Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 9 2013 08:04PM

Shannon Hale’s Austenland is not a great work of literature: it’s a mildly entertaining beach read with a cute romantic denouement. The movie version could have been a sweet, funny summertime romantic comedy, something for us girls to see while the menfolk were occupied with “Boys Blowing Things Up, Part VIII.”

Much though my little feminist heart longs to support "Austenland" as a rare, female-centric movie – producer Stephenie (Twilight) Meyer noted in a Hollywood Reporter interview that it's “based on a novel by a woman, scripted by women, produced by women, directed by a woman and starring a woman” -- honesty compels me to report that it's appalling.

It’s not bad like a guilty pleasure, or bad like an interesting experiment gone wrong, or even so-bad-it’s-good. It’s just bad – unfunny, unsexy, and uninterested in any of the real questions that its story might raise about women, romantic fantasy, and Jane Austen’s relationship to both.

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 5 2013 01:00PM

"Austenland," the new movie based on Shannon Hale's novel about a Colin Firth-obsessed woman vacationing at a Regency theme park, won't open in a multiplex near me for another ten days -- or so the movie's perky little web site informs me.

Despite the generally atrocious reviews -- "embarrassingly juvenile," says the New York Times -- I've been looking forward to this movie ever since I heard it was being made. The book was fun, and wih JJ Feild playing the hero, how could you go wrong? (I may eat those words soon, but for now I remain optimistic.)

Meanwhile, here's an interview in which Hale talks about her Austen-love and why Henry Tilney (once played -- definitively, in my opinion -- by JJ Feild) doesn't get as much swoony admiration as Mr. Darcy. Her basic argument: we readers identify with Elizabeth Bennet and therefore like the guy who's smart enough to fall in love with her.

There's a bit of the plain-Lizzy meme at work in Hale's thesis, but it's an interesting idea nonetheless, this suggestion that we're really falling in love with idealized versions of ourselves when we swoon for Austen heroes. Might be right. . .

By Deborah Yaffe, May 2 2013 01:00PM

The release date for Among the Janeites has been moved up about a month, to August 6 – we’re hoping to catch a bit of the publicity wave for the movie version of Shannon Hale’s novel Austenland, which hits theaters August 16.

Austenland is about a modern-day single woman whose romantic fantasies have been colonized by the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. (Colin Firth, wet shirt – need I say more?) She travels to a Regency-house-party-cum-theme-park, where the women wear bonnets and Empire-line dresses, the men wear knee breeches and embroidered waistcoats, and no one knows who’s a fellow guest and who’s an actor hired to provide a frisson of Mr. Darcy-esque excitement.

It’s a natural fit with my book about the real-life community of Janeites, who have been known to dress up in Regency costume and fantasize about Colin Firth. Along with a lot of far more serious acts of Austen appreciation, naturally.

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