Ooh, readers, pressing question alert! The press at large—or at least the publicity machine for one (Mr.) AR Grundy, which is surely the same thing, right?—poses a stunning (…or something) dilemma to the world: Could the new Jane Austen be a man? Inquiring minds want—nay, demand!—to know!
Now. First of all, to paraphrase one Dana Scully, please explain to me the scientific nature of “the new Jane Austen.”
The new Jane Austen is…well, a novelist, one hopes. A novelist, perhaps, whose work concerns the social and emotional relationships of families? Families and small towns? Love and betrayal? Friendship? Death and taxes? Marriage and all its predecessors? Or, as one might call it, life?
Does the new Jane Austen use characters? Well-drawn ones, with flaws and favorites and intentions, both good and ill?
Does the new Jane Austen sprinkle his or her prose with sharp, appealing little moments of wit? What about truth? Is there truth in there, either emotional or spiritual or social, hidden among the plot and the characters and everything else that we’ve already established as part of the new Jane Austen’s milieu?
If so, it sure is a good thing this new Jane Austen’s coming up through the ranks—because surely, after two hundred years of international literary history, the only possible choices are the original Jane and this guy.
Today, Twitterer (Twit? Tweeter? Tweetmeister?) @davidshayne spoke my soul. To the entire internet!
“I never hate humanity — or myself — more than when I read the comments section on any blog.”
People, this is true. Years of wading through freewheeling grammar and usage, heart-stopping displays of cluelessness, and predictable passive aggression have all taught me that the comments section of any blog but my own—because you, dear readers, are perfect and gentle and know that “u” is not a pronoun*—is no place for this sensitive soul.**
But sometimes, this is also false. We at Austenacious spend a lot of time trawling the Internet for cool, unusual Austen-related content, and you can take it from us that Austen fans are an outspoken bunch. Are you, members of the global community, hating on Jane? Are you explaining, in your infinite wisdom and yet with little insight, why ladies like her books? Are you implying that Jane, being both dead and a girl who writes about girly things, shouldn’t be taught in schools? Don’t think we don’t notice. We notice. In fact, we will BURY YOU—often not with an avalanche of rage and misplaced modifiers, but a persistently paced stream of well-intentioned informational talking points (punctuated by the occasional, justified burst of emotion). If you’re wrong and we’re right—because we must be right, right?—there will be no justice until you’ve been informed of the magnitude of your wrongness and the many ways in which you might rectify the situation. And there’s something both hilariously obnoxious and really wonderful about that, in the sense that the correcting is enormously repetitive but also extremely eager and sometimes accompanied by some dose of truth and/or humor (note: often unintentional). We Jane fans speak up for ourselves, and we speak up for Jane. We bring things up. We share the knowledge, whether the knowledge wants to be shared or not. Because if there’s anybody who must have liked being right, it was probably Jane.
And if we get to call somebody or something “stunningly stupid,” well, bonus points.
*Readers: Consider this your encouragement to prove me wrong. Hit us with your best shots!
**Not true. I sometimes read the comments on Smitten Kitchen, because they are informative and include answers to questions like “So, what will happen if I make this recipe with a completely different set of ingredients?”, and I find that entertaining.
This poor guy. It must be difficult, watching a handsome yet unattainable man spirit away the affections of his own wife—and having women everywhere (and some men) completely identify with her fantasy life choices. It can’t be pleasant seeing his rival continue to succeed, with a viable career, a reputation as a humanitarian, and a possible Oscar on the way. It’s really too bad, the way we objectify the celebrities of our day, and I’m sure this gentleman has many fine qualities to recommend him and the reality that he represents, rather than the fantasy of some—
Wait. Did somebody say there’s a Colin Firth calendar?!
Wishing you a warm and merry Christmas, Austenacious readers!
With all due respect: Yes, it is. If it’s a faithful adaptation of Emma, it’s primarily from the female perspective. It’s about a woman who mostly sticks her nose into other women’s lives. Those women respond, or don’t. Women! Women everywhere! Definitely lady-centric.
Listen. I get it. I know that men don’t generally go to “women’s” movies, though nobody seems to mind taking my lady-dollars when I go see Vin Diesel do his thing. I know that, from a marketing perspective, you and your studio might prefer to step away from the looming Chick Flick label—after all, it’s not like “chicks” have any money, or like to spend time at the theater, or eat concessions, or bring their friends (who, remember, also have no money) along.
But denying the prevalence of women in your film isn’t helping. It’s one thing to emphasize the ways in which Aisha, or Emma, might appeal universally—to say that women aren’t the only ones who find themselves wrong, and that women aren’t the only ones who fall in love, and that the experiences of a fictional woman might still be of interest to those who aren’t women, just as the experiences of a fictional men can certainly be of interest to those who aren’t men. But to say “this movie isn’t about women, so you should come and see it” plays into the exact logical loophole you’re trying to avoid. I think what you want to say is, “This movie is about a woman, and it has characters and a plot, just like man movies!” Or, “This movie is about a woman, but you don’t have to show your Girl Card at the door!” Or maybe just, “This movie is about a woman. Come on in.”
So, why do women like the world of Jane Austen?
Is it because, having both boobs and X-chromosomes (two of each, generally), we just can’t get enough of the “structured undergarment eaten by ruffles” look? Maybe it’s to do with the steady diet of finger cakes—mmm, nutritious!—and pianoforte music! Surely we’d rather spend the day embroidering in poorly lit rooms than work hard at careers we love, and obviously, we live to obsess over the socio-romantic dynamics of our neighborhoods—or we would, if Jane didn’t use such gosh-darned big words! Golly!
You’ve shown me, good sir, that “the ideals of civilized and refined living these stories represent” must be what keeps me coming back for more of Austen’s work. Do you think I could grow up to live in a world where women can dance, draw, sing, play now-obsolete musical instruments, and spend their energy worrying about the fact of their own financial dependence? Do you really think so?
I always thought women loved Jane Austen because she tells the truth about the human experience. I thought women loved Jane Austen because her characters are timeless. I thought women loved Jane Austen because she offers insight into what it means to love and be loved, as a lover or as a friend or as a sister or as a member of the community at large. I thought women loved Jane Austen because her novels are funny and poignant and deceptive in their simplicity.
I thought men loved Jane Austen, too.
Guess I was wrong.