Beating Darcy Down

Last weekend, people from my former college threw a Fitzwilliam Darcy Ball. This should be no surprise considering the fact that every couple of hours, someone from my former college invites me to take the “Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?” Facebook quiz. And that should be no surprise considering the fact that Jane Austen is ubiquitous these days—on billboards, in movies, on bookshelves—tired out, twisted and shrunk to cliché.

“It seems you could make anything Jane Austen wrote—a captioned doodle? a grocery list? a penmanship exercise?—into a box office smash,” said the Washington Post last summer when Jane Austen Book Club and Becoming Jane were hitting the box office. PBS just readapted every Jane Austen classic for its Masterpiece series. Upcoming spin-offs include Sense and Sensibilidad, a Latina version set in Los Angeles, and Jane Austen Handheld, which retells Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of a documentary crew.

The Boston Globe gushed that Austen approaches the genius of Shakespeare and that we must adapt her stories again and again for each generation: “It should be reimagined for a variety of mindsets—cynical, superficial, innocent, hopeful. As we define Austen, so, to some extent, do we define our time and ourselves.”

But the passion is a little cloying—embarrassing enough to force former Jane Austen fans into hiding. There’s a difference between someone who appreciates Jane Austen and someone who wants to be Jane Austen. It’s good to use literature as an occasional escape from reality, but when fiction spills over into real life and we start to want to inhabit it—when we start assuming that life is a series of F. Darcy Balls and proposals from Colin Firth—it’s a problem. …

To read the rest, go to Kritik Magazine: Beating Darcy Down.


~ by stultiloquence on April 15, 2008.

8 Responses to “Beating Darcy Down”

  1. Well done.

  2. wickhams all over the world are singing your praise.

  3. And Mr. Collinses too, I bet.

  4. P.S. Send the Wickhams my way!

  5. This is one of my favorite things that you’ve written. And this is coming from a devoted Austenite. You’re exactly right, and I’m sure Jane would agree with you. Girls infatuated with Mr. Darcy would do well to remember that they’re really acting more like Kitties and Lydias than Elizabeths. Infatuation with fictional characters is never the sign of a strong, self-confident woman.

  6. Wait, Bethany, what if it’s Tintin? Or the Hardy Boys?

  7. I have an almost-married-woman crush on Tintin.

  8. Paz has jumped in on the excitement…

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