Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why I Hate Jane Austen Films

I don't really hate Austen or her work, but I've found that they draw me into a mythical fantasy that often leaves me discontent.
If you are as much of a fanatic as I am, you know the love/hate emotions Austenian pieces can bring.
Aside from the pitiful situation the Dashwood women find themselves in (yes, that little cottage is larger than my house), most of the main characters of Austen's books live in elegant affluence.

A few weeks back I watched the BBC mini-series on Austen's Emma. What a life! Excuse me, what is this? Nothing to do but paint, arrange flowers and take long walks with friends. Bored? Just plan a Ball, a trip to London, or an outing to Box Hill. Sure, sign me up.

Well, I say that, but my Type-A personality would soon bristle under the limitations women found themselves in (no jobs, no self-reliance, no even inheriting one's fortune). Stifling.
But when the grind starts to pressure me into smaller granules, I crack, and, yes, it would be okay for a day....or ten. 
Let's try to live like that... 
Minus the child mortality rate, the high risk of infection/death, the lack of indoor plumbing and sanitation, the civil unrest, and the social barriers that kept the rich richer and the poor poorer. Yeah, minus that stuff.  

13 Reasons You Wouldn't Want To Live In Jane Austen's England

So maybe I don't really want to live in Austenland. I think I will pass. Georgian society isn't all roses and pearls.
But here's the good news: you can still live like sophisticated gentry if you take up one of their habits. Piano forte, anyone?
There's also watercolor painting, drawing, embroidery.
One could learn a new language: Latin, French, Spanish.
Horseback riding, genealogies, letter writing.
Yes, I am feeling quite unaccomplished now.
Here a few other ideas: granted, not all fall into the 18th century, but I'm sure you could add your own list.

The list of accomplishments is indeed long, as can be seen in Pride and Prejudice, in the discussion Mr Darcy, Mr Bingley, Miss Bingley and Elizabeth Bennet have on the subject. If Mr Bingley's requirements are initially limited ("'paint tables, cover screens, and net purses'"), Mr Darcy and Miss Bingley are agreed in demanding some much more serious talents, such as a "'thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages'", as well as "'a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions'". To these, Mr Darcy adds "'the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.'"(resource)
Bottom line: I should spend more time doing something useful and less time pining for a life that never truly existed. The beauty of these films/books--if you let it take hold--is that life is about perspective and gratitude.
One can always focus on the have-not's and make oneself miserable, but if I chose to appreciate what is and all the abundance beyond what a fantasy cannot deliver, I am exceedingly thankful that I wasn't born 200 years ago....even if it was at Pemberley.

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