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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Deck the halls

It was Christmas in July for those of us who spend our days looking for pop-culture recognition of Jane Austen’s genius:

* July 14: Netflix released a female-action-hero movie called Gunpowder Milkshake, which features a group of women known as “the librarians” who manage a “bookish armory, where the volumes contain handguns of various sizes and the larger-caliber weapons have monikers like ‘Jane Austen,’ ‘Virginia Woolf’ and ‘Charlotte Bronte,’ ” John Anderson wrote in a Wall Street Journal review.

(The gaming website Polygon put it differently, noting that those guns are “hidden in books by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, and Virginia Woolf.” Ah, that Jane Eyre: what a writer!)

I haven’t seen Gunpowder Milkshake – I may have reached my lifetime limit on movies about morally ambiguous assassins who engage in stylishly art-directed mayhem – but I’m pleased to learn that Austen gets to be a larger-caliber weapon. She’s a bazooka, as far as I’m concerned.

* July 15: The second episode of HBO Max’s new reboot of Gossip Girl, the 2007-12 melodrama set among the privileged teenagers of New York’s Upper East Side, featured a Jane Austen-themed clue to the main characters’ personalities. (Or so I’ve read. I’m not a GG viewer either, then or now.) The reboot’s central characters are long-separated half-sisters named – as we learned in Episode 2 -- Julien Elizabeth and Zoya Jane. Elizabeth and Jane. Get it? Get it?

This Pride and Prejudice reference offers a clue to the characters’ personalities, according to an article by Elite Daily, an online news platform aimed at millennial women. “Much like Elizabeth [Bennet], Julien has shown she can be very stubborn and stuck in her ways, but also shows signs she may be able to turn over a new leaf in the future,” Dylan Kickham wrote last month. “Like Jane, Zoya is overly trusting of others.”

Kudos to Elite Daily for getting the Austen character analysis right. We’ll all know what to think when boys with the middle names Fitzwilliam and George show up next.

* July 23: On the other hand, maybe not all of us will know, after all. The three contestants appearing on the July 23 episode of Jeopardy! faced a Final Jeopardy question – eighteen words, category “Literary Characters” -- of such surpassing simplicity that my husband and I knew the answer after Word Eight.

The question was, “This owner of a large estate in Derbyshire is described as ‘proud’ at least half a dozen times.” Not an Everest-level trivia challenge, you will agree.

Nevertheless, all three contestants got it wrong: --One answered “Mr. Bennet,” which at least shows that she knew which novel we were talking about. --One answered “Prudence,” which – what? --And the third answered “Rochester,” which presumably means that he’s a big fan of that great, great writer Jane Eyre.

The Rochester guy won. Reader, I’m glad I married someone else.

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