Lady S (saffronlie) wrote,
Lady S
saffronlie

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Lost in Austen, the Aftermath

Now that the crackfest (not in a good way) of Lost in Austen is over, I think I can pinpoint its biggest problem: there was nothing at stake. There was nothing to drive the tension of the story. I think the Amanda/Darcy storyline was supposed to be the driving tension, but as I've already read Pride & Prejudice I was bored by this pale imitation of Elizabeth and Darcy's hate-turns-to-love relationship.

There was no reason to care about the outcome of the story. Yes, Amanda was fucking up the usual plot, but there was never anything to indicate that the fuckups had ruined the story forever. As the fourth episode showed, out in the real world everything proceeded as normal, and Elizabeth was able to find out the main points of the story. There was no tension about whether Amanda would ever get home again, because she didn't seem to want to leave. Amanda never had to confront some of the horrors of Regency England, eg. no internet, television or indoor plumbing, so we never felt like her life there was compromised or worse than modern times. Were we supposed to care about whether Amanda would land Darcy in the end? Really? Because Amanda was highly irritating as a person. I think she was supposed to be the Mary Sue stand-in for all Jane Austen fans, so that we could identify with her and hope that she would land Mr. Darcy, and then it would be like we were landing Mr. Darcy, but Mr. Darcy belongs with Elizabeth and every Jane Austen fan knows it. Why should Amanda have him? Why should he be attracted to her in the first place? LIA gave no reasons.

I think we were also supposed to care about characters like Jane and Charlotte Lucas, and pity them that their lives had not followed the usual course, but at least with Charlotte Lucas any sort of pity requires us to care for a character whom we have been given no reason to care for onscreen. It relies on a residual caring leftover from a prior relationship with the original text, and it cannot be guaranteed that everyone watching would have read the book and feel any sympathy for Charlotte. Sympathy for Jane was wrought from the awfulness of Mr. Collins, an awfulness highly exaggerated from the book, and while I admit that I wished she could have married Mr. Bingley instead, again, there was nothing really at stake for her. She made a good marriage that would benefit her family, so how could it be that awful?

I think the people behind this program fundamentally misunderstood both the novel and the novel's fans. The liberties they took with the source were not clever but gratuitous. Yes, Caroline Bingley might have been a lesbian, but there is NOTHING in the text, not even a hint of subtext, to suggest it. Yes, Wickham might have been nice, really, just very misunderstood. Maybe Bingley would have gotten drunk with Wickham and run off with Lydia if Jane had not married him, but I highly doubt it. What was the point of all this conjecture? Instead of offering a new perspective on Pride & Prejudice, it felt like the scriptwriter saying "I know more about Jane Austen's characters than she did!" No, you don't, so STFU.

I've said it before, but Amanda's obsession with Pride & Prejudice was pathetic, especially given that she had read the novel so many times, and was in love with its social culture, and yet couldn't imitate it for shit. They gave her the same last name -- Price -- as another Austen heroine, but made nothing of it, probably because Mr. Darcy isn't in Mansfield Park, so of course Amanda would never read it. Because all that women really care about is Mr. Darcy, right? He's the only reason to ever read a Jane Austen novel, right? He's every women's dream, right?

NO. I am sick of this narrow-minded view of Janeites, and the constant pandering to Mr. Darcy fantasies as exhibited by the gift shop at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath (this link is to a friends-locked post).

Pride & Prejudice is about Elizabeth, first and foremost, so I was glad to see her in the fourth episode, although she didn't have a whole lot to do. I loved that she was so independent, though, and tried to do her duty for her family and for the book's plot but struggled against it; to me this is true to her character in the book.

And having railed against the Mr. Darcy fantasy thing, I have to admit that I quite liked Amanda's speech to Darcy in episode three, in which she explained that she loved him, and had always loved him, ever since she first read about him. I thought the speech captured wonderfully and accurately the (one-sided) relationship that can exist between reader and character. My problem is not with loving fictional characters -- I clearly love many myself -- but with the implication that women and especially Jane Austen readers cannot tell the difference between fiction and real life, and spend all their time waiting for a Mr. Darcy to come and save them when one 1) it's the twenty-first century and no one needs saving and Prince Charming isn't coming, and maybe Sleeping Beauty's dead and 2) Mr. Darcy isn't that perfect anyway. He's kind of an asshole for a while there. What Amanda's speech demonstrated was that she was still in love with the fictional Mr. Darcy and incapable of reconciling him with the living, breathing Darcy before her, and this is something that LIA never fully addressed. Although the fictional Georgian world kept failing to live up to Amanda's expectations, and people wouldn't behave the way she wanted them to, she was never forced to readjust her expectations or to see anyone as an autonomous human being. She didn't change, and she apparently learned nothing from her time in the Regency world, and yet she won the man anyway. Her ending was neither Austenian nor post-modern, just very, very unsatisfying.
Tags: books, rants, television
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    Harry Potter and I go back some way, as the earlier years of this journal attest. I wasn’t quite in the throes of pubescent adolescence when I…

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