The landscape for women in Jane Austen’s time bears little resemblance to contemporary society. Expected only to be passive and pretty, women had no economic power, nor could they own land or exert political influence. Up pops Elizabeth Bennet, a character that readers today adore for her wit, humour and sharp observations. Pride and Prejudice is 200 years old today and Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr. Darcy are their very own cultural construct. The novel has inspired more adaptations than Austen could possibly have conceived. Would she have approved of the many variations on the theme?
Find a hint in her heroine’s character as described early on in her celebrated novel:
” She told the story with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.”
That spirit has earned Austen’s Elizabeth millions of kindred spirits, and an open invitation to my Fantasy Dinner Party.
But what of those celebrated adaptations? It is dizzying to comprehend the Jane blogosphere and fan fiction, not to mention the big and small screen adaptations, some good, others not so much. I won’t bore you with yet another clip of Colin Firth in the billowy white shirt on the now famous BBC 1995 mini series. Or that same Colin Firth brooding about with Rene Zelllwigger in Bridget Jone’s Diary. Fangirl here likes Colin Firth very much-he too is invited to sit, very close to me, at the aforementioned table. But if we want something truly fresh, it might be found, Vlog style, on the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which began airing April 2012.
And if vlogs have no appeal, then why not another big screen Pride & Prejudice spin, Austenland, now at the Sundance Film festival?
The film is produced by Twilight author Stephanie Meyer. That is almost a reason to avoid it for yours truly except that it stars, among others, the very funny Jennifer Coolidge.
I myself will celebrate the anniversary by going back to the source.
My girls and I plan to reread the story together, chapter by brilliant chapter. Yes, I know The Bachelor is on. What would Jane think of that show? It is, after all, just a hopped up comedy of manners. Except when it’s not.
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
Here’s to another 200 years of reading Jane!