A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 17 – 26

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Ep 17 swimming with sissors

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

Last week we were introduced to our heroine Lizzie Bennet, her sisters Jane and Lydia, and best friend Charlotte. This week in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries episodes 17- 26, the Adorbs steals a show, Jane gets Binged, and we meet Mr. Collins! So I lied last week. We don’t get to meet Wickham in these episodes, he is just mentioned through discussion. Sorry for the let down, but we do get to meet, my favorite character Mr. Collins.

Wickham’s militia is modernized into a swimming competition that descends on the town every year. Lizzie is not impressed by the swimmers eloquence or astuteness when she and Lydia go to Carter’s bar. However, she is impressed by George Wickham’s gentlemanly manners. Lizzie says they met when he put his coat over a beer puddle. She commented “gentleman are an endangered species” to which George replied “yeah but they are making a comeback like mix tapes and tandem bicycles.” (well, isn’t that the cutest line ever!) He and Lizzie also exchanged numbers and start texting. Lizzie is obviously excited when she is telling Jane about this new boy because he seems different from all of the other swimmers. Lizzie thinks that Wickham might not have the same thinly veiled ulterior motives and all around douchebagginess of the other swimmers (who pretty much sound like frat boys). We will see how he turns out later. Continue reading “A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 17 – 26”

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 1 – 16

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: :Lizzie and LYDEEAH

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

Last week I wrote about my passion for the web vlog The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and introduced you to the concept of this new Pride and Prejudice adaptation and its main characters. This week I will cover Episodes 1 – 16.

What I love so much about these first episodes is that they really are all about the heroine Lizzie Bennet. We see her family, her friends, her thoughts, and her life, quirks and all. These episodes are really about her expressing who she is as a person in that moment, and it is delightful to watch.

Colin Firth dripping wet with sex as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

So often with Pride and Prejudice adaptations the focus goes right to the hero Mr. Darcy (1995 version) and I am not saying that is all bad; it is just a different view than I have of the novel. While we hear about Darcy in the early episodes, we do not see him, which gives us purely Lizzie and her friend’s viewpoints. I see Pride and Prejudice as a story about Lizzie’s self-awareness. In the LBD we are left to focus on Lizzie, which I think is Jane Austen’s whole point. Yes, Darcy is fine and dandy, BUT Lizzie Bennet is the greatest character to grace the pages of a novel (or grace a computer screen). Immediately in the vlogs we see Lizzie’s wit, charm, and personality, which is key to her character. We also see her ability to laugh and not take her self too seriously. Lizzie tells us in the second video that she loves rain, classic novels and Colin Firth movies (This tells me that we are really meant to be best friends, so move over Charlotte Lu!).

In the first few episodes we meet the Bennet sisters Lizzie, Jane and Lydia and Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte. Each is a delightful modernization of their counterpart from the novel, but they also stand alone as characters for the series even if you have never read Pride and Prejudice or seen one its many film adaptations before. The transformation from Regency-era to the 21st-century is so well done that I have very little to critique about them.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Laura Spencer as Jane Bennet

Laure Spencer plays Jane Bennet. She is the oldest Bennet sister and just as adorable as I ever could imagine the character in the novel to be. Jane is excessively sweet, but she doesn’t come off as fake. She is totally genuine, if a slight space cadet, and she is a wonderful sister to Lizzie and Lydia. She sees the best in everyone just like in the novel. Jane does come off as a bit naïve, but she sticks up for herself and her sisters when she needs to which I admire. She is also funnier than the Jane in the book, which is refreshing. In episode 15 she does a great impression of Darcy, and it is simply irresistible.

Julia Cho plays Charlotte Lu, Lizzie’s best friend and the video editor of Lizzie’s vlog project. She is a fairly dramatic departure from her character in the novel. We can see why she and Lizzie are drawn together. They are both smart, funny young women who obviously enjoy each other’s company and goofing off. Charlotte also pranks Lizzie several times in the editing of her videos, which is a cute detail. Charlotte is more pragmatic than Lizzie about the real world and her chances after grad school. Charlotte doesn’t have the “soon to be old maid” anxiety that she does in the book. Instead, her worries come from school loans and family financial problems. This is a pertinent modernization because it gives Charlotte the same urgency to find “stability and success.” In the novel she finds it through marriage to the odious Mr. Collins while in the LBD she finds it through her job. It is also very relatable for students today who are struggling to find security in their financial situations

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia says Man Banana

Lydia… Lydia… Lydia. Where to begin with Lydia? First off Mary Kate Wiles is the most engaging Lydia I have ever seen. We see her party girl ways in these early episodes but we also see how open she and how that could/will lead to conflict down the road. She loves life and seems to be enjoying every minute of it. Her bantering interactions with Lizzie are brilliant. They have a sisterly affection that has been lacking in many other adaptions. Elizabeth (in other adaptations) sometimes seems very aloof and judgmental of Lydia, yet they are sisters and spend huge amounts of time together, so they have to get along to some degree. While in the LBD, Lizzie and Lydia might not appreciate each other fully, they clearly care for one another and have a good time together.

They also are pretty hard on each other. Lydia is constantly getting on Lizzie for being “lame” or a “nerd” and Lizzie calls Lydia a “slut” several times and voices her opinion about Lydia’s poor life choices. I think these are some of Lizzie’s weaker moments because she is not seeing Lydia’s vulnerability. My favorite moment with Lydia is when she is hung over from a night drinking at “Carter’s Bar” and sleeping in Lizzie’s bed. Lizzie wakes Lydia up to help her with a video by blasting music in headphones. Lydia is a wild 20 year-old who is looking for a goodtime everywhere she goes. She just does not seem to see long term consequences of any of her actions. We also see her infatuation with Lizzie’s vlogs because she is always barging in and trying to give the camera her best angle. She seems to be seeking attention everywhere she goes. In the Q&A videos we learn that Lydia’s fake ID say “Mary Crawford” and that she is 26. This is a great little detail for Janeites who know the worldly and wild Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Lizzie: and Charlotte

While these are the only characters we actually see in the early episodes we hear about many more thought Lizzie’s “costume theater” where she dons hats and uses props to portray of characters important to the story. Through her we learn that her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, are an oddly matched couple, but I wish the LBD had more about their relationship. We hear a lot about Mrs. Bennet desire for her daughters to get married (this does seem slightly dated for todays world but I see why they had to do it) and Mr. Bennet’s ability to aggravate his wife. But I miss seeing these memorable characters in the flesh.

While I love all of Lizzie other impersonations, her take on her mother does bother me because she has a southern accent. As a young Southern woman (who has a fairly strong accent and a mother who has never tried her hand at matchmaking or stalking) I can tell you I don’t like the fact that Mrs. Bennet seems to be a “traditional Southern lady” and desperate for her daughters to get married (I keep thinking she is going to say she wants to go home to Tara but she never does). I do see the humor is Mrs. Bennet; I just hate that she has to be a “traditional Southern lady” stereotype because she sounds like a husband-hunting, match-making, coupon-cutting lunatic and most Southern women I know are nothing like that.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries E13 Lydia and Lizzie

Mr. Bennet is also lacking because we never get to see him, hear his cutting wit, or see his flaws as a father. Mr. Bennet is a wonderful and witty character in the novel, but in the LBD we just hear that he is cloistered away all day reading, enjoying his bonsai trees, or playing with trains instead of seeing him. Lizzie does tell us that he enjoys winding his wife up which sounds exactly like Mr. Bennet from the novel. In LBD, he seems like a jolly, slightly eccentric, model train loving man rather than the caustic, witty and negligence father that he is in the novel. Throughout the series there are no “adults” shown in the vlogs. Lizzie explains that since her parents are openly discussed in the vlogs, she would rather they not know about it. However, I really do miss Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.

Lizzie also tells us about Bing Lee his sister Caroline and their friend William Darcy. The Bennet’s meet them at a wedding, the modern interpretation of the assembly dance in the novel. In many respects the early encounters with Bing and Darcy parallel the book. One interesting thing is how similar Lizzie and Darcy sound in their personalities when she is describing the wedding events. Both are described as standing back from the crowd observing others rather than taking part in the festivities themselves. It is interesting that even from the beginning we can see how similar they really are even though our heroine can’t. Lizzie and Darcy are forced to dance together because Lizzie catches the bouquet, and Darcy catches the garter. Lizzie says that her dance with Darcy was the most awkward dance EVER, and she hates him even more after he slights her by saying, “Lizzie Bennet is decent enough.” She describes him as obnoxious, rude, snobby, and a douchebag. Really I can’t do Lizzie justice in this area so just go re-watch the video because it is hilarious.

Lizzie Bennet Diaries cast

Even though we hear a lot about Darcy and Bing in these early episodes, critics could say that they consume too many episodes, I think these vlogs are still much more focused on Lizzie than any other adaptation because we only get these commentaries from Lizzie’s perspective (and once from Charlotte and Jane who step in because they feel Lizzie isn’t telling the whole story). Of course Lizzie isn’t telling the whole story because it is her story with her bias of it. She is out narrative voice in the vlogs which I will talk a lot more about this in a later blog. We only have her as our guide, though I would argue she is a story teller and would follow her anywhere!

I will talk more about Darcy, Caroline, and Bing in later articles so don’t worry, we aren’t done yet. Next week I am watching episodes 17-26 where we meet WICKHAM and COLLINS!

Favorite Quotes: Episodes 1-16

  • “What if he is a gay serial killer?” (when Lizzie is thinking about Bing Lee)
  • “And what makes you think he has 500 teenage prostitutes?” (Lizzie talking to her mother)
  • “Are there any hot chicks that you want to slip your man banana into, Darcy, my homie?” (Lydia trying to reenact how Bing Lee might talk to Darcy – perhaps a cute nod to the fact that Jane Austen never had two men talking alone together in her novels because she didn’t know what they would say)
  • “Lizzie Bennet decent enough” (Lizzie telling us about Darcy’s slight of her at the wedding)
  • “There is still a Bennet sister with a longer track record of bad decision making” (Lizzie talking about Lydia)
  • “And the people in this town — enjoying top 40 radio, laughter and non-organic produce — so uncivilized” (Charlotte pretending to be Caroline)
  • “Mary Crawford… 26!!!” (Lydia’s fake ID)

Further Reading:

© 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington, Austenprose

Intro to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – A New Pride and Prejudice Adaptation

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012)

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern day online and immersive adaption” of Pride and Prejudice created by Hank Green and Bernie Su and a team of excellent writers. The 4-minute episodes are posted on Monday and Thursdays at 9:00 A.M. Pacific time (I can assure you I am waiting by my computer at that time for the next installment). They are slowly telling the story of Pride and Prejudice through online video blogs, twitter and other social media outlets. It is a very interesting adaptation of the story and look at the uses of social media as a medium of story telling. There have been 80+ videos posted to date so while this adaption is winding down there is still plenty of time to catch up before the end.

I cannot speak enough praise for this innovative new adaptation of one of my favorite novels. I have found it to be so entertaining and yet unorthodox at the same time. I am normally a Jane Austen purest, but I find this series to be hilarious, relatable, and intriguing. It is certainly geared towards a younger generation because the videos are uploaded to YouTube. It engages its viewers not just through the videos but also through other social media to make the characters truly come to life through their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. There is even a Lizzie Bennet Tumblr, and Jane Bennet even has a Pinterest page!

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: The Bennet Sisters

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries seems like the story of Pride and Prejudice transplanted in to the real modern world. Lizzie is a young woman searching to find a balance between herself, her family, her friends, her school and her work. (Who can’t relate to that?) Lizzie makes mistakes, and she has to deal with the misconceptions that she has made about people in her life including Darcy, Charlotte, Wickham, her sisters Lydia and Jane, and several of the other characters throughout the story. As the story progresses, Lizzie finds herself through her experiences and it is as beautiful to watch as it is to read in the novel. Pride and Prejudice to me seems like a coming of age story and a story of self-discovery. The Lizzie Benent Diaries allow the viewers to experience Lizzie’s life and feelings in a new and modern way so we too are discovering Lizzie as she does.

One of the highlights of this series is the cast behind the classic characters. I will talk more about the individual actors in later posts, so for now I will just tell you about the wonderful actress playing Lizzie who parallels the heroine Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries opening

The very talented actress Ashley Clements plays Lizzie, a 24 year old grad school student who is studying mass communications.  Ashley’s Lizzie is effervescent, witty and I instantly wanted to be her best friend. She is doing these vlogs (video blogs) as her thesis project for her graduate work. Young, modern, funny, and smart Ashley resembles the Elizabeth Bennet we know and love from the novel. We see some of Lizzie’s flaws in the videos as well. She is rather judgmental, sometimes harsh and even a little self-centered. These character traits however do not take away from her charm; in fact, they enhance her appeal by making her a more complex character. Elizabeth Bennet in the novel is by no means perfect, though sometimes I forget that because I love her so much.  Lizzie Bennet has similar flaws and I appreciate her for them because no one is perfect and it makes her more thought provoking.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Jane and Bing

The other characters are also interesting and engaging. Lizzie’s sister Jane Bennet is a fashion buyer who is the picture of sweetness and wholesomeness. Her best friend Charlotte Lu (Charlotte Lucas) is Lizzie’s sassy, goal oriented BFF who also helps her edit the videos. Bing Lee (Mr. Bingley) is a shy but generous medical student. Fitz William (Colonel Fitzwilliam) is a fabulously gay businessman who should have his own show. George Wickham (Mr. Wickham) is a beautiful swim coach with a great body. He also just exudes Wickham because he is too good-looking, charming and funny for his own good. From the beginning he just seems too good to be true. Gigi Darcy (Georgiana Darcy) is a young graphic designer who instantly likes Lizzie because she watches her videos and actively tries to get Lizzie and Darcy together. Gigi is a delightful character though she doesn’t really resemble the tremendously shy character from the book.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia Bennet

Lydia Bennet, Lizzie’s younger sister steals the show in many early episodes. She is a wild child and is known for her marathon style partying, double jointed arms and super sassy attitude. Lydia gets her own vblog later in the episodes where we see her emo cousin Mary and her relationship with Wickham progress. Even Lydia’s cat “Kitty Bennet” has her own twitter. I will not spoil the brilliant plot twist that the writers and creators came up with for Lydia and Wickham, but I think it is the perfect contemporary twist on Lydia’s elopement.The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia and Collins

Ricky Collins (Mr. Collins) is a personal favorite of mine. He is an owner of a big company who offers Lizzie a great paying job in language that makes you cringe and want to look way. Collins is excessively self-confident, rather incompetent and reliant on his investor Catherine de Bourgh for ideas and money. Charlotte and Ricky have great connection. Charlotte’s subtle manipulation of him is very well done. Catherine de Bourgh is never seen (along with the Bennet parents which is a loss) though Lizzie does reenact all of them in her “costume theater” which is one of the best parts of the vlogs.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie

And last but certainly not least, William Darcy (Mr. Darcy). Darcy is a hipster, well maybe not a full blown hipster but he certainly dresses like a hipster. He wears suspenders, red bowties or skinny ties, and Lizzie even calls him a “Newsie” (what is a great line!). I actually HATED it at first but after some reflection I think it is completely appropriate and a smart decision on the part of the creators. By making him a haughty hipster Darcy automatically comes off as socially awkward, stiff, and pretentious. Darcy is a character in name only until episode 59 (when we see his body but not his head). We don’t get to see Darcy really until episode 60, though we hear a lot about him. This might seem annoying but I think it does two important things for the show:

  1. It built up the suspense for the audience seeing Darcy since we hear so much about him.
  2. The first 58 videos focus so much on Lizzie, her life, her perspective and her views of Darcy that it puts the audience much more in her shoes than other adaptations where the audience sees Darcy from minute one and sees his growing attraction to Lizzie.

In the LBD we are just left with Lizzie’s view of him. This is a brilliant device by the creators who are battling the audience’s very strong preconceived ideas about Darcy. Darcy owns a big company in San Francisco called Pemberley Digital, which is coming out with a new product called Domino. I suspect Domino will play a major part in upcoming episodes to capture some of the final scenes.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy had fun once

Image from I h8 Everything Tumbler by Ginia

I am so invested in this story that I not only watch the videos; I read the tweets and view the Tumblrs, and Facebook posts regularly; follow Jane on Pinterest; and follow the actors on Facebook. What I am so intrigued by about this adaptation is that the creators designed the story to be so multi layered just like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. On the first viewing of the videos, just like with the first reading of the novel, a viewer will understand the story, but on further viewings, and investigation into the cross platform social media extravaganza that has been created, a viewer will get a more personal view of the characters and the ingenious subtleties of the plot. I have found this adaptation to bring the characters more to life then any other adaptation. I feel like the characters are relatable, engaging, and young which is so refreshing.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Fitz and Lizzie

Over the next few weeks I will be posting a weekly article about groups of episodes of the LBD and some of the things that I love them. I will be talking more about the characters, themes, modernization, cute quirks and anything else that strikes my fancy about this entertaining adaptation.

Feel free to send me links, comments and responses all about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries because I think this adaptation fosters a wonderful conversation especially for a younger generations just discovering Jane Austen. So start watching right away, and if you are a dedicated follower take this time to re-watch the early episodes so they will be fresh in you mind.

Further reading:

© 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington, Austenprose

Lady Catherine vs. Elizabeth Bennet in the Prettyish Kind of Little Wilderness

One of my favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice, and quite possibly in all literature, is the confrontation by Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Bennet in the prettyish kind of little wilderness at Longbourn. Lady Catherine has just heard an alarming report that her nephew, Mr. Darcy, was shortly to be engaged to Miss Bennet. The conversation, cat and mouse to be sure, is one of the most amazing dialogues in print. I will leave it to the reader to decide who is the cat, and who the mouse!

Each of the movie adaptations has made their attempt to capture Jane Austen’s incredibly civil, uncivil conversation between two opposing forces. Here are film clips for comparison created by Lelablue on Youtube for your enjoyment. Watch each of the versions and vote for your favorite.

P&P 1940: staring Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine

P&P 1980: staring Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet and Judy Parfitt as Lady Catherine

P&P 1995: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Catherine

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane Austen Film Adaptation Locations: Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice (1995)

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

The 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Jane Austen’s most famous couple, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, is renowned for its period accuracy, sumptuous costuming and stunning locations. Please welcome guest blogger Helen Wilkinson today as she takes us on a tour of the two locations, Lyme Park and Sudbury Hall, the filming locations for Mr. Darcy’s palatial estate Pemberley in the 1995 TV mini series production. Continue reading “Jane Austen Film Adaptation Locations: Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice (1995)”

Pride and Prejudice 1995 (Restored Edition) Available April 27th, 2010

Yep. Just when you thought that you would have to buy a Blu-ray video player to get better picture quality than previous editions of Pride and Prejudice 1995 the good folks at A&E have gone a done it. They have digitally remastered the pinnacle of perfection in Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice 1995. Now you can really see the drops of water run down Darcy chest after he takes his plunge into the Pemberley pond. ;-)

If you pre-order through that place that is not Barnes & Noble, it is being offered at 52% off the list price of $39.95. Do the math or just go order it.  The offical release date is April 27, 2010. Here is the cover blurb and all the geeky details.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has taken its place as one of the greatest television productions of all time. The landmark adaptation from A&E and the BBC captured the hearts of millions by seamlessly translating the wit, romance, and intelligence of Jane Austen’s classic novel to the screen.

With a masterful script, deft direction, and star-making performances from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE transports viewers to Georgian England, where affairs of the heart are an exquisite game, and marriage the ultimate prize. But Elizabeth Bennet – spirited, independent, and one of five unmarried sisters – is determined to play by her own rules and wed for love, not money or privilege. Will her romantic sparring with the mysterious and arrogant Darcy end in misfortune–or will love’s true nature prevail?

Now beautifully remastered for the ultimate in picture and sound quality, relive the timeless classic PRIDE & PREJUDICE on 2 DVDs.

Bonus Features:

  • Completely Digitally Remastered for the Ultimate in Picture and Sound Quality
  • Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation
  • Featurettes “Lasting Impressions,” “An Impromptu Walkabout with Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers,” “Turning Point,” “Uncovering the Technical Restoration Process”
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette: “The Making of Pride and Prejudice”
  • English Subtitles

Additional Details:

  • Format: Box Set, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Run Time: 5 Hours 23 Minutes + extras
  • Region: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Language: English
  • Studio: A&E Television Networks
  • Closed Captioning: No
  • ASIN: B00364K6YW
  • UPC: 733961206739

I feel a P&P 1995 Twitter Party calling.

Austen at Large: Darcy and Davies: Adapting Mr. Darcy from the Novel to the Screen

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s most popular if not most adapted novel, and  its famous hero Mr. Darcy has been interpreted in many different ways. There have been several excellent period adaptations of Pride and Prejudice which present Darcy’s character differently, particularly Fay Weldon’s 1980 and Andrew Davies 1995 versions. These two adaptations master the characters of Austen’s work which is so important. Weldon’s perhaps captures it slightly better than Davies’ because she is not as focused on Darcy as he is. Davies’s tries to bring Darcy’s side of the story forward so that the viewer sympathizes with him and sees what a good character he is long before Elizabeth feels the same way. This goes against the feeling of the novel because the reader is guided by Elizabeth’s thoughts for the majority of the novel rather than understanding Darcy’s.

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Pride and Prejudice‘s popularity has been growing over the years bringing more people to Jane Austen as well. Many of the adaptations are wonderful but the viewer has to keep in mind that it is the novel that is at the heart of the film. They should not depart drastically. Pride and Prejudice can be adapted faithfully to the novel while bringing the characters to life. It is only a matter of the writer and director doing it, some have and some have not.

Mr. Darcy in the tub, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Davies’ adaptation might as well be called “Darcy’s Story” at times. Darcy is a great character in the novel and yet the story is not about him. It is about Elizabeth, her relationship with her family, and then Darcy. In Davies screenplay Darcy’s point of view is given to the viewer to show us his softer side, the side Elizabeth can’t see immediately but the viewer can. In the novel Darcy is suppose to be constantly looking at Elizabeth and these looks can explain a lot about his character. Andrew Davies explained,

One of the first things that struck me about Pride and Prejudice is that the central motor which drives the story forward is Darcy’s sexual attraction to Elizabeth. He doesn’t particularly like her, he’s appalled by the rest of her family and he fights desperately against this attraction.” (BBC website)

In Davies’ version these looks are almost always of admiration and approbation, yet in other versions it is not easy to tell why Darcy is looking at Elizabeth. David Rintoul’s Darcy in the 1980 Weldon adaptation hides his facial expressions better than Firth’s 1995 Darcy does. Yet, perhaps Firth is meaning to wear emotions on his face (though this is not very Darcy like) to bring him more to life and to make him more agreeable. One positive aspect of Darcy in this adaptation is that he practically has to relearn everything he thought he knew about women to get Elizabeth. He has been use to objectifying them but when Elizabeth comes along, she sparks a change in him. The problem is that this is a little too fanciful. Darcy does change and for the better with Elizabeth’s help, but as Elizabeth points out to herself in the end of the novel “She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin“. He is not a completely changed creature and Elizabeth knows this. The viewer, like the reader should love Darcy in the end for the reasons Elizabeth does. That he is a gracious, kind, thoughtful man and he is better than we ever believed possible from their first encounter; yet for this to be successful the viewer cannot be idolizing over Darcy for three quarters of the film which is what most viewers are doing in this version.

Mr. Darcy does the dip, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Davies’ adaptation is an almost faithful reworking of the novel for a modern and sexual audience. Darcy’s sex appeal cannot be over looked and is overplayed by Firth. In the novel Darcy’s character is what makes him a fine man, not his body. The story shifts focus in this adaptation to Darcy which though it seems faithful, I think it undermines Austen’s original story because viewers can feel more sympathy for Darcy than they do for Elizabeth.

Although Jane Austen’s book was told very much from Elizabeth’s point of view, Andrew decided to make his version very much Darcy’s story as well. He did this partly by inserting new scenes which showed Darcy outside the stiff social events, allowing the viewer to see more of the real man” (BBC website).

The opening of film shows what the emphasis will be about as Davies opens his film with Darcy and Bingley riding on horseback, rather than begining with one of the most famous line in the English language, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife“. Instead, Elizabeth is given these lines a few scenes in, but by starting with Darcy, Davies’ is perhaps showing where his focus will be throughout the production, on Darcy rather than on Elizabeth.

 Pride and Prejudice (1995) DVD cover        Pride and Prejudice (1980) DVD cover

As much as I love the 1995 adaptation written by Andrew Davies, I really dislike how Darcy takes the center stage at times. Even when looking at the  DVD cover compared with the 1980 Fay Weldon version, the 1995 cover includes Colin Firth as Darcy front and center with Elizabeth only in the background with Jane, while on my 1980 DVD cover it has Elizabeth and Jane in the front and Darcy only in the background with Elizabeth. I know these might be merely marketing issues that I am raising but it is worth thinking about because if the focus of the adaptation changes too much, then what is it saying about those who are watching it. I just get tired of the Darcy mania. I sometimes feel that I am on a soap box shouting about him so I don’t want people to think that I don’t like him in the end. I DO. Who couldn’t? But I just think that readers and viewers of the movies should remember the original story in mind because that is what is so amazing, not some adaptation of it. Ok enough soap box… what does everyone else think?

Until next week,

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland. 

The Flaws & Perfections of Miss Eliza Bennet

Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (1979)

From the desk of Virginia Claire:

As many people who read this blog each week may know, Elizabeth Bennet is my favorite heroine. She is witty, caring, intelligent, honest, and bold. All characteristics which though I myself may not possess, I respect them in characters, as well as in people. In Elizabeth Bennet I do not see an idealized woman, yet I find her perfect. She has flaws, real ones, which I think makes her such a power and realistic character. Elizabeth Bennet would be the type of girl that I think many people would want to be their best friend. (Though we would not want the same fate as Charlotte) Continue reading “The Flaws & Perfections of Miss Eliza Bennet”

Austen at Large: Some of my own prejudices when it come to Pride and Prejudice

Matthew Macfayden, Pride and Prejudice 2005

This week, as I began to reread Pride and Prejudice with my Jane Austen class, I have discovered some prejudices that I have. In reading a book that I know and love so well, I have almost found it hard to understand some people’s opinions of it. I will say that most girls in my class are very thoughtful and make wonderful remarks but there are some that I completely disagree with. I don’t know if it is because of my own prejudices against these views or what, but at times I feel that people are letting the adaptations influence their readings of the novel. Though I try to be a very thoughtful reader, and believe that students individually take away different things from a text, I find it difficult to understand where some of these girls are coming from. Sometimes I think that adaptations have limited or influenced their point of view, and yet when I think about it perhaps another adaptation has influenced or limited me as well. Yet I do try to look at the text for the text, and not how it is adapted in a movie.

I will give an example of this situation: We were reading aloud Darcy’s 1st proposal and Elizabeth’s refusal when one of the girls said “I think that Elizabeth really wanted to say yes somewhere deep down inside of her.” I could not let this observation go by without commenting on it because I did not see that in the text. If anyone wants to make an argument for it I would be more than willing to listen to it, but all this student could back it up with was that she just had a feeling that Elizabeth really wanted to say yes. When I read the text I see Elizabeth being completely driven by her dislike, irritation and misunderstanding of Darcy. She has just been pouring over her beloved sister Jane’s letters examining how much pain Jane is in because of Darcy. She notices that,

They contained no actual complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any communication of present suffering. But in all, and in almost every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterize her style, and which, proceeding from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself, and kindly disposed towards every one, had been scarcely ever clouded. (Chapter 34)

I think that for Elizabeth the knowledge of Mr. Darcy’s evolvement with the separation of Jane and Mr. Bingley would have driven away any feelings that she ever had (and which I think she NEVER had) for him.

Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice 2005

What I see in comments like this in class is the problem of Austen adaptations. I am not blaming any movie particularly, but rather the viewer. Every adaption brings something to the table that is interesting, and it is good to see many different points of view and such. What I have a HUGE problem with is when the adaptations start to taint the books; when readers start seeing the book as the movie and trying to make them fit together. No adaptation is ever going to be completely faithful to a book, (though the Fay Weldon 1980 Pride and Prejudice is pretty close), yet it is the job of the viewer to know the difference, and see through the movie. I think my friend was allowing the 2005 movie to influence her reading of the novel. I see that movie as trying to portray that Lizzy and Darcy are meant for each other from the first time they meet and that in the proposal scene, though Lizzy is very mad, there is some part of her that is still attracted to and interested in Darcy. As if they were soul mates and their souls were drawn together and yet their minds were keeping them apart.

I think this is making too much of the romance of the novel and ignoring Elizabeth’s real thoughts and feelings on the matter. The novel says,

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger (Chapter 34).

I think this shows Elizabeth’s feeling on the matter perfectly. “Her intentions did not vary for a second“. It is hard for me to see the argument of Lizzy really wanted to say “yes” to Mr. Darcy in this scene. I just don’t buy it. I don’t buy it as an argument in the text and I certainly don’t buy it in the adaptation when they almost kiss at the end of the scene.

Matthew Macfayden, Pride and Prejudice 2005

I would be interested to know anyone else’s opinion on the subject because I think the use and power of adaptations is very interesting especially with Austen. A movie will never out do the book for me, I just wish that we would become better readers so that the novel will be speaking rather than an adaptation of it. Perhaps these are just my prejudices against those who perhaps like the movies better than the books, but as a lover of Austen’s novels it is hard for me to see how anything could surpass them.

Till next week!

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.

Who Wants Mr. Darcy Hanging Around Your House – – All the Time?

Portrait of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (1995)The portrait of actor Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice is on the block on January 21st through Bonhams Auction House in London and available to the highest bidder. This may very well be the ultimate Darcy fan collectible. Not only is it a portrait of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, it represent the most significant turning point in the novel when the heroine Elizabeth Bennet gazes up at the Master of Pemberley and realizes that he’s not the chump that she thought he was; begins to fall in love; changing the course of novel and literary history; tra la! 

And what a clever plot twist Jane Austen devised in having heroine Elizabeth Bennet so moved by the depiction and what he entails, “As a brother, a landlord, a master,” that her reaction to the portrait adds a “more gentle sensation toward the original” and “regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before“. Other authors over the years have recognized the importance of a good portrait and used it to their advantage. Hollywood has picked up on this also, and I have been fascinated over the years how often it pops up in films. The most famous movie portrait is probably from the 1944 film-noir classic Laura, starring Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt whose hauntingly beautiful portrait moves the detective Mark Dana Andrews gazes at the portrait of Gene Tierney as Laura (1944)McPherson played by Dana Andrews to fall in love with her even though he is investigating her murder. Another great movie portrait is shown in Gone With the Wind. The vain heroine Scarlett O’Hara Butler has just given birth, and as the father Rhett Butler toasts his wife and new daughter, we see a huge full length portrait of Scarlett in the background looking down supremely over the scene. From that moment on the plot significantly changes when Scarlett decides she is too fat from the baby and will have no more, spurning her husband from their bed and ruining their love. The ultimate movie portrait gone bad is in the 1945 Gothic classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray based on the 1891 novel by Oscar Wilde in which a vain plea by the young handsome hero to never grow old is mysteriously granted, but his portrait grotesquely ages, ultimatley destorying him. Jane Austen knew of the power of the portrait, but her predecessors have never reached the impact that she achieved in one brief passage in the novel. 

A more flattering view of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, (1995)The Darcy portrait has never been one of my favorites. I have always thought that it was not very flattering to either entities, Mr. Darcy or Mr. Firth. It made them look stout and way too middle-aged, which either was not. It appears that during the production of the 1995 miniseries the portrait had an even worse beginning and improvements were made to try to give Mr. Darcy a more favorable interpretation. You can read the full story written by Colin Firth in the letter that accompanies the lucky winner of the portrait. The proceeds of the auction will benefit charities, though its provenance is not mentioned. One wonders out loud if it has been in Firth’s possession and he was ready to pass it on so to speak. I can’t blame him really, because it is not his best likeness. However, from the viewpoint of a national treasure, that is another story, which some deep pocket or Jane Austen institution will be happy to supplant equal measure in pewter to Bonhams for the sheer pleasure of having Mr. Darcy gaze at them all day long!

Pride and Prejudice: Which Mr. Darcy Has the Noble Mien for You?

Portrait of Edmund Lenthal Swifte circa 1802, by John OpieMr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley… The Narrator, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3

This is our introduction to the infamous Mr. Darcy from chapter three. Fine, tall, handsome, noble with ten thousand pounds a year! What a social pedigree. What unmarried woman, or over anxious mother would not want to snag him as a husband for themselves or their daughter? Interestingly, the description is subjective, allowing the reader to insert their own physical characteristics to form their ideal Mr. Darcy. How then did the archetype of Fitzwilliam Darcy as dark haired and fair complected come about? Blame the movies.

This striking portrait of a Regency era gentleman matches my impression of what Mr. Darcy should look like in my mind from Jane Austen’s description and the later influence of Hollywood and television. When I came across this portrait of Edmund Lenthal Swifte on the Tate Museum website, I was struck by the incredible similarity to actor David Rintoul who had portrayed Mr. Darcy in the 1979 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. They could be twins separated at birth by two hundred years. ;)

So gentle readers, who is your ultimate Darcy archetype? In a contest of dueling Darcy’s between Edmund Lenthal Swifte, Sir Lawrence Olivier, David Rintoul, Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen or Elliot Cowan, who really floats your boat? Cast your vote before November 1. You might just be surprised with the results.

Dueling Mr. Darcys

Me and Mr. Darcy, (not the book …)

Illustration of Mr. Darcy, by Chris Duke, (1980)“And that,” said Mrs. Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, “is my master — and very like him. It was drawn at the same time as the other — about eight years ago.”  

“I have heard much of your master’s fine person,” said Mrs. Gardiner, looking at the picture; “it is a handsome face. But, Lizzy, you can tell us whether it is like or not.”  

Mrs. Reynolds’s respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on this intimation of her knowing her master. 

“Does that young lady know Mr. Darcy?”  

Elizabeth coloured, and said — “A little.”  

“And do not you think him a very handsome gentleman, ma’am?”  

“Yes, very handsome.”

Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Gardiner & Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 43 

Darcy Sightings

The sun is shining today in the Pacific Northwest, and consequently I am quite distracted and have bloggers malaise! The temperatures are in low 80’s! I am in raptures to say the least, enjoying one of the 10 – 20 days of clear skies and warm weather that we will receive in a year. If any of you use Google Earth and have looked up your homes from a satellite view, this is a day that those geeks who take the photos jump around like monkeys to get clear pictures to update the database! Real Estate types are also busy today, snapping photos of all of their home listings to plaster on their web sites to trick out-of-towners into thinking this is usual weather in the Pacific Northwest!  I know, I know; —  I am as cynical as Jane Austen’s character Mr. Palmer to be sure! 

Image of Lake Stevens with Mt. Pilchuck in the distance (2008)

My neighborhood in the country turns into another world when the sun shines. Imagine, I actually need my sun glasses to see outside. As I walked to my car to run errands, a swallowtail butterfly fluttered across my path and almost collided with me. He was drunk on the sunshine too! I live quite close to a lake, and the road that I travel to the market skirts the shore past a public beach (so to speak) where boaters can launch their jet skis (argh) and swimmers can brave the cold water. The view to the distant Mt. Pilchuck with its patches of lingering snow is quite lovely, when we can see it. Being the eternal optimist, I bought fudge cicles to stock up for the weekend, and stopped by the beach on my way back and enjoyed one while looking at the view. There were scads of teenagers on the rocky beach sitting on towels and chairs trying to get a one day tan, hip-hop music blasting from a boom box and the roar of jet skis from the water. 

Continue reading “Me and Mr. Darcy, (not the book …)”

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