Thursday, March 8, 2012

Netflix: Regency edition

These past few weeks, I've been on a bit of a Jane Austen kick. I started out watching North and South, and it's just been all downhill from there. I don't know if that makes Jane Austen like Lay's Potato Chips, but it's been a fun week of curricles and British accents and flowered bonnets.   

In the spirit of learning from wildly popular books and movies, I present to you a brief analysis of what I think works about Jane Austen and similar works.

1)      They're so darned happy. Don't get me wrong. The characters go through a good deal of trial and heartbreak. But even in watching it, you're not too sad… because you know the heroine is going to get her hero in the end.  It's not a story designed to surprise, and that's okay. I love a good twist as much as anyone, but sometimes I want to sit with a tissue clutched in my hand waiting for Mr. Darcy to propose and enjoying the banter in between.

2)      Along those lines, If the ending is a foregone conclusion, you'd better make the middle as darned entertaining as possible. Which is something I could do to remember, given how I try too hard sometimes to have the perfect surprise ending (not a twist, necessarily).  But if your end isn't a twist or a surprise, it gives you the opportunity to bring in subplots and scoundrels and pretty dresses. It seems like a very obvious point, but sometimes, I need to even be reminded of the silliest of things.

3)      The Austen books and their ilk are known for creative, witty dialogue. As someone who loves to spend time exploring characters' inner thoughts and motivation, I sometimes forget to work on how much dialogue can add to the story.  For example, I love the way the dialogue is delivered in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. Take these lines, when Mr. Darcy shows up at a party, frowning mightily: 

Lizzie: He looks miserable, poor soul.
Charlotte: Miserable he may be, but poor he most certainly is not. Ten thousand a year, and he owns half of Darbyshire.
Lizzie: The miserable half?"

4)      Women love regency settings.  Any time they put out a period drama set anywhere from the Era of Unfortunate Man Leggings (late eighteenth century) to the time of Well They Invented Cars So It Doesn't Feel Historic Enough Anymore Decade (special nod to Downton Abbey for proving that cars can exist in period drama!). Yes, I did say women, because apparently, our version of Baywatch is men riding around in horses in the rain. Here, watch the following. (No seriously, watch it. With the sound on. Especially if you're female.)

Never fails to make me giggle.  How many rain scenes are there in these things anyway? I accuse the directors of adding extra. Not that I mind, shallow soul that I am. (I'm guessing Sheena won't mind either, because the clip features extensive footage of BOTH Colonel Brandons!)

Anyway, we're supposed to be talking about books here. Medieval fantasy is way overdone, so perhaps consider setting your fantasy novel in the above-mentioned eras. There are tons of books out there as sequels to Jane Austen's originals, or time travelling to Jane Austen, or monster-of-the-week and Jane Austen… And then there's the whole steampunk movement, which I quite enjoy.

Anyway, in the past couple of weeks, I've watched North & South (not JA, but similar, and I highly recommend it), both Sense & Sensibility movies, and I'm just starting on Wives and Daughters.  Northanger Abbey DVD has been requested from the library. Before long, I'm sure I'll be back to explosions and zombies. Well, maybe not for a while yet. Zombies don't look quite as dashing on horseback.


  1. I absolutely adore North and South. It actually led my on my Netflix addiction to the British show MI-5 (originally Spooks). Ten seasons worth of spies (grittier than Burn Notics), explosions and espionage. No zombies, but it does have the guy from North and South and the guy from Persuasion.

    Anyway, your #4 - total LOL.

  2. LOL, love that video clip, Sabrina. Thanks for sharing it.

    Yeah, I agree the regency period is kind of like our baywatch, and I'm not ashamed of it. :)

  3. Oh my Gosh I love that clip! Ha! I think Regency films appeal to women because of the sense of injustice. Why should Mr. Collins inherit everything, just because he's a boy, and the sisters be abandoned unless they get a good marriage. It's not fair. The feminist in me can't stop watching until Lizzy and Jane have homes just as nice as the one they lost because they are girls, plus the love of hot guys in tight pants.

    I don't think it's the cars which situate the "Yay, Regency" period, I think it's the period of unfairness, and "Women as property, or at the least children who must be taken care of" mentality, which makes me angry at the injustice.

    Plus those films are just pretty. The clothes, the homes, the grounds, and, yes, the men.

  4. I had to put that video on my facebook page. That was such a fun post!

  5. Susan - North and South is my new very favorite. I'll definitely have to check out MI-5!

    Sheena - heh, I actually almost put that in, but I was kind of in a bad mood when I wrote the post and couldn't figure out how to say that without sounding unnecessarily bitchy!


Got an opinion? Use it! Remember... be silly, be honest, and be nice/proofread.