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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Austen women

Jane Austen isn’t just for girls, of course, but the Austenesque tidbits that the internet has tossed my way lately happen to focus on females of the species:

--Alicia Silverstone, who joined TikTok some six months ago, seems to post a Clueless-themed mini-video roughly once a month. And who can blame her? It’s still her greatest role, in one of the greatest of Jane Austen adaptations.

Last week, in her most recent self-homage, Silverstone plays the viral tell-me-without-telling-me game by inviting us to tell her we’re Clueless fans without. . . etc. She starts us off by quoting an immortal line delivered by her costar Brittany Murphy in adorable NooYawk-ese: “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” (Silverstone captions the bit with her equally immortal reply: “That was way harsh, Tai!”)

In my household, we play this game by yodeling, “Hello! That was a stop sign!” whenever the driver whizzes insouciantly past a red octagon. (The driver is, of course, mandated to reply, “I totally paused!”) Next time, we’ll shoot video.

--Emma Thompson, the screenwriter and star of yet another beloved Jane Austen adaptation, proved once again that she is true Elinor Dashwood material, or so we may conclude from a local news report. It seems that last month, Dame Emma dropped by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, to deliver some new items for the Centre’s collection: behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Sense and Sensibility, and a signed copy of her script.

And then she came back the next day! And brought cake! And posed for pictures with the staff, even though they were all dressed up in Regency costumes and she was wearing overalls, no makeup, and some kind of floppy towel on her head!

“What a total babe she is,” gushed the website Somerset Live, abandoning any pretense of journalistic objectivity. Apparently, they were so overcome – and really, who can disagree? Emma Thompson is a total babe – that they failed to answer the most crucial question: What kind of cake was it?

--“Police vow crackdown on Jane Austen ‘coquette’ culture,” reads a recent headline on NewsBiscuit, the UK’s answer to The Onion. The made-up account, presumably intended as a satire of all those handwringing stories about kids-these-days-with-their-dangerous-social-media-trends, describes the frightening proliferation of “anti-social incidents involving young women emulating behavior they’ve picked up from the novels of Jane Austen.”

It's a funny idea, but alas, the author of this piece doesn’t seem to have read any actual Jane Austen, so neither her dialogue (“I know not, gentle sir”) nor her account of supposedly Austen-influenced behavior (singing Mozart arias in the street? Huh?) qualify as Austenesque.* But I’ll award points for effort.

* And what’s with that illustration featuring an Eiffel Tower background? Need I remind NewsBiscuit that Austen’s novels were set in England, not to mention roughly seventy years before the Eiffel Tower was built?

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