Now that you have finished going gaga over the omnipresence of Singapore in the latest Korean drama Little Women series, can we go back to the things that should matter more?
For instance, why is the series named Little Women?
I think it is safe to say that if forced to have only one classification, Little Women is a mystery, more in the family of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I did wonder for a while why it was not called Sherlock or Enola Holmes.
But first, let’s go back to Little Women.
It is no secret that the screenwriter and creator Chung Seo-kyung read Louisa May Alcott’s classic book when she was young and really loved it.
I believe she could have just borrowed the plot and characters and named it something else but Little Women has a good ring to it and the series is quite faithful to the not-so-secret subtexts of the book.
While it is widely accepted that the term “little women” refers very much to “the period in a young woman’s life where childhood and elder childhood are ‘overlapping’ with young womanhood”, it is equally plausible that it was meant to highlight the unfair social inferiority, especially at that time, of women as compared to men, or alternatively, describe the lives of simple people, “unimportant” in the social sense. (You can read more about the interpretations by googling Sarah Elbert, a leading authority on this.)
Needless to say, the three young sisters represent the new generation – idealistic, ambitious and not going to take no for an answer.
Just look at how determined Oh In-ju (played by Kim Go-eun) is about trying to make life better for herself and her sisters.
Second sister In-kyung (Nam Ji-hyun) is even more incredible. She is dead set about doing good with journalism. If you have not, please watch What Happens To My Family.
Youngest sister In-hye (Park Ji-hu) will stop at nothing to fulfil her dream to paint.
Are they the underclass and bullied? You bet.
But the series is also about the relationships between women.
Let’s start with the Oh sisters and their mother. Is there any question that the young women do not want a life like their mom, a woman who thinks she’s only whole if she’s a good wife even if her husband is bad to her? Yes, even at the expense of sacrificing the little women.
Think In-kyung and her grand-aunt Oh Hye-seok (Kim Mi-Sook). The older woman knows that as a woman in her youth, she will not be treated fairly, so she makes compromises to survive. When she has a chance to empower her grand niece to fight against the evil, she considers it seriously but at the same time acts selfishly because her own survival is also at stake.
Of course we can’t talk about the women, little or big, without talking about Won Sang-ah (Uhm Ji-won). She has to be the modern 21st century woman most men fear – assured, beautiful, privileged, manipulative. Compared to her, the rookie politician husband Park Jae-sang is just a useful puppet.
One thing for sure, the alternative title for this series could easily be What Money Can Buy You. To In-ju, it will probably start with an apartment, but for Sang-ah, she buys services but hopes for loyalty.
So will women be kinder to other women? Dream on. It is often quite the opposite once your used-by date is near.
But why do we expect them to be different from men? It will be stupid to assume that just because they usually have a common enemy in men, banding together is not to be assumed.
Well the series in ending this week but I don’t need to know how it wraps up.
I’m just hoping that with this series, Little Women will be a little bigger.