Thursday, April 10, 2008
Not a Plain Jane...
I was first introduced to the subtly delightful snarky wit of Jane Austen (or "A Lady", as her books were signed during her lifetime) during my senior year of high school, in Mr. Doherty's AP English Class. We read a whole string of classics by British lady authors, but Pride & Prejudice was by far my favorite. That was also the year that the BBC released its notable TV miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and the imcomparable Colin Firth, although it didn't make it to the US until I was in college.
Speaking of that miniseries, all I have to say is that had Jane been writing today, I totally believe she would have included that swimming scene with Mr. Darcy in the pond outside his home while Lizzie and her aunt and uncle were visiting (snooping). I mean, come on...semi-naked wet Mr. Darcy? Yeah, that would totally be in the book. You and I both know it.
Where was I again? Oh yeah. Jane Austen.
This past Sunday marked the end of the Masterpiece Theatre series "The Complete Jane Austen" with the conclusion of the two-part remake of "Sense & Sensibility." I have to say that I'm really sad to see it go. Why couldn't she have written more than 6 novels? Didn't she know that 200 years later, people wouldn't be able to get enough?
So why do people (females, especially) love Jane Austen? In the last few years we've seen The Jane Austen Book Club (both the novel by Karen Joy Fowler, and the movie), the film Becoming Jane, the Bollywood extravaganza Bride & Prejudice, the Keira Knightley film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, the aforementioned Masterpiece Classics series on PBS, a novel called Mr. Darcy's Daughters, a novel called Mr. Darcy's Diary, The Second Mrs. Darcy: A Novel, Letters From Pemberley: The First Year, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife...and that's just in the 2000s alone.
In the 90s we got the famous BBC ode to Colin Firth (sigh!), two different Emma films in 1996 (a Hollywood version starring Gwynneth Paltrow and a BBC version starring Kate Beckinsale), the Bridget Jones books (the first one is a remake of P&P...great casting on the part of the movie producers by having Colin Firth play Mark Darcy...and the second is a remake of Persusasion), not to mention Clueless, a loose adaptation of Emma.
And that's just in the last 13 years.
I think Henry Tilney, the hero in Northanger Abbey said it best:
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
So why is Jane Austen so popular? What do modern women (and men...Mr. Brice amazed me last week when he predicted that Marianne Dashwood would marry Colonel Brandon because "he's the brooding guy...and the brooding guy always wins in the end of a Jane Austen story"...I was all "Who are you and what did you do with my husband?" He clinched it when he started expounding on how Lizzie Bennett is like a combination of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood) see in these stories? Can something written more than 200 years ago still be relevant today? And if you were a Jane Austen heroine (or hero), who would you be?