simply for the sake of streamlining things or because of other more complex storytelling challenges? It seems that every film adaptation makes the same “adjustments” or something similar.
I have lots of thoughts about it. It started way back when the book was published, Laurie was a super popular character and from what I’ve read, things that we now think are terrible what he does, mainly threatening to hurt himself if Jo says no, back then people thought it was romantic. In general being in this “romantic misery” was considered the most romantic thing in the world, when now people think that is creepy and…very stalkerish. The other part is that Laurie was rich and when the book came out most people expected women to marry rich men, so Louisa´s attempt to make a point of Jo wanting to marry for love was ignored since Fritz was poor and less dashing. Maybe that weird notion that people had about Jo being pretty when she is not written to be one had something to do with it.
In the 1930s and 1940s, I believe they were still living under that romantic illusion that Laurie was perfect and that those things he does in the novel are harmless. Hollywood during this time, I´d say would not make a “romantic lead” to harass the heroine.
In the earlier films before Friedrich´s feedback scene to Jo was a lot more gentle and closer to the novel. In the 1970s this was changed and it was turned into an argument. For reasons, I don´t know why every adaptation after that has decided to go with it, and we all know how that is working out.
The switch of the proposal timeline already happened in the 1933 version, and it happens in every version (except the 2017 series). This is unbelievable. I remember Greta Gerwig saying that people only remember the movies because they are part of our public conscience..and I´m like, you just said that you love the book and the author, why are you following the movie timeline?
Many people do say that Laurie forcefully kissing Jo, in the 1994 version is romantic, others don´t like it. It probably has more to do with Christian Bale playing Laurie, but the thing is, in the book Jo is supposed to be more mature than Laurie. I think the only versions which give some hints of it are the 1949 film and the 2017 series, and yet you will find people who say that that is not the case, because Laurie and Jo are so romantic in them.
Now since we are in this #metoo era and readers are way more perceptive about harassment and personal consent, I have no idea why the 2017 series and 2019 film want to romanticize Jo and Laurie and swap the timeline. Based on interviews I’ve read from Heidi Thomas, she is a Jo and Laurie shipper and Gerwig said “how could Jo say no to handsome Timothee Chalamet” and made complaints about Friedrich's looks and nationality (both of which book Jo loves).
But definitely, it has to do with money and an excuse not to handle the more complex undertones in Laurie´s actions and since I am not a Jo and Laurie fan, I can´t really say what they think, it does seem that lot of these filmmakers just want Jo and Laurie together. Why else, do they never show the part of Laurie wanting to work for Amy? or Laurie being lazy or Jo criticising him for not liking school which is a huge contrast for her loving the fact that Fritz is a teacher?
In the book, he proposes to Jo when she returns from New York and has started to develop these strong feelings for Fritz. In the movie, Laurie proposes before Jo goes to New York and it easily gives an impression that she is just running away from him, without any actual reason, when in the book she felt uncomfortable with his behaviour.
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