06-10-2005, 02:52 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Jessa Crispin Worries For Keira Knightley
October 05, 2005
By Jessa Crispin
I would like to issue a plea to every director in the world: Stop it with the Pride and Prejudice.
I understand that it’s an enduring love story: Boy’s a jerk, girl’s a twit, but they fall in love against the odds and somehow make it work. Very interesting. But two adaptations in a year? Just how desperate are filmmakers for content?
I never particularly liked Jane Austen. Back during my Bronte phase, someone suggested I read Austen as an obvious complement. I picked up Emma and spent the entire book wondering when it was going to get interesting or good. I mean, there has to be a reason why these books have such a following, right? But it lacked the dark streak of a good Bronte or Hardy or Wharton, authors I was obsessed with at the time. All of Jane Austen’s women seemed to be twittering fools.
When I saw there was to be yet another adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, this one with Keira Knightley, I began to wonder if it was just me. Perhaps I had read Austen at an inappropriate time and couldn’t fully appreciate it, or perhaps it was those Jane Austen fans – the ones who claim that Jane Austen birthed chick lit and all things horrible – sullied my opinion. I decided to read the book for myself, and see if there was a reason the book keeps getting filmed.
I got to page 108 before I gave up. It was well written and the social commentary about inheritance laws was vaguely interesting. But the cheerful ending loomed: everyone married well, everyone financially secure despite her femininity. Give me a good social decline ending in suicide a la House of Mirth any day.
But maybe if I watched the movies I would get it. I’m much more forgiving about the content of movies I’ll watch than books I’ll read and Lord knows, in moments of weakness, I have gone to see bad romantic comedies. As I made my way through Bride and Prejudice (a completely worthless faux-Bollywood adaptation whose only redeeming quality is the three or four minutes of Naveen Andrews as the Mr. Bingley character), Bridget Jones, the Lawrence Olivier version, and the BBC miniseries, I thought about all of those women who see themselves in Elizabeth Bennett or in her modern update, Bridget. Even Keira Knightley, in an interview with Empire Magazine, stated the reason she wanted to do the movie was because she saw herself as Elizabeth Bennett.
That worries me. Isn’t the point of Elizabeth Bennett that she’s completely mediocre? Not a great mind, not a great wit, not a great beauty—something every adaptation except for Bridget Jones seems skip over. Can’t someone adapt a book like Jane Eyre, where the title character actually makes a decision and does something? Jane Eyre has yet to receive even a slightly acceptable adaptation, what with the great beauties that keep being cast in the role.
It would be a more difficult pitch, I know. “Yes, they end up together in the end, but one of ‘em is now blind and missing a hand.” But it’s important to give the Keira Knightleys of the world someone to look up to other than a mediocre heroine.
JESSA CRISPIN is the editor and founder of Bookslut.com
Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche