Welcome, yogis, to Jane-asana, and thank you for taking this time out of your day to do something good for your body and spirit. Today we’ll be focusing on core strength, flexibility, and deep truths about life and love, while finding our inner plucky heroines and searching for love among our intellectual and emotional equals. Any requests today? Handsome scoundrels? Yes—I think we can work that in.
Cow Pose: Kneel on all fours. Inhaling, drop the belly, finding a back bend and allowing your head to rise last. Make mean comments about the countryside and about your crush’s crush’s dirty hem. Find yourself summarily smacked down, to the remorse of absolutely nobody.
Peaceful Warrior (for Colonel Brandon): With one leg bent deeply and the other straight and strong through the knee, windmill your arms up to horizontal for Warrior II pose. With the breath and finding a back bend, drop the back arm down the hamstring and raise the front arm vertically, as if it were a bow. Wear flannel waistcoats, provide for the abandoned illegitimate daughter of another man, and eventually marry a much younger woman, whom you love for her emotional acuity.
Wild Thing Pose: Beginning in Downward Dog, flip your dog by lifting one hand and flipping upside down in the opposite direction, supporting yourself in a back bend with both feet and the remaining hand. Extend the leg on the same side as the supporting hand, and with the non-supporting hand, make a clawing motion. Run off to Scotland with a handsome scoundrel, only to return and brag obliviously to your sisters when he’s been forced to marry you. Hope for the best.
“Captain Wentworth is on a” Boat Pose: Sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend one leg and then the other, shifting your weight backwards so that your torso and upper legs form a V and your lower legs are parallel to the ground. Lift one arm and then the other to extend alongside your legs parallel to the ground. Pine. Repeat for seven years, then return to check out the situation with the girl you secretly wanted to marry this whole time.
Corpse Pose (Mrs. Woodhouse-asana/Mr. Dashwood-asana): Settle onto your back with the legs as wide as your mat, allowing the feet to splay sideways. Allow the arms to fall at a forty-five-degree angle to the body, or, if it helps you to connect with your inner Mrs. Woodhouse, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Allow the spine to become long, tucking your chin slightly. Remain here until your daughter marries a nice but vaguely judgmental young man. And, well, beyond.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our tape-delayed evening coverage of the Ladies’ Terrible Sisters, or ‘Bitchiness,’ competition. I hope Twitter hasn’t told you the outcome! Here we are in the third rotation of the individual all-around, and the rivalries are fierce! Let’s check in with a few of the top contenders.”
“Miss Caroline Bingley is the heavy favorite coming into this evening’s rotation, and she’s worked hard for the title of frontrunner. Her bold style and her role in Austen’s most-read novel certainly places her at the head of the pack, but for Miss Bingley, it’s not just a label. We’ve seen that she is especially strong in the ‘direct insult’ and ‘letter of malicious intent’ events.”
“I have seen Miss Bingley stumble occasionally; her periodic lack of subtlety has been known to reveal her true character to the observant viewer, including that famous interaction regarding Elizabeth Bennet’s dirty hem and fine eyes. She would do well to proceed carefully this evening if she wants to keep it under wraps and get the guy. Remember, being terrible without being obviously terrible is key to this sport.”
“Mrs. John Dashwood might be a surprise contender, what with the ‘well, they don’t really need MONEY to LIVE ON’ maneuver—we haven’t seen much of her, but her skilled manipulation of her husband shows skills that might easily take on this field. What Mrs. Dashwood lacks in name recognition, she makes up for in subtlety—just look at the way she talked John Dashwood out of providing for his half-sisters and their mother.”
“She’s so effortless. Just look at that—a picture of grace. And by grace I mean incredible selfishness.”
“You’re so right about that. Now, what you do think about Mary Crawford’s standing in the competition?”
“Mary is something of a dark horse here tonight. Her performance during Tom Bertram”s illness last year really put her on the map—viewers will remember the way she implied that perhaps Tom’s death and the distribution of his fortune might actually be a boon to his family and ‘friends’—but with the tough competition this year, I don’t think she’ll end up on the podium. She might be prettier and more socially adept than Miss Bingley, but I just don’t think she has the killer instinct.”
“So right. And here we have the underdogs of the group, the sister-pair Julia and Maria Bertram. What’s your take on their act tonight?”
“Ooh, Julia and Maria have really been struggling this week—they obviously passed the Trials stage, but I just don’t think they have the consistency to excel in this event. Athletes like Miss Bingley and Mrs. Dashwood make clear that this field isn’t just about mild cluelessness; it really has to be pointed and intentional, and oh, look at that display of compassion. That’s not going to help them at ALL.”
“They have got to be wondering what they’re doing here. I mean, rumor has it they’ve been laughed mirthlessly out of the athletes’ locker room and have resorted to sitting in the corner, eating their own hair.”
“Ooh, that’s not good. For them, I mean. It’s pretty good for everybody else.”
“Well, we’re only twenty seconds from the conclusion of this rotation, so let’s break for commercial. Stay tuned for further coverage of the Shrill Mothers competition later tonight; we guarantee you’ll need your earplugs. We’ll be back in just a minute; don’t touch that remote.”
This week, only 13 years late: BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth!
As many of you know, I first saw this a few weeks ago. There’s nothing like some good MST3K time with my beloved sisters. But, I have to admit, I came out of it pretty meh. I am not the adoring fan that I know so many of you are. I can see why you love it! I can see it as a good intro to Austen. And I didn’t hate it. But it wasn’t enough to sway my persnickety self from the 1980 version, and, so much better than both, the book itself. Deep thoughts:
- It’s pretty close to the book, lots of word for word, even if they did leave out some of my favorite lines. Though the post-Lydia-eloping part gets really compacted in this version. Seems like all the characters do is get in and out of carriages.
- I actually liked the scene-setting parts that aren’t in the book—showing the countryside and town and all. You get a better sense of their world.
- Plus I liked Jennifer Ehle better than I thought I would! I thought she would be too sappy; she was not too sappy. Check.
- You want to talk Colin Firth? OK, let’s talk Colin Firth. Sure, he’s tall and cute, but he’s wooden. (Ha ha, get your minds out of the ha-ha, kids!) By which I mean he stares at Lizzie in a frankly creepy way for 3/4 of the movie. I’m spoiled by already having seen him in A Single Man and The King’s Speech, and I say he could tear the part up now 10 times better than he did it then. (Apart from being too old, and what do we think of Helena Bonham-Carter as Lizzie? . . . OK, back to 1995.)
- Let’s talk more Colin Firth! Why do we call it “the Colin Firth version?” Is fans’ love of this version simply based on the Firthy Goodness (thank you, Miss Osborne)? Is it because we’re not sure how to say “Ehle”? (AY-lee, I think.) I’m curious. Because she is after all the star, though this version does try to bring him closer to stardom than Jane put him, by showing us his Inner Feelings, and his butt, and his famous wet shirt. Thoughts?
- Jane Bennet is all wrong. No one thinks she’s prettier than Lizzie. (And she has a thick neck.)
- It was kind of amusing at first, but it grated on me more and more that all the supporting characters were seriously exaggerated from the book. Any complexity in them was left out, and they were all completely one-dimensional. It makes them more fun to laugh at and all, but it does hurt the story. I mean, who would really believe Miss Bingley was their friend? She’s totally scary! And Mrs. Bennet always shrieking flattens the drama and believability of her crazy mood swings. Etc.
So, as I said, some mixed feelings. However, at least I now know what all you crazy kids mean when you say “No one wants your concertos here!” and “Lord, I’m so fat!” And that is a comfort.
Well, it’s happened. The lovely Miss Mason has drawn my attention to a new Jane Austen video game: Matches and Matrimony. In this “visual novel,” Reflexive Arcade’s Russell Carroll does something new—he mashes up three Austen novels with each other. Here is a turn no one had thought of! I don’t have a PC, so I haven’t played, but Emily Short over at Gamasutra gives an in-depth review (also funny for her exhaustive—one hopes—list of Austen fanfic). Apparently you play Elizabeth Bennet, and your goal is to marry Mr. Darcy. Or, if you fail with him, Colonel Brandon and Captain Wentworth show up in their turns for you to take a shot at.
Does the deep irony of this strike anyone but me? Who wrote this game, Mrs. Bennet?! When was it Lizzie’s goal to marry Mr. Darcy? When was it Marianne’s goal to marry Col. Brandon?? Not even after she did, you could argue! It was not even Anne Elliot’s goal to marry Capt. Wentworth, though she wanted to. Any and all of these ladies would scorn to set their cap at any man, to scheme and plan and work on pleasing him—for that is how you move ahead in the game. Uh, excuse me? This is the behavior of Caroline Bingley, not Elizabeth Bennet. And we know how that match-up turned out!
In this same vein, Jane Austen’s Games is working on a game called Matchmaker. Sigh. At least there you’ll be the mother trying to marry your daughter off, and not the daughter herself.
Do you know, this actually makes me wish for Wii games with heroines in Regency dresses and corsets where if you took a deep breath your avatar would faint, and for Jane Austen first-person shooters in which you lose a life (social) if your petticoat gets dirty.
Seriously, though, assuming such a thing was necessary, how would you envision a Jane Austen video game? I think it’d have to be like The Sims or Second Life. (The aforementioned Miss Mason did build her own Pemberley in The Sims, so she’s been onto this for awhile.) Austen wrote about daily life and realistic encounters with family, friends, and local annoying people. Her heroines moved within strict boundaries, which makes programming their choices simpler, perhaps, but they were searching for happiness. That did mean moving away from home and marrying, but that did not, as Lizzie tells Jane, make marriage a goal to be worked towards. It’s a subtle story, and not one that lends itself to dramatic game-play or special effects. So my game would just be a Regency world where you have to act properly or take the consequences, but in which you’d be as you chose. Finding love and happiness would be, well, exactly like in real life. Without Austen’s voice telling those stories, I don’t know how compelling it would be, but Electronic Arts would probably go for it. There’s already a Sims: Medieval, apparently.
However, even Austen heroines kicking unrealistic butt with major weaponry sounds better than Austen heroines competing on The (Regency) Bachelor.
Today, we’re talking royal wedding. SURPRISE! I mean, come on. It’s not like anybody’s talking about this little shindig. We’re just trying to make sure you get your fill, is what we’re saying. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Okay, so royal wedding talk isn’t exactly Austen. After all, nobody in Jane Austen marries a prince, and maybe that’s half the point. But it’s wedding week! We’re down to the thirty-six-hour mark, people, and these navels aren’t going to gaze at themselves! What do you want from us?
So as we rush towards the big day, leaving commemorative mugs and press-on nails in our wake, we ask: Is Wills marrying an accomplished woman? And does it matter?
In a sense, maybe we’re past the point of the Jane-ian “a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages….something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions.” Kate, after all, graduated from university with honors; all things being equal, she might have gone on to work and distinguish herself on any number of personal and professional merits. But then, parts of Bingley’s list do translate awfully well to the kinds of traits the royal family is looking for in a daughter-in-law: sure, she hasn’t had a job since 2007, but she’s certainly on top of her Best Dressed status. She photographs beautifully. She hasn’t said anything cringe-worthy in the press. She even studied Art History at St. Andrews, potentially taking care of that precious “drawing” (or, at a minimum, “talking about drawing”) requirement. For the twenty-first century, she can’t possibly be too far off the mark.
I wonder about Kate and what she’s going to do after the wedding—again, not that she appears to be an absolute comet of ambition (other than social) now. Perhaps being a princess is a full-time job, what with all that careful waving and the wearing of oppressively heavy headgear? On the other hand, until she distinguishes herself in some way, she dwells in the shadow of perhaps the ultimate accomplished woman: Princess Diana, who, after playing the basic princess and later slogging through an ugly break-up with her prince, got the ultimate revenge in the form of doing something significant with her life and being almost universally loved for it. I guess this is my hope for Kate—I wish her marital happiness in the manner of any winning Austenian marriage, of course, but I also hope that she’ll be (or become) accomplished in a sense greater than the drawing-room one. I’d love to see her use all of those carefully honed skills to the end of being somebody unique or doing something interesting for the world.
Because not even Caroline Bingley can argue with that (though Lord knows she’d try).
Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from…well, everywhere else…duke it out for all to see! The prizes: pride, honor, and the adoration of Jane fans everywhere, or a “The first rule of fight club is, we don’t talk about Mr. Darcy” t-shirt and some quality Regency-era medical care!
Caroline “Look at her mother” Bingley of Pride and Prejudice takes on Nellie “Doll-Snatcher” Oleson, villainess extraordinaire of the Little House books! Will Caroline’s sugar-coated machinations be any match for Nellie’s direct-violence methods? Yes, the Mean Girls’ Match is on!
In their corners:
Caroline lists her favorite hobbies as taking turns about the room, crafting subtle barbs to wound her dear friends, and, oh yes, completely ruining their lives. All with a smile, you know. She won’t let you live anything down, from your dirty socks to your mistaken moments of honesty (“fine eyes” indeed, Mr. Darcy!), and she’ll stab you in the back every time.
Nellie likes to pull your hair, snatch her dolls out of your hands, and make fun of your mother. In round 2, she tries everything she can to get you kicked out of school and to catch and keep all the available men, especially ones called Almanzo.
Caroline actually acted out of kindness once. Yes, she did—she tried to tell Lizzie that Mr. Wickham wasn’t quite the golden boy Lizzie thought he was. However, she did it so offensively that no harm was done, and Lizzie liked Mr. Wickham better than ever!
Nellie let Laura back her into a pond and get leeches all over her. She even cried about it, seriously losing face. How can you take a villainess seriously after that?
Ding ding ding! It’s Miss Bingley, without a fight! She runs rings around Nellie Oleson, all while keeping her pants dry and her wit intact. Nellie tries, but none of her schemes work for long—Laura sees through her every time, and scares her silly with leeches, horses, or whatever’s there. It takes almost the whole book for Caroline’s plot to unravel. She’s got Jane, her brother, and Mr. Darcy sown up so tight that only the blundering of Lady Catherine can set them free. And, mind you, that happens when Lizzie and Mr. Darcy are at Rosings, where the Mistress of Manipulation can’t keep an eye on them. Nope, in the Mean Girl Stakes, it’s Miss Bingley for the win!