With the return of Glee to the weekly TV schedule—finally—I think we’ve all been reminded of a new truth universally acknowledged: everything would be better, Austen novels included, if everybody had at least the option of bursting into a well-chosen pop song from time to time. You know, revealing their places in the collective consciousness, choreography optional (but encouraged). Lizzy belts out a girl-power ballad—ill practiced, of course—at the height of her emotional turmoil? Knightley takes the edge off with a few bars of air guitar and a phantom drum solo? I’m telling you: Jane Austen might roll in her grave, but Jane Lynch would make a fine Lady Catherine.
Am I right?
Here are a few Austen characters and their likely anthems:
Captain Wentworth: “I’m on a Boat” – The Lonely Island
Anne Elliot: “I Will Always Love You“* – Dolly Parton
*The original version with the sad monologue in the middle, because that speech is exactly the gracious and heartbroken speech Anne would make to Wentworth—complete with poignant pauses every few words—and nobody can convince me otherwise.
Mr. Bingley: “Mr. Brightside” – The Killers
Mr. Collins: “Hell No” – Sondre Lerche & Regina Spektor
Charlotte Lucas: “The Sound of Settling” – Death Cab for Cutie
Mary Bennet: “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” – Cat Stevens
Catherine Morland: “Miss Teen Wordpower” – The New Pornographers
Isabella Thorpe: “We Used to Be Friends” – The Dandy Warhols
Marianne Dashwood: “I Feel It All” – Feist
John Willoughby: “It’s Raining Men” – The Weather Girls
Readers, who are we missing?
Dear readers, I have a confession to make. I’m a shipper. A hopeless romantic, fixated on relationships that are sometimes obvious and other times a figment of my imagination. When I was a kid, I thought Princess Aurora and Prince Philip were perfect for one another. I made up stories in my head about how Rhett and Scarlet would get back together. And seriously, who didn’t squee when Han Solo and Princess Leia socked us with “I love you/I know”?
But something changed in the early-1990s. AOL brought us the Internet in a way that made it possible for non-super-geeks to comprehend and take part in. (AOL also ripped us off with charges per minute—per minute!—beyond the first few hours. Holy crap, did I pay for those late-night chats!) Poking around on the message boards, I found a group of kindred spirits. Not just Star Trek: The Next Generation fans . . . TNG fans who were fixated on the relationship between Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher. And they wrote fantastic stories wherein Picard and Crusher proclaimed their love (and, ahem, made mad, passionate love at all sorts of times). I discovered my inner shipper and broadcast it to the world (at least, the world that was tapped into scifi fandom on AOL).
In 1995, AMC aired BBC’s Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Another pairing was born: Lizzie Bennet/Mr. Darcy. Yeah, yeah, I realize that people have been mooning over that couple for ages. While I will always value the joy of discovering a story or a personality through the act of reading, there’s also something about a relationship when it’s fueled by good acting by attractive people and online chats with friends about every nuance you witnessed (or imagined) when viewing something on TV. Sometimes those conversations even bleed into “real” life. And now that it would take heroic efforts to escape the Internet, it all bleeds back out into the ether. (Am I the only one hearing The Circle of Life in her head right now?)
My two favorite Austen couples are Lizzie/Darcy and Anne/Wentworth. The attractiveness of the Lizzie/Darcy combo for me is the sharp dialog between the spunky and outspoken young lady and the intelligent, handsome man who is passionate about her. One of the benefits of these folks being from a novel is that we’re not tormented for several seasons hoping and waiting for the couple to finally admit their love for one another. Fans even get a bold declaration of love half way through the story. How awesome is that? As for Anne/Wentworth, how can you not feel for the thoughtful, sensible young woman who’s lost her bloom and must ignore the nagging oh-crap-I-never-should-have-dumped-him feelings when she’s around the dashing captain? These are couples I root for unabashedly.
So there you have it. I’m a shipper. Pray, excuse me while I wander off and watch some more Lizzie/Darcy and Picard/Crusher music videos on YouTube.