This is an article that has no reason to exist. Even when the ideas dawned on me I kept coming back to one question- why? What does pop-punk, an outdated genre of music that has largely faded out of the zeitgeist, have to do with a lauded adaptation of a feminist classic? The more I think about it though, the more I realize there are commonalities between the forlorn music genre and the Oscar nominated Little Women.
Specifically, each are works that tend to mask deeply emotional themes with bright, bubbly, and fun aesthetics. Sure, Little Women doesn’t guise its emotionality nearly as much as New Found Glory might, but both Little Women and pop punk bands weave lighthearted tones and fun aesthetics with deeply moving, hard hitting emotional beats.
So I guess it actually makes perfect sense that after seeing Little Women I drove home imagining which pop-punk bands the March sisters would listen to (I mean, that is only after I finally stopped crying because this movie just made me feel so much). Maybe it’s my affection for this once popular sub-genre of rock music or how much Little Women resonated with me, but I couldn’t help but picture the March girls bouncing around in Warped Tour mosh pit having the time of their lives. Just play some State Champs instead of 1860s pub music in the dancing scene of the movie and you’ll see exactly what I am talking about. In my brain, the March sisters would definitely be pop-punk fans if they were around today, and I know exactly who they’d all listen to.
Meg- Blink 182
Probably not the best idea to start this off with the most basic pop-punk band ever, but hear me out. Meg’s strength lies in the fact that she is empowered by her drive for a normal life. Though she seemingly slips into poorly constructed gender roles of the time, she actually subverts that role by marrying out of love rather than economic advancement. So yes, she becomes a housewife, but she becomes a house wife out of a fiercely independent drive to carve her own path in life not dictated by what those around her expect (oh god, I'm mansplaining aren’t I?).
In a way, Blink 182 did the same to pop-punk music in the early 1990’s. Blink-182 used so many of the expected tropes and markings of punk music, but carved out their own niche to spearhead the establishment of an entirely new genre that went against the grain of what was expected.
So, just like Meg, Blink 182 fell into their expected role, yet somehow completely subverted that role to be something entirely independent. And I think Meg would recognize these similarities and fall for Blink 182’s familiar irreverence. While she may not love some of the more vulgar tracks of Blink 182’s lengthy discography, I think she’d relate to their more heartfelt songs like “Always” and “First Date.”
Jo- The Wonder Years
This is actually the connection that spawned this entire, bafflingly absurd article- but it’s a match made in heaven. Jo is a woman living in a time where nobody will take her seriously as a writer, assuming all of her work will focus on the trials and tribulations of domesticated life. The Wonder Years is a pop-punk band creating music in a time where nobody takes the genre seriously, assuming all their songs will be immature ramblings about girls breaking their hearts. Both Jo and The Wonder Years absolutely obliterate pre-conceived notions with fierce creative genius that demands they be taken seriously.
Jo refuses to be just another woman who marries wealthy and pumps out kids, choosing instead to live as a struggling writer who can at least feel immense pride everyday until she finally catches a break. The Wonder Years has absconded notions of immaturity in pop-punk music and focused on writing songs about death, familial struggles, and the problematic nature of idolizing youth, and anyone who has seen them perform can attest to the pride the band feels in their unique brand of barely-pop pop-punk.
I feel like The Wonder Years’ ability to avoid genre tropes and instead delve into incredibly heavy topics in their music would speak to Jo and her own pursuit to avoid labels and be taken seriously as an intellectual writer. I think she’d especially enjoy songs like “No Closer to Heaven, “I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral,” and “My Last Semester,” which are poetically beautiful yet undeniably catchy. Songs like “Cul-de-sac” and “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” might soothe her troubled heart as she reflects on her experiences with Teddy (and I offer that advice through experience; “Cul-de-sac” got me through some shit in college). Also, I think I am in love with Jo March and The Wonder Years is one of my all time favorite bands, so part of this is just wishful thinking.
Amy- State Champs
Florence Pugh’s performance as Amy March was incredible, but if I am being honest (which I usually am) she was my least favorite of the March sisters. Not for any particular stand-out reasons, I just found her to be very vanilla. Her intentions were clear from the very onset of the film, she rarely defied expectations, and often-times she came off like she was trying too damn hard (I am talking about Amy, here, not Florence Pugh's performance). This is exactly why I think she would love State Champs.
I’ve got nothing against State Champs. They make very passable, classic pop-punk music with all the fixings of a mid 2000’s one-hit-wonder. They never do anything surprising, though. They don’t try new things or subvert any of the tropes laden within pop or punk music. They’re fun, entertaining, and genuine- just nothing too special.
That’s exactly how I’d describe Amy March too. She’s very entertaining- some of her scenes in Little Women are unforgettably funny or stoic- but she’s constantly overshadowed by her sisters. State Champs has some very catchy songs like “Elevated,” “Secrets,” and “Mine is Gold,” but they’ll never outshine the best pop-punk bands out there. Amy would be enamored by the simplicity and accessibility of State Champs, and she’d be so swoon over lead singer Derek Discanio that she’d be that girl who aggressively elbows her way to the barricade of a live show just to hopefully make eye-contact with Derek and get a sly wink. Amy and State Champs are both fine, enjoyable even- but I'd never recommend either to a friend.
Beth- Modern Baseball? I guess?
Beth is a massive challenge because she gets significantly less screen time than her sisters, and thus I didn’t overanalyze the hell out of her like I did the other March women. Here’s what I do know about Beth- 1.) she’s the musically inclined sister. 2.) she’s socially awkward and a bit of a hermit. With those two facts in hand, I can surmise she’d dig Modern Baseball. Modern Baseball’s lyrical themes often deal with social anxiety and reclusive natures, so it’s easy to think that Beth would really connect with their overall tone and style.
Musically, Modern Baseball has been acclaimed for their songwriting ability and mixture of pop-punk, indie, and folk tropes into a completely unique sound. The music geek that Beth is, she’d love picking apart the various styles employed by Modern Baseball in songs like “Fine, Great” and “Apartment.” Modern Baseball suddenly called it quits after just six years, so most people barely saw them and they were taken from us far too soon- just like Beth (spoiler alert for a 200 year old book).
Bonus! Theodore “Laurrie/Teddy” Laurence- Brand New and The Story So Far
Even the March sisters consider Teddy as one of their own, so I’ll throw him a bone here. I also empathized a shit-ton with Teddy and his feelings for Jo, so discerning his favorite pop-punk bands basically comes down to discerning my own favorite pop-punk bands to listen to when I’m feeling romantically defeated. And when I am in that all-too-frequent funk, I’ve got Brand New and The Story So Far on repeat.
Brand New’s first two albums are entirely about a guy who’s heart has been broken by a girl, and The Story So Far’s music is riddled with themes of unrequited love and romantic frustration. Teddy would for sure languish in the soothing tones of Brand New’s “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot” and “Seventy Times 7” or The Story So Far’s “Empty Space,” “Clairvoyant,” and “Closure.” Music can’t mend a broken heart, Teddy, but it can definitely help.
So, is Little Women the most pop-punk film about a group of sisters in the 1860s ever made? Absolutely. Would Jo March love The Wonder Years? You're goddamn right she would. Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.