Today, readers, is the big day: the end of the era of Emma! Should we all hug and cry and say we’ll see each other during summer? Shall someone play ”Free Bird” as our class song? I don’t want to make a speech. Someone else should do that. And then in four to six weeks, someone can mail us that all-important piece of paper, to declare that we all read this really long and cringe-inducing novel and came out the other side. Ready?
First, a few minor observations:
- You know, I WANT to be cool about Mr. Knightley and his crush on the junior-high set, because it was a different time and I don’t think Jane meant anything by it (though we’re certainly allowed to be scandalized by Wickham and fifteen-year-old Georgiana Darcy, over in that other universe), and we all know Mr. Knightley is nothing if not an obnoxiously upstanding citizen. But that “saucy looks” comment is totally not helping.
- I do, however, love Mr. Knightley’s comments about the inconvenience of giving a large musical instrument as a gift. Once, a college friend spontaneously gave my roommate and me a betta—Simon the Wonder Fish!—who was beautiful and a source of great joy for about six days, when he died, probably because we were keeping him in a plastic lychee-jelly bucket, which in retrospect was likely full of BPA and other fish-murdering toxins. That was one dramatic fish funeral (in the bathroom, naturally). I feel like a pianoforte at a house that isn’t even your own is probably kind of like an unexpected pet that’s going to die in less than a week.
- And, okay, it makes me so happy that Mr. and Mrs. George Knightley live happily ever after in her home, or rather her father’s home—that Mr. Knightley gives up his estate for the good of goofy old Mr. Woodhouse. Because he is judgy, yes, but sweet! Which I suppose is the conclusion I’ve come to in general. Judgy, but sweet. I think I can live with that.
- As delightful as Paul Rudd is in Clueless—and everything else; let’s be real—I keep trying to insert him into a plain old Regency adaptation of Emma, and failing. I just don’t think he’s stern enough unless he’s talking Clinton-era environmentalism, you know?
Sooo, this is the end of Emma. And…what? We started this read-along primarily because Mrs. F couldn’t hang with Emma herself long enough to get through the book. I guess the question is: do we feel differently now, about her or about the novel?
I think I’m mostly relieved: not because Emma marries Mr. Knightley in the end, though I enjoyed the romance portion about a thousand times more than I remembered, but because she doesn’t stay who she was at the beginning of the novel. (This is my main complaint about Mansfield Park—Fanny Price never learns anything, so what, exactly, is the point?) I don’t know that I hate Early Emma as much as many of you, but can you imagine—nobody points out the horror of her comment to Miss Bates (or anything else), and Emma remains exactly who she is and continues leaving a wake of social and emotional havoc behind her, and maybe she never marries, or maybe she marries somebody like Frank Churchill, who thinks she’s always right. Hartfield and the surrounding area, and eventually Earth and the moon and the sun and the universe, are sucked into a black hole of her self-regard. And that’s the end. And all because Mr. Knightley failed to deliver that key lecture in that benevolently affronted tone of his!
Okay, maybe it’s not quite like that, but…kind of. In any case, Emma is the Austen heroine who most harms other people with her flaws—the rest simply hang themselves with their judginess/lack of self-control/overabundance of self-control/overabundance of imagination—which I think makes her redemption seem extra necessary. When she finally does change, the release of tension is palpable.
I still have my doubts about Frank and Jane Fairfax, but you all already know about that. I just don’t know, you guys.
So. Now that it’s over, how are you and Emma? Lay it on me.
Hey, Emma fans! Did you get through Emma’s snobbery and manipulative jerkiness, part 1? Good job! I really do hate this part of the book. . . That’s why we’re a little behind posting, but I’ll try to make up lost time.
Chapters 6–10, Scheming: Emma decides Harriet should marry Mr. Elton and not Robert Martin. So she makes Harriet fall in love will Mr. Elton and reject Mr. Martin, and she convinces herself that Mr. Elton loves Harriet.
OK, let’s cut to the chase. Emma, WTF are you doing to Harriet? Why do you make her reject this guy that she really seems to like? Emma seems diabolical here—Machiavellian, evil. It is so off-putting that I spend a lot of time finding excuses for her behavior.
- It’s interesting, I think, that Miss Woodhouse could never visit Mrs. Robert Martin. Snobby and weird to us, but everyone agrees about that. Mr. Knightley, everyone. So it’d be sort of like convincing one of your friends that she shouldn’t take a job 3,000 miles away. Your friend kind of likes it there, but also likes it here. You don’t have many friends and you’d be lonely without her. You also think you can get her a better job here. This is selfish of you, sure. But more understandable than convincing her not to take a job 3 miles away.
- It would be less evil if Emma just said these things. But Emma isn’t really a straightforward person. And Harriet really is pretty clueless! So Emma gives us a lesson in Machiavellian tactics and misdirection. There’s no excuse for that.
- Also interesting that Mr. Knightley thinks Mr. Martin is Emma’s inferior in society just as much as Emma does. The difference is that Mr. Knightley thinks Harriet is socially inferior too. It’s purely Emma’s imaginings about Harriet’s background that make Emma think Harriet is not inferior to her.
- And, my favorite argument about this: Mr. Darcy does exactly the same thing to Mr. Bingley! And boasts about it to Colonel Fitzwilliam! Yet we don’t hold it against him, dislike him for it, as we do Emma. Maybe if we heard how Mr. Darcy dissuades Mr. Bingley, and how Mr. Bingley responded, we would think about it more. It’s so off-camera that it’s easy to ignore. We can imagine them acting in the best possible way—we don’t have to hear Mr. Darcy manipulating Mr. Bingley explicitly.
OK, enough of that. Here are some other scenic points along the way:
- I’m fascinated by the description of Emma’s natural talent and lack of application when they’re talking about her portraits in Chapter 6. She is like the quintessential slacker gifted kid. I can relate.
- Check out the conversation on What Men Want between Emma and Mr. Knightley in Chapter 8. Emma says (playfully), men like pretty girls better than smart ones. But Mr. Knightley says, “Men of sense . . . do not want silly wives.” I love Austen and her women-respecting heroes! Mr. Knightley acknowledges Emma has “reason”—rational thought. No surprise to us now, but this was a debate that went back and forth at the time. Could women think rationally or were they entirely governed by emotion. Emma’s a flawed person, but she is intelligent. I’d love to know how readers of the time viewed that—I know they didn’t like her, but was her “reason,” her brain, a thing people doubted?
- Mr. Elton is the Justin Bieber of Highbury—everybody’s crush! So popular! So beautiful!
- Mr. Woodhouse is almost a caricature of old people in general – anything new or any change is terrible! But Emma is like her father in supposing what’s good or bad for her is good or bad for everyone. Jane makes fun of Mr. Woodhouse explicitly: “his spirits [were] affected by his daughter’s attachment to her husband.”
- It’s interesting that we see Emma’s charity to the poor family—maybe Austen felt like she needed to show us that Emma is objectively a good person. Also, Harriet is the complete yes-woman!
- I like the John Knightleys—I like the inclusion of the kids, I like the character of John Knightley as being good but not perfect—considerate and kindly, but no nonsense
But I am glad Emma’s mistreatment of Harriet is almost over. She doesn’t do her best by Jane Fairfax, but it’s all much more understandable. I guess our lesson here is, don’t make a friend of someone who worships you. No good will come of it!
Hi, Emma fans. Alas, yes, this post is almost a week later than I promised, and I also read only half as much! What can I say? Life has been too medical around here (nothing life-threatening or picturesque, just time-consuming.) Plus, I underestimated my Emma Resistance Level.
Also, I underestimated the length of the book—I figured with 55 chapters, we’d better keep moving, but I forgot how long they are, so we’re now doing 5 chapters/week until roughly Easter. So, yes, if you’re just now joining us, grab a copy of Emma and snark away in the comments!
Chapters 1–5: The Exposition. In which we meet most of the main characters. Emma adopts the beautiful but dim Harriet Smith as her friend project, and is concerned that Harriet’s crush is beneath her.
- I can’t get over the first few lines. Jane, you want us to hate Emma, don’t you? You are deliberately setting her up to be unsympathetic—I see where this is going!
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
- Interesting that Emma’s mom died “too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses.” Apparently that did not distress or vex her?—or maybe it was too common to be a big deal? In the recent BBC version (Romola Garai) they did this emotional intro about all the kids losing their mothers. Clearly trying to thwart Miss Austen’s plans for how we view Emma.
- I know I’ve got to get past the first page, but Jane makes this big thing about Emma being sad over Miss Taylor’s marriage, and I can’t decide if we’re supposed to think she’s being selfish or what? Or just has complex emotions like a normal person!
- Oh Mr. Woodhouse! I do love Mr. Woodhouse! I do love that I don’t have to live with him, because I’d go crazy. I’m remembering now how much chitchat there is in this book—how vividly Jane gets people talking on and on about the most trivial things. (That never happens in real life of course.)
- Jane really has Views on schools, doesn’t she? “not any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems…” She doesn’t usually get this worked up, does she? (BTW, I work in education, and unfortunately this is still very pertinent!)
- And so it begins—the Harriet Smith trauma. Ouch ouch ouch, this gets so hard to read! I do love how Harriet is struck Mr. Martin’s birthday being “just a fortnight and a day’s difference! which is very odd!” Poor little Harriet!
- Also, I am always struck by “the real good-will of a mind delighted with its own ideas.” When you are happy, you do more good in the world. Very true, I think, but so debated!
- Emma attacks Mr. Martin for having no “air,” not being “genteel,” and compares the air and manners of the other men in the book. I’ve read this a dozen times, but I realized I don’t really know quite what this means! I certainly can’t put it into words. Can anyone explain what she means by this? We know it isn’t that Mr. Martin is rude…
- And then, when Mr. Knightley says, “I should like to see Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return; it would do her good.” Ooh, the first time I read that, I was so mad! (I had never been in love myself, and was always in control.) Now I don’t know what I think. It still seems kind of callous—the sort of thing that’s easy to joke about, but hard to experience yourself… I don’t know.
What did you think of Chapters 1–5?
I am not looking forward to Chapters 6–10 (AKA Emma the Manipulative B-word), but I promise to forge ahead!
England is a lovely country. Everyone’s so polite and so friendly. Which I guess is why they need sarcastic outlets like Time Out London‘s Lies to Tell Tourists column. My personal favorite:
When on the tube it’s customary to introduce yourself to the people sitting next to and opposite you. (@magiczebras)
I never need a sarcastic outlet, which is why I immediately started thinking of Lies to Tell Jane Austen Tourists.
When at a party it’s customary to introduce yourself to all those present, particularly superior nephews of your noble patroness.
Respectable, marriageable gentlemen will flock instantly to your side should you fall down a hill. Important: It must be raining at the time.
When conversing with a new acquaintance, you should comment on their father’s ill health and be surprised they were raised by a lady.
Lockets of hair possessed by significant others always represent true love.
The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his ha-ha. OK, the quickest way to a man’s aunt is through her ha-ha.
If you’re a guest in someone’s house, your first duty is to suspect your host of nefarious activities and scour the place to find the truth.
One’s first impressions of people are invariably right.
And, the best way to get a girl to break up with your son/nephew is to insult her.
My efforts just scratch the surface. Come on, readers, show us your stuff! I’m sure you can lie to Jane Austen tourists like anything. Bring it on!
Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from the non-Austen world (sometimes) match wits and fists 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 for all your combat-induced wound-care needs!
Captain Frederick “I’m on a boat” Wentworth, naval hero and longtime piner after one Anne Elliot, and Mr. George “Yes, I am awesome, why do you ask?” Knightley! Both do right by their respective lady loves; both live somewhat in the shadow of Fitzwilliam Darcy; only one will walk away from this match with his face and his reputation intact!
In their corners:
Captain Wentworth is, well, on a boat. Actually, he’s in charge of the boat. He probably has a sword, possibly a gun, and for all we know, he’s thick as thieves with some tentacled beast/kraken/JAWS that he calls up from the deep in moments of stress. He’s also fiercely loyal, extraordinarily patient, and—we have it on good authority—the kind of guy who turns heads but doesn’t really own a mirror, if you know what we mean. Basically, he’s a kindly, romantic pirate. Best of all possible worlds!
Mr. Knightley likes moonlit strolls on warm evenings, doesn’t mind going out of his way to see his lady love, and has a fine air and—ahem—way of walking. He’s honest, affectionate, and filled with integrity, and he handles his slightly overbearing future father-in-law without breaking a sweat. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your arm at all those neighborhood balls, for sure.
Wentworth is, well, actually sort of a pirate. A legalized pirate, but a pirate. And if the Jack Sparrow lifestyle doesn’t read as a deterrent, exactly, try this: he was too proud to come back to Anne well beyond the Charlotte York “half as long as the relationship” rule, and then he “admitted the attentions of two young ladies at once”! Just imagine!
Knightley is rather disposed to being right. Constantly, obnoxiously right. Sigh.
Captain Wentworth in a close but ultimately not-that-close competition. Knightley’s a contender, but seriously? VIRTUOUS PIRATE! Adventurer/keeper of flame wins every time! Nice try, George. Why don’t you, like, go take a walk or something?
And cue two young women in front of a TV. (Miss Osborne would have joined them had her health permitted it.) Due to technical difficulties (curse you, Comcast!), Miss Ball and Mrs. Fitzpatrick arrive on the scene ten minutes in. Please supply your own witty dialog for that period.
[Jane Fairfax leaves Donwell secretly.]
Miss Ball: I think Emma’s been running around Salzberg in nothing but some old drapes . . . from 1988. That dress is appalling.
[Mr. Knightley says that Emma might be mistress of Donwell, ha ha ha.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Hint, hint.
[Emma rants about Miss Bates.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: A bit of foreshadowing, is it?
Miss Ball: For the awkwardness that is to come. Sure.
[Mr. Knightley makes a rude comment about Frank Churchill, but it falls flat.]
Miss Ball: I love how Switzerland is the ends of the earth, instead of . . . the middle of Europe. I feel like, instead, he should backpack through Nepal with like six sherpas (because it’s not like he’s going to carry his own stuff) and listen to a lot of Dave Matthews Band.
Miss Ball: I know beer and cold meats do wonders for my constitution. Especially . . . together?
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse just isn’t right. He doesn’t strike the sort of kindly silliness of Mr. Woodhouse.
Miss Osborne, there in spirit: The real Mr. Woodhouse wouldn’t have pterodactyl arms.
[A green blob—continued technical difficulties, we hope—appears on Mrs. Fitzpatrick's TV just as the party arrives at Boxhill.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: It’s THE BLOB!! From original Star Trek! It’s going to EAT THEM!!
[Frank Churchill inadvertently and singlehandedly chases the entire party away (therefore saving them from a green and blobby death, v. difficult to explain to the pre-NASA set).]
Miss Ball: Frank Churchill, Captain of Awkward Conversation.
[Mr. Knightley yells at Emma.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: He just seems like a blustering schoolboy to me. No dignity. No style!
Miss Ball: I think he sounds like he’s yelling at a pet. Like she’s been scratching on the couch again.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: FAIL, Jonny Lee. FAIL.
[Emma converts to thoughtfulness and grace.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Look, she’s stepping into the light! I can’t stand it!
[Emma goes to the Bates's.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I swear Mrs. Bates is a zombie.
Miss Ball: I believe you could write a book about that and make some serious money.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: That is SO five minutes ago, Miss Ball!
[Mr. Knightley thinks about kissing Emma's hand, but doesn't. Miss Ball thinks he was shaking it.]
Miss Ball: The 2005 P&P did that so much better.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: They didn’t do that very well. Especially since you didn’t even get it!
Both: Clearly, we have moved past the time when a man taking a woman’s hand = HE’S GOING TO KISS HER HAND!!! [spontaneous flaily jazz-hands duet]
[Emma wants to reupholster Mr. Knightley's chair (or whatever the kids are calling it these days).]
Miss Ball: …with angels and unicorns, perhaps?
[Mrs. Churchill dies; everybody pretends to be sad while actually forming an emotional conga line.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: That was actually pretty well done—that pretty much sums it up.
[Baby Frank Churchill rides away in his carriage in the past. Again.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Flashback attack!
[Frank and Jane Fairfax are reunited.]
Miss Ball: I’m sort of disappointed in Jane now. He’s such a douchebag. You can do better, Jane Fairfax! (Governess-hood notwithstanding.)
Frank Churchill: Now for the first time in our lives we can do anything we want!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: That isn’t a Regency thought in the least—or at least not a Jane Austen thought.
Miss Ball: That’s a relief. Ugh.
[Emma hides behind a shrub, poorly, when Mr. Knightley arrives in the garden.]
Miss Ball: Don’t worry, Emma. . . we’ve all been there.
[Emma and Mr. Knightley walk and chat.]
Miss Ball: Are her long sleeves attached to anything, or are they just. . . sleeves? Because that’s sort of brilliant.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I actually don’t know. I do know Mrs. Bennet liked them! Kind of a punk look, you think?
Miss Ball: Just add safety pins. I like it.
[Mr. Knightley tries to propose.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: He’s squinting. Why is he squinting?
Miss Ball: No room in those tight pants for his sunglasses.
[Emma bursts into Donwell crying, says she can't marry Mr. Knightley because of her father, and then bursts out again.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: What is this, a French farce? She’s not Lucille Ball, for goodness’ sake!
Miss Ball: A little abrupt, sure, but I think it’s okay. We’re running out of time.
[Mr. Knightley volunteers to move to Hartfield.]
Miss Ball: Mr. Knightley, you’ll never make it with the ladies if you keep telling them your heart is at your house.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: No, no, he means his heart is with Emma! He’s pointing at her!
Miss Ball: Ah, his heart—her—is at his house. Currently. But not forever. Riiiiight.
[Frank Churchill apologizes to Emma.]
Miss Ball: I do not forgive you, Frank Churchill.
[Mrs. Bates speaks.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: GASP! The zombie speaks!
Miss Bates: Mother has recovered her voice!
[Emma says goodbye to her father pre-honeymoon.]
Miss Ball: That is one yellow dress. Lucky for her she’s a summer.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Wait—they’re going on a honeymoon? So they must be married? These quick cuts are making me dizzy!
Miss Ball: I had the same question. Harriet and Robert Martin get married, and Emma and Mr. Knightley take a honeymoon? That’s some set-up.
[Emma rests her head on Mr. Knightley's shoulder.]
Miss Ball: That looks really uncomfortable. Much better after the carriage era.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: They must be going to the seaside.
Emma: Oh! It’s the seaside!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I’m freakin’ prescient!
The Curmudgeonly Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Well, it had its moments. When they just let the actors speak and feel what Jane Austen wrote, it was fine—though really none of the main parts were convincing to me. But the additions were SO cheesy (Slow-motion flashbacks? Children torn asunder in the rain?) and the transitions were SO film-school (Look, there’s flowers now, it must be spring!), that I couldn’t really believe I was in the story. It’s a hard novel to adapt, but . . . they should have tried harder. Or less hard? It was too forced, and too sloppy for this purist.
The Happy-Go-Lucky Miss Ball: I agree with Mrs. F’s assessment of the hilariously melodramatic editing, but in general, I liked the whole product pretty well—it was certainly modern in feel, but not in a way that generally offended my not-very-strict sensibilities. I especially liked Romola Garai: she makes some fabulous faces, and her ability to both play and acknowledge awkward moments served her well in this particular instance. So, they certainly played fast and loose with the text, but I didn’t mind too much. Also, I sort of like Jonny Lee Miller in hero mode. (Less so in scoldish pet-owner mode.)
Miss Osborne: I ended up watching the rest of Emma this morning, and it almost made up for the earlier installments. With the exception of the sun rising over Emma and the unnecessary flashback of Frank Churchill leaving as a child, this installment was more thoughtful. I finally found myself rooting for Emma—for her emotional growth and the love between her and Mr. Knightley. Knightley, of course, is wonderful (though I think Jonny Lee Miller looks like a muppet when he’s not smiling). Unlike Mrs. F, I didn’t find him blustery in the Box Hill scene. He has every right to scold Emma, and I felt her pain. Hasn’t everyone been scolded at one point or another for doing something they knew was stupid? It hurts when someone you love is rightfully giving you the smack down. Overall, this mini-series was uneven, but the last hour was enjoyable.
We open on three girls, a couch, and Laura Linney looking oddly solemn.
[Frank Churchill proposes a ball]
Miss Osborne: Oh, I do love a ball! (TM Lydia Bennet)
Miss Osborne: Does she not have a ballroom or a dining room in her house?
[Frank sweeps Emma up for an impromptu dance]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: They would not have been doing that.
Miss Ball: “I would much better be married than right”: words to live by?
[Frank acts like he's going to propose and then doesn't]
Miss Osborne: Why can’t people tell the truth? This is annoying.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Like you tell the truth all the time?
Miss Osborne: Well, he’s acting like he loves her.
Miss Osborne: And he has a man-ring.
[Harriet bawls her eyes out]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Harriet’s such a modern teenage girl. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the internet or TV to distract her with a massive gallery of males.
[Mrs. Elton arrives]
Miss Osborne: Ohhhhh, it’s THAT girl. She plays the bitch in everything!
Miss Ball: Like?
Miss Osborne: Like What a Girl Wants, which I only saw because of Colin Firth. And, um, Amanda Bynes.
Miss Ball: No, I saw that, too! With the leather pants! Amanda Bynes is my hero(ine), and I don’t care who knows it.
[Mr. Knightley brought Emma a library book]
Miss Osborne: It’s Twilight.
[Misses Osborne and Ball and Mrs.Fitzpatrick pause to discuss crooked ears, including but not limited to Stephen Colbert and Victor Garber. Mrs. Fitzpatrick has perfect, delicate ears. She's the only one.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I think I’ll start calling Mr. Fitzpatrick “Mr. F”, like Mrs. Elton does.
Miss Ball: Like he’s a substitute teacher with a difficult name?
[Misses Osborne and Ball and Mrs.Fitzpatrick pause to discuss the technical term for Emma's face-framing curls, which Mrs. Fitzpatrick calls "scare curls" but thinks she made that up. Google tells us this.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Now, this is weird, because in the book, Mrs. Elton suggests the whole Box Hill expedition, and Emma doesn’t seem particularly sad about being stuck in Highbury.
Miss Ball: It’s a modern take on the situation, certainly.
[Mrs. Elton has quite a horror of finery.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Too matchy-matchy?
Miss Ball: Bridesmaid quality, definitely.
Miss Osborne: The voice-over is worse than Superman.
Miss Ball: I do miss the choreographed group dancing.
[Frank disses Mrs. Elton's hairstyle]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: He is a little…dickish.
Miss Ball: Catty.
Miss Osborne: A douchebag.
[Mr. Knightley asks Harriet to dance]
Miss Ball: Mr. Knightley! You’re the dreamiest man the world right now! Such a mensch!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Isn’t he?
Miss Osborne: I like the idea of wearing gloves. That way you don’t get sweaty hands.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Plus, it’s more sexy.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I think they’re doing the Congress of Vienna waltz.
Miss Osborne: I can do the polka!
Miss Ball: Me, too!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I wonder how authentic the dancing in this really is?
Miss Ball: We’re totally ruining the mood of this very romantic dance.
[Harriet gushes about Frank's rescue of her from the scary scary gypsies]
Miss Osborne: Harriet’s so pale, she could be a vampire.
Miss Ball: Don’t say that out loud.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: There’s already going to be Emma and werewolves.
Miss Osborne: Um, did she just faint?
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I think Jane had a thing against fainting—it never really works out in her books.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: If this were a murder mystery, Harriet would be shot dead now.
[The camera cuts, inexplicably, behind Mr. Knightley's coat as he reminisces about Emma's hotness]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: SIGH.
[Mr. Knightley walks away from Emma and the too-hot fire]
Mrs. F: Well, I definitely liked this chapter better—now that she’s not so incredibly bouncy.
Miss Ball: And now that the story’s picking up, minus Exposition City.
Miss Osborne: Augh, when he yells at her, he’s so right, and it’s so horrible, because we’ve all been yelled at by somebody we care at like that. So terrible.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: And they’re…following the book. Such a concept!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: It’s weird how little Mr. Woodhouse is in this version. Usually, he’s in the background of everything.
Miss Osborne: Maybe Michael Gambon’s pterodactyl arms wouldn’t fit in the picture.
The Austenacious sisters are too old-school (so far) to be on Twitter, so we decided to have our own live new-Emma-watching/blogging party. And the opening credits roll . . .
Miss Ball: This is all very Pushing Daisies, isn’t it? There goes Mom.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Frank and Jane’s sending-away is so much more emotional than it is in the book.
[Everyone grows up. Quickly. Thank goodness, all this exposition is getting boring.]
Miss Osborne: Who does Emma look like to you guys?
Miss Osborne: Did they really wear big bows on their backs? (Consensus: Not sure.)
Miss Osborne: No cake for the wedding? Well, that’s just crazy. Turn it off! I’m done.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: The thing about Michael Gambon is, it’s hard to believe he can be as stupid as Mr. Woodhouse after being Dumbledore.
All: Boo hoo! Loneliness and tinkly pianos! SLO-MO CHILDREN! Too cheesy!
Miss Osborne: Romola Garai’s not as stately or graceful as I expected Emma to be.
[Emma visits Mrs. Goddard's school.]
Miss Ball: Gypsies! Ooh, foreshadowing!
Miss Ball: That hat’s like a bell. How is it staying on her head?
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: What? A scene from the book? And only twenty-five minutes in!
Miss Osborne: I’ve got it! Drew Barrymore meets Starbuck!
Miss Ball: It’s the mouth.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Who? Oh, Romola. But what about Harriet Smith? She reminds me of someone.
Miss Osborne: She was in something called Lesbian Vampire Killers!
Miss Osborne: Mr. Martin’s got mutton chops to rival Mr. Darcy’s!
Miss Osborne: Gotta love a field trip to see the poor.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Well, they’re making much more of deal about it than in the book.
Miss Osborne: I realize that the refusal of Mr. Martin is straight from the book, but it makes me want to barf.
[Painting on the lawn.]
Miss Ball: Oh, Jane. You and your crazy dads.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Oh! Harriet Smith reminds me of the chick from Doctor Horrible.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I can see Emma’s roots. I can see! Her roots!
Miss Osborne: Check out Elton. Boyfriend’s a close-talker. Three feet, dude.
Mr. Knightley: Robert Martin! Is that you?
Miss Osborne: . . . nobody here by that name . . .
[Emma and Mr. Knightley fight.]
Miss Ball: I like Emma’s yellow wallpaper. Just not in the Charlotte Perkins Gilman sense.
Miss Osborne: Jonny Lee Miller just made a Muppet face.
Miss Osborne: Well, I think Emma’s right. So many men do want pretty and ditzy. So why shouldn’t everyone fall for Harriet Smith.
Miss Ball: I just want to watch him make more faces.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: She makes the same argument in the book.
Miss Ball: I like Romola Garai.
[Emma and Harriet manage two pages of reading.]
Miss Ball: Two pages of Milton? I think she deserves a cookie.
[Emma explains her life plans to Harriet.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Well, Emma’s ideal situation is Jane Austen’s situation: a well-to-do old maid with nieces.
Miss Osborne: I take umbrage at the “old maid” label. She died at forty-one!
Miss Osborne: I don’t even really understand why Emma’s friends with Harriet. She’s dumb!
Miss Ball: Haven’t you seen Clueless? She wants to better Harriet.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: It would be like living your whole life with the people you went to elementary school with. Not much of a choice, right?
[Dinner party at the Westons]
Miss Osborne: Michael Gambon has the biggest basketball-player arms in all of movies, and he’s always flailing them around like a pterodactyl.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Mrs. Weston has a maid now. She should have better hair. And stop looking defeated. Because she isn’t.
Miss Ball: I sort of love Elton. I totally know that guy.
Miss Osborne: Wow, that CGI snow is terrible. It’s like a bad screen saver.
Miss Ball: Flying toasters.
Miss Osborne: Why is Elton so sweaty? It’s SNOWING.
[The Great Miss Fairfax Live and In Person!]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Hmmm. They changed Jane Fairfax almost getting thrown overboard from a boat to Jane Fairfax almost . . . slipping on a rock? Must have been too expensive.
[Emma and Harriet meet Frank on the road.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Apart from that not being the way Emma and Frank meet, it’s just. . . all wrong. She’s so flirty with him!
[Emma and Frank meet officially.]
Miss Osborne: Dude is short!
Miss Ball: And not much of a looker. Which Frank Churchill should be, right? (Consensus.)
[And . . . the episode sort of peters out. Not much dramatic closure of any type.]
Miss Ball: 3 out of 5 start
Miss Osborne: Meh
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Can we watch figure skating now?
Overall, it’s not great, but not bad. The scene changes are achingly obvious, and they do love to make a point, then drive it home, in case you didn’t get it the first time. Kind of an Emma for Dummies. Romola’s giving Emma a good go: we couldn’t agree on whether she was acting smart enough, but do think she should be more refined. More conclusions pending the next episode(s). Readers, your gut reactions?