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A Survey: Talking to Women About Bob Odenkirk's Line, "My little women!" From Little Women
Recently I had occasion to circulate the following survey among a small circle of my friends and associates. In the interest of transparency, I share the results with you here.
If you are receiving this email, it is because at some point over the last 18 months you have expressed an interest in Bob Odenkirk's role in the 2019 adaptation of Little Women, in particular the scene where he is reunited with the titular little women after a long absence, embraces them, and then exclaims, "My little women!"
Here is that scene again, for your reference.
If you are willing to do so, please answer the following questions and return to me, Daniel Lavery. You are welcome to fill out this survey even if you have not seen the 2019 version of Little Women. Just guess as best as you can. As always, this is entirely voluntary.
1. Did you expect anybody was going to say "little women" out loud in the movie Little Women?
Mattie: i was mistakenly under the impression that when moe szyslak is reading “little women” to the people at the shelter in the simpsons episode “homer the flanders” and says “they were no longer little girls....they were little women” that was the actual ending to the book so i had an inkling, but i was waiting for that final scene. naturally, it took me by surprise! also later i found out that is NOT how the book ends. i was 34 when i watched the film and found this out.
Flan: Yes, of course.
Jaya: I have never read Little Woman or seen any other movie, so I was under the impression that the book ended “They were no longer little girls, they were little women” because that's what Moe reads on the Simpsons. So maybe? It was unclear whether Moe was reading narration or dialogue.
Alyssa: I did not think about it but my guess wouldve been no
Christina: I hoped, but I was worried that Greta Gerwig would find it too on the nose to actually include it in the film. I'd like to imagine Bob himself insisted on saying it.
Alicia: Absolutely. Now I’m trying to imagine Dennis Duffy's response. “Why did they call this thing The Hours, they should have called it The Weeks...” but for Little Women.
Cecilia: no way.
2. Did you expect that Bob Odenkirk was going to be the one who said "little women," or did you think it would be someone else?
Mattie: not in a million years!
Flan: I expected it would be Susan Sarandon, despite knowing that Marmee would be portrayed by Laura Dern in the 2019 film.
Sarah: I gasped. I didn’t expect him to say it and it really took me out.
Jaya: I did not realize he was going to be in the movie, and then he immediately says it, so it was a shock all around.
Meredith: I did not even know Bob Odenkirk was in any way involved in Little Women. When I think “film adaptation” of that book I think of my early, urgent crush on Christian Bale and Winona Ryder as Jo and maybe Kristen Dunst as Amy.
Alyssa: I did not know who that was or that he was in it so no
Christina: I think by the time I saw the film I knew Bob Odenkirk was in it, and thus expected it from him? I might actually always be expecting that line reading from him for the rest of my life.
Alicia: I thought it would be Marmee or Jo, and I imagined that we’d hear strings (to ensure that we didn’t miss the moment).
Beth: Better him than Professor Bhaer. Do you think Alcott was punning with that name? Was bear culture a thing in Civil War America? Shouldn’t I know the answer to that question?
Cecilia: not him. i guess if you’d asked me to guess before i’d have guessed the mom.
3. Had you heard of Bob Odenkirk before he said "My little women!" to all the little women in Little Women?
Mattie: i am a long longtime fan of mr. odenkirk, so i was baffled and delighted to see my old friend appear on screen
Sarah: Yes, I love him from Breaking Bad
Anna: Insulting (as if I hadn’t just done a rewatch of Seinfeld and screamed when I saw him)
Meredith: Yes. I associate him with something like Parks & Recreation, maybe? Which I have never watched. A kind of talky in-joke comedy. I don’t actually think I’ve seen him in anything and couldn’t tell you why he is famous.
Christina: Yes, I am far too much online for my own good and TV twitter loves Bob Odenkirk due to his performance in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, two shows I have never seen due to the fact that they seem like bummers and everything is too dusty in the desert.
Alicia: Of course. I feel like I should mention Mr. Show here, but I'm really just remembering him as “Porno Gil” on Curb Your Enthusiasm, telling his dinner guests about using Tabasco anally.
Beth: I had not heard of him until this survey.
4. If you had to guess, how many times do you think the phrase “little women” appears in the book Little Women? Honor system – please guess, do not check.
Mattie: i’m gonna say more than 3 but less than 8. i will bet my entire life on this
Flan: My guess would be zero, because I know — or I remember an impression, which is distinct from knowing — there’s a bunch of references to the March sisters being “good little pilgrims” instead.
Jaya: I’m going to guess zero and I’m going to be mad if I’m not right.
Meredith: I think just the title?
Christina: The only thing I remember from the book Little Women is the fact that Meg, at one point, wears a dress that is described as “a sweet blue muslin.”
Beth: Once, spoken by Jo, or never.
N.B. The answer is four. It goes up to twelve, if you count “little woman” as an instance, which I don’t.
5. Do you think Donald Sutherland would have done as good a job saying “My little women!” as Bob Odenkirk did? Or do you think there was a unique Odenkirkian quality to the reading that makes comparison impossible?
Mattie: NO!!!! donald sutherland, a fine actor and seemingly a fine fellow, can get BENT in this specific scenario. bob’s delivery is perfect — wistful and beautiful and warm. it also feeds into my pet theory that most comedic actors are better actors than most dramatic actors when push comes to shove. get out of here, donald sutherland!!!
Flan: I think if Sutherland had said it he would have somehow given the impression that Mr. March was a Confederate veteran and not a Union chaplain.
Sarah: I think he would’ve done an amazing job because he was a great father in Pride and Prejudice
Jaya: I think Sutherland might have brought either a more sinister or a more buffoonish energy to it, while Odenkirk brings the unchallengeable energy of making you think, “Wait, is that Bob Odenkirk?” You would never say that about Donald Sutherland.
Anna: Donald Sutherland was the worst Mr. Bennet, why why do you bring him into this!! Only Odenkirk
Meredith: I think pretty much anything Donald Sutherland says sounds creepy. I think it’s from Backdraft associations? I’m going to go with impossible comparison.
Alyssa: Don’t know who that is either
Christina: Even at his most joyous, there is an unsettling air about Donald Sutherland, I don't know that I would buy him saying that line. Or, rather, perhaps I would buy the line, but I would be certain he meant for nothing GOOD to come to his little women, in the end.
Alicia: I don’t know why, but I think Donald Sutherland would have winked or smirked after his line reading? It would have been great, though.
Beth: Keanu or GTFO
Lily: I don’t know
Cecilia: i think sutherland would have seemed a little more unhinged, a little more desperately emotional so it would not have worked in gerwig’s polished environment.
6. Have you seen Little Women, or am I mixing you up with another one of my friends?
Mattie: buddy we OWN it (a screener that has been at my friend’s house for like over a year)
Flan: Seen it? Why, my good man, I lived it!
Sarah: Yeah I have seen it many times
Jaya: You and I have watched it together.
Anna: Seeing Little Women with you was my last moviegoing experience. I can never replicate its perfection. I may never go to a movie theater again. Have you gone to a movie theater since??? [Yes, last month, to see Together Together] A wonderful survey and a reminder of greater days. I miss you!
Meredith: I haven’t seen Little Women.
Alyssa: I am the Little Women (2019) Enjoyer
Christina: I have, you nailed it.
Alicia: Yes (and likely yes).
7. Regardless of whether you saw the movie in theaters, or have only just watched that scene for the first time as a result of this inquiry, how did it make you feel? Comforted? Wistful? Put off? Charmed? Hostile? Condescended to? Threatened? Safe? Happy? A queer little feeling as if you had a string somewhere under your left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of that happy family, such that if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between you, that cord of communion will be snapt, and then you should take to bleeding inwardly? Or “Other”?
Mattie: option 10. the ribs thing
Sarah: I felt pretty comforted because I find he has a very warm and inviting voice.
Jaya: Warm crying. Safe wrenching. Florence Pugh please frown at me.
Anna: Your description of joy is uncanny. [Some of this is just Jane Eyre]
Alyssa: I cried a million times at the rest of the movie but mostly felt glee at him saying MY LITTLE WOMEN
Christina: I think it's somewhere between condescended to and comforted? Which is a real favorite place of mine, unfortch.
Alicia: When I first watched the movie, my thought was probably, “…Wait, Bob Odenkirk?” Now? I'm still thinking of Porno Gil.
Beth: Confused. Who was he, I wondered. A stray soldier? An extra? Captain Kangaroo? Oh, the dad, right.
Lily: Put off by the seeming lack of irony
8. Bob Odenkirk dated Janeane Garofalo in the 90s. Do you think she saw Little Women, and if so, do you think she liked it? It doesn't quite seem like a “her” thing, in my opinion, but you never know. My thing about Little Women is that I like it, but watching it also made me feel like I was being slowly suffocated. I hope putting it like that is not too “too,” being a trans man and all.
Grace: She was ambivalent (this is a guess).
Mattie: i think janeane watched it and liked it. i feel a sort of connection to her on the dyke continuum and little women is extremely NOT my thing, but i loved this movie very much and it makes me cry and cry and cry. especially the part where bob oedenkirk says “my little women”
Flan: I imagine that Janeane Garofalo received a screener and saved it for a Friday night she had no plans, and still has not pressed play.
Sarah: I don’t think she saw it and if she did I don’t think she’d like it.
Jaya: I think she preferred the Winona version
Anna: J.G. loved it. I saw her in a Pain Quotidien thrice. She likes the standard jam, she likes Little Women.
Meredith: I mean, if they are still friends, maybe she saw it out of support for him? But like, had it on TV in the background while she was doing other things? I can’t imagine her going to the theatre to see this movie.
Alyssa: Idk who that is but it is one of two good dead sibling movies, the other being Big Hero 6, so maybe if she has a dead sibling she might like it
Christina: My gut says she saw it begrudgingly, perhaps once it was out of theaters? I feel like she put it on and kind of rolled her eyes, but enjoyed it nonetheless? I absolutely believe she loves the 1994 Little Women and had a “well why are they doing this AGAIN” feeling, and was kind of resentful that she enjoyed it, in the end.
Alicia: Wait, they dated? Didn’t she date Ben Stiller then? My brain is just TV/movie snippets, so I first imagined her reaction as this gif (if it doesn't work, it's Janeane Garofalo rolling her eyes as Heather Mooney in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion). I feel like she'd be into the ending, though?
Beth: I mean sure. Why not?
Lily: JG would enjoy TC playing a dyke and be enchanted by Florence Pugh’s bone structure.
Cecilia: I think she has watched it. i think she watches all oscar nominees
Thank you very much for your time.
All my love,
Daniel M. Lavery (the M stands for "My little women!")