Netflix’s twelve-episode South Korean drama, Little Women, is not the Little Women we are all familiar with. So, for anyone who is to watch the series, hoping to reconnect with Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 infamous novel, they will definitely be in for a surprise. However, the surprise might end up being a good one, as this specific Little Women is a rollercoaster ride of different emotions. The suspense and the mystery surrounding the three protagonists keep the viewers encapsulated, in turn, making the show binge-worthy.
The 8.6/10-star rating on MyDramaList and the 7.9/10 rating on IMDb list does seem as good enough reasons to watch this show. Nonetheless, this article will analyze why Little Women is starting to gain much popularity amongst K-drama fans and Netflix streamers. Perhaps, this article might end up convincing its readers that this South Korean drama is worth one’s investment of time.
The most obvious difference between Kim Hee-won’s Little Women is that, unlike the source material which revolves around the four March sisters, the film focuses only on three sisters who are extremely poor and whose mother is quite a narcissist. Of course, later on in the series, we are able to see that there was another sister who died very young due to the family being unable to afford medical treatment. This might be a nod to Beth’s death in the original novel. It is not easy to identify which sister represents the March sisters. However, the character of Oh In-kyung (Nam Ji-hyun) seemingly represents Jo March due to her ambitious nature and her eagerness to pursue her passion in reporting. Oh In-ju (Kim Go-eun) being the eldest, might remind one of Meg, while Oh In-hye (Park Ji-hu) who comes off as extremely stubborn, seems to resemble Amy. Like Amy, In-hye is an artist. However, In-hye seems to have a supernatural connection with the sister that died young. This connection along with In-kyung’s sisterly love towards her sometimes allows her to resemble Beth. There is definitely a subtle link between Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters and the Oh sisters of this show.
Another key difference is that the series takes place in modern society and focuses on the problems of it. From the very episode itself, the series focus on dark themes which heavily focuses on the hierarchical system of society and the corrupt powerful members of it. To further dig deep into these themes, the series has included a series of murders, mysteries, and political agendas, in turn, diverting away from the source material. Thus, Netflix’s Little Women is very loosely based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel.
The complete reinterpretation of the 1868 novel has allowed the series creators to emphasize on social issues that represent the present day. One such issue is the gap between the rich and the poor. For fans of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, there might be several incidents in Little Women which they find quite familiar. Like Bong Joon-Ho’s film, the series is not afraid to show how harshly the poor are treated. The Oh sisters are manipulated, used and threatened by the rich. This alludes to how the people of the lower levels of the social hierarchy are used as mere tools and puppets by the rich and powerful.
The series might also remind the viewers of the on-going debate on nepobabies. Even though In-kyung is an exceptionally talented artist, her friend, Park Hyo-rin literally buys her art and produces it as her own. Hyo-rin is able to achieve things that In-kyung simply because she belongs to a wealthy family.
The theme of corrupt politics is another social issue that the series focuses on. For Park Jae-sang (Um Ki-joon) politics is a mere game, and he is willing to kill anyone to achieve his goals. The way in which he is able to get away with anything, easily brainwash people, and even take control over the media by buying it off is a strong reminder of how corrupt politicians act today.
Even if Park Jae-sang is seen as the main antagonist from the beginning of the series, the end allows the viewers to understand it has been Won Sang-ah (Uhm Ji-won) all along, and Park Jae-sang is yet another pawn in her game. The reasoning behind her doings is what’s fascinating. She points out how she was over-looked by her father and his friend and the next heir for their household, and how they have chosen Park Jae-sang over her. It is partly due to her being a woman. This allows the series to focus on how women are constantly overlooked and treated differently due to their gender.
The three Oh sisters go on to defy their fate and end up being successful while achieving their dreams. However, the journey was quite harsh. Nonetheless, the way in which they fought through it all allows them to be portrayed as strong female leads. Even if the series might have included two male characters, Ha Jong-h (Kang Hoon) and Choi Do-il (Wi Ha-joon), the three sisters overshadowed them. In fact, these sisters tend to follow their own instincts and rely on their own selves without seeking support from these male characters. This allows them to break away from the damsel in distress trope. Even if In-ju has to rely on Do-il, her suspicious nature allows her to follow her own path in many situations. For example, even if she is unable to speak or understand English, she uses a translation app to get along with English-speaking people. Moreover, the way in which she stays back while refusing Do-il’s invitation to go with him to Greece, allows her to be an independent woman whose dream is to help her sisters and own her own apartment.
One final reason why Little Women is a fascinating series that is a must-watch is the way in which it adds in a little bit of the supernatural without allowing it to take over the show and distract the viewers from the main storyline. The blue orchid or the “Ghost of Vietnam” acts as the tangible element of the supernatural. It allows people to hallucinate, seemingly interact with the dead, and have visions. Screenwriter Seo-kyung, in an interview, has stated that they wanted to create “a sense of ambiguity between fantasy and reality”. Clearly, the series has achieved this quite successfully.