little story just as it is. But ColumbiarnPictures does not approve of the lessonsrnAlcott’s novel teaches. The religious elementsrnare attenuated beyond recognition,rnwith Alcott’s lessons about faithrnand morality replaced with anachronisticrndiatribes on the inequity of the sexes.rnEven the female casting choices underminernAlcott’s original purpose: the robustrnClaire Danes, for example, playsrnthe fragile Beth. Danes struggles to concealrnher athletic build by stooping whilernshe lopes through the picture, until,rnmercifully, her pink eyeshadow deepeningrnconspicuously as she nears her finalrnmoments, she expires.rnMore troubling, however, is the castingrnof Gabriel Byrne (whom Ken Russellrncast as Byron in Gothic) as ProfessorrnBhaer. Though a talented actor, Byrnernis considerably younger and sexier thanrnAlcott’s original. Alcott sharply differentiatesrnJo’s two suitors to call attentionrnto the reasons behind Jo’s choosing ProfessorrnBhaer for a husband. The otherrnsuitor, Laurie, is an adolescent girl’srnfantasy beau—in addition to beingrnyoung, handsome, rich, amusing, andrnfrom a socially prominent family, he isrnkind and thoughtful and is sincerelyrnfond of Jo and her family. The averagern14-year-old is horrified when Jo ends uprnmarrying Professor Bhaer, a recent immigrantrnwho, though also kind andrnthoughtful, is middle-aged, poor, pudgy,rnand socially awkward.rnLong before she meets Bhaer, evenrnbefore she embarks on her career in journalism,rnJo deliberately terminates her romanticrnrelationship with Laurie before itrnprogresses beyond mild flirtation. Jornknows that she and Laurie are ill-suitedrnfor each other as marriage partners; passionate,rnheadstrong people, each needs arnspouse who will complement, not duplicate,rnhis character—someone “steady,”rnas they used to say.rnUnfortunately, “steadiness” is not arnvirtue much beloved of Hollywood theserndays. It would have been a considerablernchallenge for screenwriter RobinrnI’or Immediate ServicernCHRONICLESrnNEW SUBSCRIBERSrnT()LLFRF.EM.!MBERrn1-800-877-5459rnSwicord to show why Jo prefers a manrnwho, though poor and middle-aged,rntakes her intellectual and artistic aspirationsrnseriously to a man who, thoughrnhandsome, wealthy, and kind, is unablernto provide her with the intellectual companionshiprnshe desires. Instead, Hollywoodrnblanches when Professor Bhaerrncriticizes Jo’s writing. Neither Jo’s familyrnnor Laurie has ever seen Jo’s lurid melodramasrnas anything but ripping goodrntales which handily pay the bills. ProfessorrnBhaer, however, recognizes her talent,rnand gently tells her she is wasting it.rnAt Jo’s urging, he politely but acutelyrncriticizes her writing. Jo’s welcoming ofrnhis astute criticism helps her to mature.rnMany self-proclaimed feminists, however,rnequate being “taken seriously” withrnbeing praised, not criticized, especiallyrnby men. Unaware of the irony of her position.rnNew York Times film critic CarynrnJames deems it disrespectful of “thernbearish Professor Bhaer” to tell Jo thatrnshe should be a great writer rather than arntabloid hack: ” [He] scolded her for writingrnsensational stories; then she marriedrnhim anyway.” Ms. James just doesn’t getrnit: Jo marries Bhaer not in spite of hisrncriticism of her writing but because of it.rnIndeed, Bhaer is among the strongestrnfeminists in the novel: though a professorrnfrom Germany—the intellectualrncenter of 19th-century Europe—he recognizesrnartistic potential in a youngrnwoman with little formal education.rnSadly, this movie dismisses Alcott’srnmessage that someone who is notrn”young and sexy” can nevertheless berndesirable, and that intellectual companionshiprnwith someone who challengesrnyou to make the best of yourself is essentialrnin a mate. Such, at least, are the valuesrnAlcott’s novel presents, and such arernthe values of those of us who love LittlernWomen just as it is.rnThe filmmakers’ antimale bias becomesrnespecially apparent when wcrncompare the male characters in the twornversions of Little Women: whereas Alcott’srnportraits of even the minor malerncharacters are complex and subtle, thernmen in the movie are mere caricatures.rnConsider, for example, the film’s treatmentrnof Mr. Davis, the teacher whornstrikes Amy’s hand with a wooden rodrnfor bringing pickled limes (a status symbol)rnto class. Amy tells her mother thatrnMr. Davis said it was “as useful to educaterna woman as it is to educate a femalerncat.” The outraged Marmee condemnsrnhis sadistic sexism—”By law Mr. Davisrnmay beat his pupils freely—as well as hisrnchildren and his wife and his horse,” andrnwithdraws Amy from the school for hisrn”brutal punishment.”rnAlcott’s original narrative is, however,rnconsiderably more complex: Amy is notrna blameless victim, nor Mr. Davis a sexistrnogre. Alcott’s Mr. Davis is a “muchenduringrnman” who had “done all thatrnone man could do to keep half a hundredrnrebellious giris in order.” ThoughrnAlcott criticizes Mr. Davis’s bad temper,rnshe sympathizes with the challenge hernfaces of controlling a classful of adolescentrngirls: “Boys are trying enough to humanrnpatience . . . but girls are infinitelyrnmore so, especially to nervous gentlemenrnwith tyrannical tempers.” Alcott’srnAmy is also presented as more culpablernthan her twin in the film: she compoundsrnher fault by trying to concealrnsome of the forbidden fruit after shernhas been ordered to discard it. Amy’srnvanity prompted her to assume that thernrules just would not be applied to herrnand that her mother would offer her unqualifiedrnsympathy (which the filmrnAmy gets). Kindly but firmly, Alcott’srnMarmee informs Amy that she deservedrnpunishment for knowingly breaking thernrules; though Marmee disapprovesrnof corporal punishment, she venturesrnthat, in this case, “I’m not sure that itrnwon’t do you more good than a milderrnmethod.” Marmee removes Amy fromrnthe school, not simply because sherndisapproves of Mr. Davis’s teachingrnmethods, but also because Amy’s femalernfriends are encouraging her to developrnpoor values.rnOr consider the treatment of Dr.rnBangs, old Mr. Laurence’s personalrnphysician, whom he sends to tend thernailing Beth. Fearing Beth may die despiternhis best efforts, Dr. Bangs suggestsrnthat Marmee be sent for. Rather thanrnbe grateful for Dr. Bangs’ assistance,rnhowever, the movie’s Marmee bursts intornBeth’s bedroom, certain her daughterrnhas received inadequate treatment. “Dr.rnMom” declares that Beth’s feet have notrnbeen kept properly warm, and, with arnwoman’s instinctive understanding ofrnfolk medicine, calls for vinegar to “drawrnthe fever down.” Once again, the malernprofessional is incompetent and insensitive,rnthe female amateur omnicompetentrnand omnicaring.rnNor do the other male characters farernbetter. Alcott’s crusty but charming oldrnMr. Laurence virtually disappears, asrndoes the father of the little women, Mr.rn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn