Two hundred years ago today, a little novel called Pride and Prejudice rolled off the presses for the very first time.
Here we are, still talking about it. We’re still thinking about it. We’re still getting new things from it.
In Pride and Prejudice, we have humor and romance. We have family life, and a much-beloved set of nerves. We have walks in the countryside, and a marriage based on genuine love and mutual respect. We have muddy hems and fine eyes. We have two nice people falling in love. We have accomplished ladies who improve their minds by extensive reading. We have Mary Bennet and Mr. Collins, Missed Connection extraordinaire. We have Charlotte Lucas, who does what she has to do. We have Lydia. We have Kitty, who turns out okay, we think. We have Bridget Jones. We have Colin Firth as two good men named Darcy. We have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and all the rest. We have you—we have this community of funny, thoughtful people.
It may be time to face the truth: for better or for worse, the Age of Austen Adaptation has come to an end. All six major novels have been adapted, either theatrically or by the BBC, within the decade; unless we delve into the minor works, the unfinished works, and/or the juvenilia, this is pretty much the edge of the filmed Austen universe as it currently stands. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, if you’re into that kind of thing, shows up on IMDB in the least committal way possible—slated for 2013, but we’ll see—and the late (sob!) Nora Ephron’s Lost in Austen barely appears at all.
Of course, we can always be prepared. The future is now! Bring on the plucky (if misguided) heroines!
So tell us, Austen Nation: Which Austen work would you most like to see re-adapted next? Give us the mental details, if you have ‘em…which, come on. You totally do. So spill it.
The great ebook wars started innocently enough in June, 2012. A single alert blogger, Philip Howard, noticed that the Barnes & Noble version of War and Peace had erased all instances of the word Kindle—an competitor at the time—with their own brand-name, Nook. (“It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern….”) One or two blogs picked it up, the people lol’ed, case closed.
An simple mistake with search-and-replace, but it started people thinking. . . hackers had already inserted zombies into Pride and Prejudice in the careless spirit of the 2000s, so why not make some money by selling product placement in the books? Anyone can publish e-versions of books no longer in copyright. Starbucks was first on the bandwagon in late 2012, with their special Frappuccino Editions of the classics (Frappuccino was a curious coffee-like drink). These editions merely replaced all coffee and tea, coffeehouses and tea shops in the classics, with Starbucks. The changes to the coffee shop scene in Persuasion did cause some comment on the primitive “social networks” of the time, but marketers and companies eagerly lined up to have their products inserted in some edition, any edition of a classic, and by 2015 generic ebooks were becoming rare and collectible.
The sudden rebirth of the bowdlerizers, and their tireless campaign to find and replace smut where ordinary dirty-minded citizens couldn’t even see it, spun off into its own crusade. Of course, the main target in Austen was “intercourse.” The mere thought of Emma and Miss Bates having “a regular and steady intercourse” caused President Sarah Palin to mandate bowdlerized versions of all classics in 2020.
The fall of America into chaos, the rise of the underground movement for Pure Classics, and the petty in-fighting of the various Jane factions (Austen, Eyre, Bennet, and Cobb), need not be gone into. Every schoolchild knows that in 2072, the Pure Classics broke away from the Altered Versions, and the two empires have been fighting ever since. It has been a long and terrible history. But on this, the 1,000th anniversary of the first shot of this massive war, let us stop and remember that it need never have happened.
. . .
Ok, so this could also be called Leo Tolstoy Hates Your Search-and-Replace. But, you know, once you start down the Dark Side, forever will it guide your destiny! So, beware!
Readers: now that the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film is effectively dead—insert the walking-dead joke of your choice here—surely serious discussions are at hand. Since, as we all know, there’s a universal minimum for period pieces in the works at any given time (no fewer than three; more if you can find a swanky-looking estate in the rentals section of Craigslist), retribution must be made! Who will buy all those empire-waist dresses and period boots, if not us? Who will fuel the muttonchops craze, if we will not fuel the muttonchops craze? Who will keep an eye on the happy endings, if we don’t keep the genteel romance mill churning?
Considering this sudden omission, and realizing the significance of Austen adaptations to the cosmic equilibrium, we ask you: What Austen or Austen-related film would you see made instead? Who would you cast, and why? And, most importantly, would you include the monsters?
Let’s hear it, readers.
We need more parties, don’t we? Well, I know I do, especially Jane Austen parties! Other people have ventured opinions on this topic. 99% of them involve a) tea, b) watching movies, or c) both. I’m in favor of all three of these activities (well, duh), but I do think we could broaden our horizons here, venture across the ha-ha, as it were.
Basic steps: This write-up has some good ideas, including period card games, period snacks, and trivia. Be warned that you are venturing into weirder territory here than you know, as Miss Osborne’s cooking experiments have shown us. Stick to syllabub, is my advice. As far as card games go, I love them, but Miss Austen did not, or at any rate none of her heroines did. So if you play them, stick to the more “comfortable, noisy” games, like Speculation, and avoid Whist as all costs. Whist (the precursor of Bridge) is bo-ring, both in Mansfield Park and in my experience. Still, you get good discussions around the card table, and good insights into people’s characters, the Crawfords’ in particular.
Crafty steps: While “painting tables, covering screens, and netting purses” may draw derision from Mr. Darcy, I am all in favor of “cutting up silk and gold paper” as the girls do in Persuasion, and crafts in general. Here’s some Regency party craft ideas.
Ballsy steps: Lots of places have Regency balls, where you can be spurned by Mr. Darcy and overhear Mr. Elton insulting your best friend, and have good times generally. You can also do this at home, even if you have to dance down the hall to lively tunes from your MP3 player. (It’s better than Mary Bennet on the piano.) Make sure to have white soup, negus, and indiscreet conversations, and, ladies, I happen to know that many gentlemen find Regency/square dancing less intimidating than ballroom. Show them diagrams! Let them figure it out!
RPG steps: It’s funny how you never hear “role-playing” and “Jane Austen” in the same sentence, especially when you consider all that fanfic out there. So, if you are really feeling adventurous, I suggest designing some sort of Austen role-playing activity. You could, you know, assign the different parts from a book beforehand, get everyone together, and let them have at it. Sounds sort of like Lost in Austen, doesn’t it? Or, since it’s almost Halloween, why not do a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies flash mob? Everyone decide beforehand whether you’ll be a zombie, a Bennet sister, or an innocent bystander; show up someplace and have it out! Regency zombie battles on the National Mall! I see this happening, people! Serious Austen party-ers will do this in full costume, of course. But watch where you put that sword. You could put someone’s eye out with that thing.
Olympic steps: OK, OK, it’s true that zombies aren’t genuine Austen. But it’s also true that whenever you get together, you are probably having a party pretty close to one Jane Austen wrote! Oh, the food, drink, dancing, and clothes might be different, but I bet the social dynamics are not far off. I know that’s not what you want to hear, though, so I suggest the Jane Austen Olympics! Events can include: the 100-meter Dash Across the Lawn to Find Mr. Bennet, the All-Terrain Walk to Netherfield (points deducted per inch of dirty hem), the Louisa Musgrove Stair-Jumping Contest, the Pairs’ Rainy Hillside Rescue Dance, Fencing Wits, and Conversational Gymnastics (Lizzie’s an odds-on favorite there, clearly), and . . . .
But you see! The possibilities are endless! Now get your corsets on, go out there, and PARTY!!!
Photo credits: ©juzka81. Used through Creative Commons licensing.
For those of you who haven’t already seen it, some LA Mormon girls have made a hilarious and so far fake trailer for Jane Austen’s Fight Club.
Now this is deeply satisfying; I don’t deny it. Everyone wants to see proper young ladies kick ass. Time period is not important, but the more proper, the more ass they obviously have to kick. (See: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, obviously Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Kill Bill – does she count as proper? – and so on and so on.) I’m tempted, naturally, to make a list of other movies Jane Austen could be inserted into, for copyright-ambiguous fun and profit. The Matrix: Jane Austen Reloaded springs to mind.
What about Little Miss Sunshine Bennet? In this quirky romp, the Bennet family drives their falling-apart carriage from Hertfordshire all the way to London just so Mary can compete in a talent competition. Lydia isn’t talking because she wants to join the military [wink wink nudge nudge], and Mr. Collins dies en route, the dirty old man. I think it should do well.
Or, in Eleanor and Marianne’s Excellent Adventure, the two bodacious sisters set out on a time-traveling quest to find sweet rhyme and pure reason, which will save the future universe from annihilation by evil spamlords. Along the way, they pick up a fun set of characters, including Lady Gaga, Stephen Hawking, and Stephen Colbert, all of whom embarrass them immensely. Quite by accident, they do find true love and happiness. Barack Obama advises a gathering at Sir John Middleton’s to be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!
All of this is very jolly, but I would just like to point something out here. Readers, has or has not Austenacious had a Jane Austen Fight Club column for almost a year now?! Are we owed royalties on this video? Our legal team better get busy!
In the meantime, perhaps our loyal readers could make trailers for our other columns. What Would Jane Do? is clearly a sickeningly sweet romance in which a cynical advice columnist is saved by a long-lost love (probably by falling down a hill). Jane Austen Hates You is probably an indie comedy, possibly about YouTube, MySpace, and all them there Social Networking Sites, hopefully starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Ask Mrs. Fitzpatrick sounds like an Agatha Christie to me, and Quote Unquote is clearly the new Bond movie.
Readers, are you game? What other movies mesh well with Austen novels? Or mesh so terribly badly they just have to go?
P.S. Jane Austen’s Army of Darkness! Just saying. . .
Also known as, what we want for Christmas, part 2.
Freeverse says we want a game for our iPhone “featuring a Jane Austen character in a lacy dress who karate-chops her way through hordes of advancing zombies.” (Not out yet. Coming soon.) Do we? I can only imagine this would be followed by an underwater version fighting off sea monsters, and (cue eyeroll) Emma and the Werewolves.
- Lizzie would not wear lace to kick zombie ass. Entirely inappropriate. Long sleeves, maybe?
- Well, I hope Seth is getting some royalties off this. Then when he dies I hope Jane takes them off him. With sharp words.
- On iPhone? Wouldn’t Wii be lots more fun?
- Do you think Lizzie will just kick ass like every other game heroine? How about the really difficult moves, like managing a train? At least Jane didn’t have to sit down in a hoop-skirt. FUN, I tell you. Ooh, can I watch people jump around trying to kickbox in a corset? With a fan and soft slippers and a train tripping them up?
- Don’t we all think Lady Susan is much more the Lara Croft/Aeon Flux type than Eliza Bennet?
- Pretty soon, if not already, there’ll be a World of Warcraft: Jane Austen Edition. I know my GM friends would be ever so grateful if you zombie hunters would mind your manners on the Quest to Lady Catherine’s, OK? No whining in the ha-ha. No hacking with scripts to get Darcy to propose to Lizzie every 2 seconds until she beats him over the head with her slipper.
- A friend of mine has already rebuilt Pemberley in Second Life. I don’t even want to know what goes on there!
- Hey! To my friends at Zynga: why not combine Mafia Wars and Farmville, and have a Build Your Own Fighting Regency Estate? Stick with me here a minute. You build up the family fortunes: add a living and you get a crazy aunt or maybe a hero (luck of the draw!). Attract heroines with spacious grounds and/or ruined abbeys! Once you have a heroine, you can build up suitors, and then use your army or navy to totally beat up the other estates and steal their heroines! Not so hot an idea? Oh well, if it sells, I still expect royalties. I know where you live, guys!
- When are all you entertainment types going to get creative and explore the clone angle? I believe we at Austenacious were the first to propose this, no, with our special Halloween header? If I don’t see The Matrix: Jane Austen Reloaded with thousands of simply but elegantly attired Eliza Bennets fountaining up in the Netherfield ball/fight scene within the year, I shall be severely disappointed. (Yo, Wachowskis: they have corsets built in! Bondage for all!)
- But seriously now, and brushing aside this tomfoolery: it’s my birthday next Saturday, and then Christmas two weeks later. May I not expect to see at least one first edition Jane Austen novel peeping out of my stocking?
OMG, really? What’s with this fad of mashing up literature and disaster/monster porn?
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies got a ton of publicity, but, let’s just say it: it wasn’t very good. There was lots of obvious guy humor about balls (and how could they miss the intercourse jokes, if they’re going that route?) and only one scene that really spoke to our hearts: Lizzie kicking ass as a ninja. This, I can understand. We of the female persuasion all want to be Elizabeth Bennet, so they say, and who doesn’t feel a girl-power thrill at some Buffy-style action? But it was clear the author didn’t have any love for or understanding of the original book. It could have been any old book with a slightly prim reputation, and that’s where things go off the rails: if ”time for tea” vs. ”braiiiiiiins!” is your only joke, then 320 pages are going to seem really, really long. After a few battles with the undead, well, what’s the point?
Now there’s Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, wherein the Dashwood sisters move to an island and, apparently, fight off the evils of the deep. WTF? For one thing, if this had to be done, why not Persuasion, which already takes place (partially) near the sea? Could Captain Wentworth not have taken on the kraken? If, that is, it had to be done at all.
You know why it had to be done: it’s because zombies and monster/disaster porn are really, really popular right now. And it must be funny, right?, to contrast it with that very feminine and oh-so-coincidentally popular franchise of Jane Austen. And I think a lot of Austen fans are, like, “Hey, it’s Jane Austen and it’s popular! Go you!” But we deserve better. I mean, it’s all so obvious. And Miss Austen, boys and girls, did not dig obvious.
She had no problem with monsters in their place, being very fond of gothic novels, especially The Castle of Otranto, I think—in Northanger Abbey (and Pride and Prejudice) she ridicules people for saying they “don’t read novels,” which was evidently the “I only watch PBS” of the day. But she was very definite that monsters didn’t belong in her place – had no part in the reality she was trying to portray in her books.
I see the appeal, I really do. For example, right now I’m imagining Captain Wentworth and the intrepid Anne in a fight to the death with the aforementioned kraken. But mash-ups only work if you’re creating something new, bringing deeper humor or insight to Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, zombies, and sea monsters. And, call me crazy if you like, but I find it hard to imagine anyone bringing deeper humor or insight to Pride and Prejudice than is already there. Zombies, who knows?