Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 25 2019 02:00PM

Among Janeites, the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice is . . . controversial.


Purists, especially those old enough to have seen an earlier adaptation of P&P in their youth, dislike its Brontesque romanticism and its exaggeration of the Bennet family’s comparative poverty: pigs in the backyard, Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy striding across the dawn fields half-dressed to tell Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth that she has bewitched him body and soul – that kind of thing.


Others, especially those young enough to have discovered P&P for the first time through the swoony vision of director Joe Wright, have no problem with being swept off their feet by a timeless love story. For them: Matthew Macfadyen, half-dressed. What’s not to like?


I’m not here to adjudicate this dispute, which became so heated back when the movie was first released that the Republic of Pemberley eventually barred further discussion of the matter from its online message boards.


I'm merely here to point out that, whatever the state of play among Janeites, the pro-P&P 2005 faction has pretty clearly won the day out there in the larger world. Or so I conclude from a chart I stumbled across earlier this month that purports to list the twenty top-selling romantic comedy DVDs of all time.


Right there at #11: Pride and Prejudice 2005. No other Austen movie – indeed, no other movie with a non-contemporary setting – cracks the top twenty, unless you count the Bridget Jones movies, which are loose Austen updates. P&P 2005: controversial among Janeites, beloved by everyone else.


According to a website called OfficialCharts.com – yes, that’s really what it’s called, so I guess this Chart must indeed be Official – P&P has sold 1.34 million copies, less than half the 2.9 million copies of the top seller, Love Actually, but a pretty robust number any way you look at it.


As a devoted fan of the romcom, I am delighted to say that I have seen nineteen of the twenty movies on this list, nearly all of them during their first theatrical run. I even own some of the DVDs! (I’m looking at you, Notting Hill. And Love Actually. And the Bridget Jones movies. And P&P, of course.)


Why did I miss Coyote Ugly (#14)? IMDB provides the clue: apparently, it was released on August 4, 2000, when I was the exhausted mother of a toddler and a three-week-old infant. It may be the greatest movie of all time, but I wouldn’t have been able to stay awake past the credit sequence. Luckily, however, I can still buy the DVD.


By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 18 2019 02:00PM

It’s always enjoyable when the mass media provide opportunities for us Janeites to snark about everyone else’s Austen ignorance.


Today’s exhibit: The February 12 episode of NBC’s Today show, during which co-host Savannah Guthrie and two guests picked their favorite literary love stories.


First category: Historical romance. First guest pick: The Remains of the Day, Nobel winner Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 masterpiece, set in 1930s Britain. Second guest pick: Destiny’s Embrace, Beverly Jenkins’ 2013 romance novel set in nineteenth-century California.


And then Guthrie’s pick (at 1:25 on the recording): “I love Pride and Prejudice,” she says.


Already we know we’re in trouble, because even though P&P is all old-timey and proper and the characters wear corsets and gloves and use kinda long words when they talk, Jane Austen is not an historical novelist. Historical novelists are people who write novels set in historical periods other than their own. Jane Austen set her books in her own time, a time that happens to be a long time ago for us. She is a classic novelist, yes, but not an historical one.


And then Guthrie goes on burbling about the joys of P&P: “I know it’s kind of obvious, but it is so enjoyable, it’s such a great read, lots of people have seen the movie, but you have to read the book. I mean you’ll just fall in love with Mark Darcy over and over and over again.”


Sigh.


I mean – props to Guthrie for picking a genuinely great novel. P&P is indeed enjoyable and a great read and a book that you should read even if you’ve seen the movie(s). But if you’d actually read P&P, rather than Bridget Jones’ s Diary, then you’d know that the first name of that swoon-worthy hero is Fitzwilliam, not Mark.


So what do you think, Janeites? Has Savannah Guthrie actually never read Pride and Prejudice? Or did she just misspeak, saying “Mark” when she meant to say “Mister”? I am feeling generous, largely because she has provided such an excellent opportunity for midwinter snark, and so I will cut her a break. As long as she promises to read it again.


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