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Booktuber Emily and I got together to talk about Laurie´s character arc and how it is missing from every-single-Little Women adaptation.

You can listen to the podcast episode on Soundcloud

​or watch this YouTube Video

For those of you who prefer to read, here is the transcription for you.

Niina: Hello friends and welcome to Small Umbrella In The Rain. A podcast series on all things Louisa May Alcott and Little Women. This is a special episode. A collaboration between me and booktuber Emiloid. Emily and I discovered that we had lots of similar opinions and thoughts about Little Women and our first conversation actually lasted four hours! We had so much fun that we are probably going to do more collaborations in the future. I hope you guys enjoy this. This is Small Umbrella In The Rain: The Laurie Problem.

Emily: Hello I am Emily. I am also known as Emiloid. I run a booktube channel by the same name and I am also a big fan of Little Women the novel and also a great fan of discussing the adaptations as well.

Niina: I am Niina. Hello everyone and I am a blogger on YouTube and I have a channel called Small Umbrella In The Rain. I do gender studies on Little Women and been lately focusing mostly on the male characters.

Emily: Great

Emily: I am relatively well-known for my channel for a review I did on the newest Little Women adaptation.

Niina: Which was a really good review.

Emily: To say the least. Openly critical of the film and Niina reach out to me because we have a lot of the same perspectives on the book and the films. I am very honoured. I am really flattered that you asked me because I had literally found your blog when I was preparing for my video.

Niina: So nice because it was a really big surprise for me how many people reached out after I published it. You always learn new things when people reach out to you like that. They share their views and it´s been a pleasure.

Emily: I had lots of people reaching out to me “wow I am so grateful that you have reflected my views on this film” and it feels like they finally got presented. Before I even knew you I remember thinking about your blog post, “wow this person agrees with me” because you really love professor Bhaer and this film did not have professor Bhaer in it, pretty much. You know, they didn´t have our professor Bhaer in it.

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Niina: Yeah, where is our professor Bhaer?

Emily: where is this beautiful relationship?

Emily: Today you wanted to discuss Laurie.

Niina: Among other things, yes.

Emily: So we are going to do one video on this channel. On Niina´s channel and then one video on my channel, where we will be discussing Jo and professor Bhaer but you will probably find that our discussions will go on different tangents.

Niina: Very likely.

Emily: We have lots of feelings about these adaptations and this book.

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Emily: Alright, how about we start out talking about the Laurie model. By the way, I literally just watched the 2017 series last night.

Niina: Oh you did?

Emily: I think I agree with a lot what you said about it. I like what they expanded but the ending is very rushed.

Niina: It is. I felt that the writer should have had four episodes to do it properly.

Emily: Somehow they managed to expand on some things but somehow the ending was just really rushed. I was so surprised at the end.

Niina: It did not build enough for the two couples. That really bothered me.

Emily: They didn´t really think through the whole process for Jo and professor Bhaer and suddenly the school is established and they don´t build upon that. It was a bit weird. You sent me a bunch of articles and blog posts about this subject and you clearly had done very deep dive into his character.

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Niina: I have a soft spot for Friedrich´s character but what it comes to Laurie I think my biggest problem with all Laurie´s presentations in the films is that they never follow the book´s narrative. This is something that really reflects the way people read Little Women. I find it very problematic, to say the least.

Emily: I know I remember you said that basically Laurie has to go through a whole growth process in the book, I guess we should preface it by saying that a lot of the adaptations idealize him. What you said in your blog post. He is kind of this young, pretty guy who is in love with Jo. We are supposed to feel bad for him but what the adaptations leave out is how immature he really is and actually how horrible he is sometimes.

Niina: One of my blog readers, they wrote a very eye-opening review about Little Women how Jo and Laurie, the ideas that they feed to each other, they actually end up harming each other on a long run and that is something that people constantly ignore.

Emily: Yes! I think a big example is, remember when Laurie was like ”Ah I don´t want to go to university and Jo is like just run away, you don´t have to go to the uni and Meg is like ”No, don´t tell Laurie, not to go to uni. You need to do it”. At that point, I was like wow these two are not a good influence on each other

Niina: Laurie was that kind of character that he always did what he was told to do. He always wants to do what he is told not to do and he has this constant inner conflict because of it.

Emily: That is true. He kinda reminds me of a bit of me, I don´t think he really appreciated a lot of the privilege he had at the start because he is like ”I don´t like uni” because he is expected to fit into a certain mould in the society what he doesn´t really properly appreciate. He was a party boy in college and messes around and everything. He doesn´t really know how to be a productive member of society. He doesn´t really understand what that means.

Niina: When Jo gets older, it really starts to bother her, that he doesn´t take responsibility of himself. She is like a little mother for him. She is always taking care of him and it is quite sad, the way Jo feels bad that he has all these privileges that she doesn´t have.

Emily: He represents a lot of the things that she can´t have but he really takes for granted. I think you might have pointed this out in your blog post but Jo is very much taking care of him because he is really looking for a mother. He really kind of falls in love with her, or he thinks because he is really looking for this character who is going to nanny him.

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Niina: People forget that Laurie is an orphan. He doesn´t really have a stable parental figure until Jo arrives.

Emily: He is always envying that really idyllic view of the March family. All the sisters and their relationship with Marmee and Marmee essentially becomes his secondary mother in away. I think you also pointed out, despite of craving this maternal figure in his life, he and Jo like to make fun of very feminine girls. They have really mutually negative forcing views on femininity and masculinity as well. I was surprised when I re-read the book and I was like wow! Laurie was actually …am I allowed to swear on your channel?

Niina: Go ahead.

Emily: He is a fuckboy.

Niina: Indeed.

Emily: He is really a fuckboy but then he turns around and talked bad about these girls to Jo and I am like Wow, this is exactly the kind of guy I would have tried to avoid back in uni. He is quite misogynistic. I wonder what you think because you pointed out that Jo is disappointed with Laurie but I think also Amy is as well. I think Amy even if she doesn´t have the same kind of relationship with Laurie also really steps in and is the one to say ”Hey, you are really not being a productive person and you are really idle” and she taps his hand. She is like, your hands, they have never done days work and I´m wondering if you could talk about your view on Jo and why Jo is kind of his mother but isn´t able to build that kind of relationship with him that Amy is somehow able to come out. Give him the same kind of talk but then isn´t really his mother and is actually able to get through him.

Niina: There is a theory that Amy already had a crush on Laurie when she was 12. When I read the book like that it makes sense because there is the scene where Laurie goes to cheer her up when she is staying at aunt March and all that.
Emily: Yes.

Niina: I always liked that chapter but when I read Little Women last time what I noticed is that Laurie always behaves a lot better with Amy than he does with Meg or with Jo. With Meg or with Jo he always seems to have this idea that he is somehow above them but that doesn´t really happen with Amy. It´s really interesting.

Emily: Do you think it is because they are both younger siblings of Jo and Meg and they kind of are able to reach some sort of equal footing that way?

Niina: They are all just very different people. There is that chapter where Laurie forges letters in John´s name and then he is catfishing Meg and then Jo wants Meg and Laurie to get together. To keep Laurie in the family. She doesn´t really see how harmful that is to Meg´s reputation and Laurie doesn´t see any kind of harmful elements in his actions.

Emily: He is just kind of making fun but it really is a mean joke to play at somebody. Especially when one of them involves his teacher, who he really does not appreciate enough.

Niina: He really takes Mr Brooke for granted.

Emily: I think I read this on your blog and this really resonated with me. He is also quite toxic towards Jo especially when he wants to be in a relationship with her. He is saying ”I am going to kill myself over you”.

Niina: There is lots of mental blackmailing and it´s quite hard to read sometimes.

Emily: I think you quoted somebody who said, Laurie is a ”nice guy”. He is one of those nice guys who expect to get what he wants because he is so nice to that person.

Niina: He doesn´t really see Jo as an actual person at that point. He wants to marry her because he is expected to marry someone. When there is that time period when he is in Vienna and he is trying to compose. It is like he doesn´t really care who he is going to marry or who is this romantic woman that he is composing these operas for. It doesn´t really matter at that point because he has this idea that this is what a man is supposed to be like.

Image by Niina Niskanen

Emily: I think he writes about how he has this phantom of a woman in his mind and it is not really vague. He is not really thinking about Jo´s characteristics or anything like that. He just have this sort of Goethean idea of a woman. What we know doesn´t resemble Jo at all.

Niina: It is this phantom princess who is waiting for a prince to arrive, from an opera or a ballet. It´s really not Jo March and it is really not Amy either but when he starts to have deeper feelings for Amy, this phantom it starts to look more and more like Amy. It is one of those things that is never included
in the adaptations.

Emily: I am surprised. You are absolutely correct. No one gives Laurie this arch. Nobody delves into his feelings about the March girls. People even cut out that kind of toxic behavior that he has.

Emily: You know how these days we are talking about Twilight. Twilight is so toxic because Edward stalks Bella and is so possessive and I am just like, well you know, here is this nice guy who is very toxic towards the person he wants to be with and is no better. It really bugles my mind.

You can find the full transcript here