Tolerable, I suppose.
April 8, 2015 12:21 PM   Subscribe

 


"Mr. Darcy Isn't Actually That Great" What. You bite your tongue--oh.
posted by MsDaniB at 12:31 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Years ago some friends and I came to the conclusion that Mr. Darcy is objectively the right answer to the question of which fictional character you would punch in the face if you could. I stand by this choice.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:33 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Forget Mr. Darcy, Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth FOREVER AND EVER.

(Also Jennifer Ehle is far and away the best thing about that particular adaptation, Colin Firth just stares into the middle distance and clenches his jaw a bunch. And is tousled.)
posted by selfnoise at 12:39 PM on April 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Can Mr. Darcy Ever Be Rude Enough?

This is similar to my problem with most modern versions of Mr. Rochester (from Jane Eyre). Directors never want to alienate their audience by hiring a troll (physically and behaviorally) for their leading man, although Toby Stephens did try his damnedest to frown a lot.
posted by muddgirl at 12:39 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Darcy would be a bad match for a lot of people, and there are far better _people_ in Austen's works, but he's absolutely the right match for Elizabeth. Their flaws and strengths fit together very well, indeed that is a point Austen is trying to make.
posted by tavella at 12:40 PM on April 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


I've never read the book and have heard that in the book he is much more rude than when portrayed on screen. However I love the Darcy's I've seen on screen. He speaks his mind, rarely smiles, isn't into small talk isn't the romantic type and doesn't dance, but he's responsible, intelligent, dutiful, reliable and honest. All these traits right down to the don't dance describes my SO and he is awesome. I'm not the romantic type either so Darcys of the world and I do well together.
posted by rancher at 12:41 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Colin Firth just stares into the middle distance and clenches his jaw a bunch. And is tousled.

I have consulted widely with the heterosexual woman to my right and she suggests that this is plenty.
posted by biffa at 12:43 PM on April 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


I guess Colin Firth is a bit of an acquired taste. He does look very period-appropriate, though.

Frankly, Mr. Darcy has to have a lot more in the cheekbones and big luminous eyes departments to make up for being...well, I think the problem with Mr. Darcy isn't quite that he's rude and self-absorbed; it's that he's not really an interesting-enough human to make those qualities redeemable. Like, if he were rude, self-absorbed and also perhaps a gifted translator of French medieval literature, or rude, self-absorbed and a bit of a parlor socialist, or rude, self-absorbed and a gifted amateur mathematician or something...but he's basically rude, self-absorbed and nothing much except rich and reasonably literate.

The same holds true for Mr. Rochester, honestly, except that he has some skill at amateur theatricals. None of those guys are very interesting. Jane Eyre at least is a real weirdo, plus she can paint.

I mean, I adore Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, but lord knows it's not because of the male leads.
posted by Frowner at 12:46 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Their flaws and strengths fit together very well, indeed that is a point Austen is trying to make.

Exactly. It's a story about two flawed but good people who make each other better (in contrast to her parents' marriage). Elizabeth is not a blank Mary Sue type to project yourself onto, so of course the man for her won't be the man for everyone.
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:46 PM on April 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Although the doctor in Villette is all right.
posted by Frowner at 12:47 PM on April 8, 2015


So, so, relevant.
posted by Myca at 12:49 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


but he's basically rude, self-absorbed and nothing much except rich and reasonably literate.

I have had to watch both the Firth and MacFadyen versions of this more than once, and I get the distinct impression that you are missing out a key quality from the female perspective: hot.
posted by biffa at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2015


I mean, Mr. Rochester is actually an evil human being. He's racist, he slut-shames his poor first wife, he's manipulative, etc etc. Mr. Darcy is probably also racist and god knows where all his money comes from (Triangle Trade, probably), but at least he's just a brooding jerk.

I think if I had to marry an Austen hero I would probably pick Captain Wentworth.
posted by Frowner at 12:52 PM on April 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have had to watch both the Firth and MacFadyen versions of this more than once, and I get the distinct impression that you are missing out a key quality from the female perspective: hot.

Long, long ago before I gave up men, I went out with a guy who was really hot. Built, as it were, in all the desirable ways. And he was nice. But it didn't make up for the alcoholism or the other interacting-with-people personality flaws. He let it be known that we could get engaged if I wanted, but I did not want. I mean, I am familiar with Hot Guys You Don't Want To Marry, here - he was way out of my league, looks-wise.
posted by Frowner at 12:55 PM on April 8, 2015


Well there's nothing to say that the former Ms Bennet didn't go on to live a life of married regret I guess.

I gave some more thought to your previous post before coming back to the thread though, and I do think that you have quite odd criteria for finding a partner, gifted translator of Medieval French? Parlor socialist? I think 'quite fancy that & we get on ok/fit together well' are probably a bit more common, and this is reflected in P&P, for more than one couple.
posted by biffa at 1:07 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a thread discussing Austen, must be in want of a Captain Wentworth-off:

Ciaran Hinds vs. Rupert Penry-Jones
posted by needled at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


ok but consider this: mr knightley
posted by poffin boffin at 1:12 PM on April 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


What I was trying to say is that both Darcy and Rochester are basically held up as attractive in part because they are difficult and brooding and snotty - winning their affection is supposed to be valuable because they dole it out so sparingly*. And while I'm just like everyone else and spent my adolescence attracted to difficult, mean people, my actual adult feeling about both those guys is basically "what do they have to be so snotty about? they're just boring human beings except for being rude". If they had an interesting obsession or capacity (ie, being an amateur translator, or the kind of amateur archaeologist you always find in MRR James stories) it might be fun because there would be sort of friction in their personalities between snobby/annoying and fascinating/smart. Instead you're just supposed to like them because they're so goddamn grumpy.

That's why I like the doctor in Villette - he has some content to his character.

But what I truly think is that romance novels (even the very finest ones) have a built-in waiver....there's no shame in being allured by Mr. Darcy, really. I mostly like to discuss him as though he is a real person because it's kind of funny.

*Another point against Rochester - consider how he treats his daughter!!!! What happens to poor Adele once Jane has babies? I mean, we know she goes to boarding school, but that's it.
posted by Frowner at 1:13 PM on April 8, 2015


Bloody SyFy. I pitched Mr. Darcy, Vampire Hunter to what was then less annoyingly called The Sci-Fi Channel, like two years before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came along and launched a whole sub-genre of Jane Austen monster mashups. (Indeed I did this precisely because they said they were looking for pitches based on fairly tales and similar well-known - yet public domain - properties. For a while a friend of mine was working on a take on Jack and the Beanstalk, and the comments that kept coming back were "More guns! More guns!")

They could have been at the forefront of that whole thing.
posted by Naberius at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2015


You've talked me round. Bollocks to 'em.
posted by biffa at 1:19 PM on April 8, 2015


I suppose it's time to invoke Kate Beaton.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:20 PM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a thread discussing Austen, must be in want of a Captain Wentworth-off:

Ciaran Hinds vs. Rupert Penry-Jones


I'm not sure who the latter is, but he isn't Ciaran Hinds and therefore loses. (Amanda Root is amazing in that movie too.)
posted by selfnoise at 1:20 PM on April 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Years ago some friends and I came to the conclusion that Mr. Darcy is objectively the right answer to the question of which fictional character you would punch in the face if you could.

Nope: Heathcliff.

Which works whether you're talking about the Brontë character or the cat.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:26 PM on April 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


From The Toast: Mr. Collins (1995) v. Mr. Collins (2005)
posted by Iridic at 1:46 PM on April 8, 2015


What I was trying to say is that both Darcy and Rochester are basically held up as attractive in part because they are difficult and brooding and snotty - winning their affection is supposed to be valuable because they dole it out so sparingly*.

I don't think that's true of Jane Eyre, although I admit it's been a few years since I read it. I always saw Mr. Rochester as normally quite charming, likely to make up for his physical ugliness, and he doles out affection quite freely (although it often comes in the form of an insult). That's kind of what gets him in trouble so often, and it's certainly what gets Jane in trouble, since she's been shown real affection by only one or two people in her life. He's certainly brooding (understandable given he's got his insane wife locked in his attic), and definitely not a good person, but I think it's a mistake to lump him together with Mr. Darcy. In fact, I would say that Mr. Rochester's charm, to Jane and to the reader, is not just that he's rude, it's that he's like the archetypal Bad Boy. He seems quite wild and dangerous. The wildest thing Mr. Darcy's ever done is propose to a country gentleman's daughter.

As for Adele (who probably isn't Mr. Rochester's daughter, since the proof would have been in the pudding - the book is mightily concerned with parental defects coming out in the children), Jane herself has this to say:
As she grew up, a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French defects; and when she left school, I found in her a pleasing and obliging companion: docile, good-tempered, and well-principled.
I don't know any jingoistic English chants, but this would certainly be the place for them.
posted by muddgirl at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Instead you're just supposed to like them because they're so goddamn grumpy.

At least with Mr. Darcy, I don't think you're supposed to like him at the start. But he turns out to be a decent human being (as decent as boring rich men in those days could be anyways), even if he has to blunder about all grumbly before he figures it out and grows as a person.

On preview, what muddgirl said.
posted by ghost phoneme at 2:05 PM on April 8, 2015


Hiccup with Iridic's link, try: Mr. Collins (1995) v. Mr. Collins (2005)
posted by biffa at 2:05 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you kindly, Biffa!
posted by Iridic at 2:09 PM on April 8, 2015


Mr Rochester is charming, yes, but consider the way he talks about all the local gentry at the party behind their backs, especially poor Blanche Whoosis, who he totally leads on. We're supposed to believe that she's a bad woman for wanting to marry him for his money, but really she doesn't have a lot of choices, does she? She has to marry someone. He doesn't even seem affectionate towards Housekeeper Lady. He talks smack about a lot of people behind their backs, usually to Jane, in order to assure her that she, like him, has judgment and is special.

And all the woe! I have a little bit of sympathy for him being pushed to marry an unsuitable heiress (and zero sympathy for the racism with which he/Bronte describes her) but the whole "ooooh, I traveled around being rich and hiring mistresses, but None Of Them Really Loved Me Except the Phlematic German and She Was Boooooorring So I Set Her Up With A Hat Shop" business...Seriously? It almost makes you sympathize with St. John, who is otherwise the worst person in the book.

I think we're supposed to believe that he is capable of, like, deep love but just hasn't met the right woman - but the contempt with which he talks about almost all the other women in the book except for Jane is really frustrating. The whole book is an extended version of "but you're not like all the other girls".

I've read Jane Eyre about a million times over the past thirty years (I think I read it for the first time when I was nine, although I bogged down after the first scenes at Thornfield) and each time I find myself more and more interested by the parts without Mr. Rochester (although I certainly appreciate all the descriptions of party dresses at the big house party). The extremely queer parts about the school and Helen and the Idealized Beautiful Teacher; the scenes at the house on the moor; Jane's reflections about art and teaching....Really, you could do a Jane Eyre Without Rochester that would be a pretty interesting book.

I mean, seriously - that first night where he is patronizing her drawing! How can you not want to just punch him in the jaw?
posted by Frowner at 2:13 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have to admit, whenever I see these "" vs "" links, my mind always replaces the second contestant with PREDATOR.
posted by selfnoise at 2:16 PM on April 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Actually, one of the main changes in my personality that did not happen until my mid thirties - when I meet a dude who starts out being rude and patronizing, I do not assume he has hidden depths or a tragic past; I just assume he's a misogynist dick and excise him from my social calendar (with occasional reinstatement if there actually has been a misunderstanding or a tragic past, I admit).
posted by Frowner at 2:16 PM on April 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I noticed a pattern recently:

John Yates - rich twit
John Knightley - a bit of a prick
John Dashwood - genuine prick
John Thorpe - preening asshole
John Willoughby - high king shitbird

Did Austen know a particularly unpleasant John in her private life? Or did she just dislike the sound of the name?
posted by Iridic at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think we're supposed to believe that he is capable of, like, deep love but just hasn't met the right woman

He's not capable of deep love until he's horrifically wounded in atonement for his sins.

Really, you could do a Jane Eyre Without Rochester that would be a pretty interesting book.

It would be a different novel without Jane having to make the choice between earthly passion and her moral conscience.
posted by muddgirl at 2:35 PM on April 8, 2015


I seem to be a minority of one in that I love Colin Firth but hate his Darcy. He starts off with the contempt/rage/boredom turned up to 11 and has nowhere to go when he needs more. Also the shirt scene. I hate the shirt scene.

But I also don't think Darcy is a prick, I think part of the point is about judging people on too little information. He's shy, or has resting bitch face, or is an introvert, or something like that, and he behaved dickishly sometimes, but on the whole I thought the point was that he was a good person who we are introduced to when he's not presenting himself well.
posted by you must supply a verb at 2:39 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


But he's not a rogue archaeologist who stole the Ark of the Covenant to keep it from the Nazis, so fuck that guy.
posted by muddgirl at 2:41 PM on April 8, 2015


> ok but consider this: mr knightley

why mr. knightley is better than mr. darcy

(and i do wonder just a little bit what paul rudd would look like in regency era garb)
posted by needled at 2:43 PM on April 8, 2015


Mrs. Mosley showed me the Colin Firth version when we were first dating and I pretty much adored it. I think I've watched every version put out at one time or another and they all have their strong points (though the rewrite of Catherine De Bourgh in the Olivier version is unforgivable). And though I am still devoted to the Colin Firth version as my favorite, I am constantly astonished every time I watch the 2005 film version at how damn good it is.

As for Colin, the first time around I thought he was the most obnoxious, stick-up-his-ass character I'd ever seen. On repeat viewings, you can see the infinitesimal cracks in his facade as soon as he hears Elizabeth laughing at him for his remarks, and they progress as the story proceeds. It really is a remarkable performance.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:45 PM on April 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Damn, I'm at work and can't find it, but there's a recent fanvid from Festivids which celebrates Mr. Collins. So. awesome.
posted by suelac at 2:45 PM on April 8, 2015


Not every asshole has a heart of gold.

(Edit: oops, I missed myca's comment above, beating me to this. Never mind!)
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:57 PM on April 8, 2015


Mr Darcy is a classic tsundere, very useful when trying to explain terms like 'tsundere' to serious literary types.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:29 PM on April 8, 2015


selfnoise: "Forget Mr. Darcy, Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth FOREVER AND EVER."

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

For my money, that version of Persuasion is the best (traditional) adaptation of any Austen novel (although I would also argue Persuasion is the best of her novels, too).

Pride and Prejudice is fun, and Lady Catherine deBourgh is a woman anyone could be proud to hold up as their role model, but it tends to get remade in the image of the times it is remade in and Darcy's character is almost always the one that gets shifted to meet current tastes (see Olivier's silly Darcy in the highly Hollywoodized 1940 Pride and Prejudice).
posted by julen at 3:35 PM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Mr Thornton. I'll let myself out.
posted by thivaia at 3:48 PM on April 8, 2015


I would agree with Mr Thornton, but he's too much of a mama's boy. Can you imagine having that battleaxe as your MIL?
posted by orrnyereg at 3:54 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Darcy is a plot point. An on-going plot point, but really nothing more than a plot point. If he were not the way he is, both bad and good, there would be no story. Breaking Good, as it were. Unfortunately, wonderful though Ms Austen is, she kind of flubs this 180. But then, there aren't too many writers who would not have flubbed it.

Ain't nothing perfect and given the rest of the book, I can forgive this one problem.
posted by BWA at 4:31 PM on April 8, 2015


I've always had a soft spot for my first Darcy, David Rintoul.

And then there's Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley in EMMA. 100% swoony.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:41 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


why mr. knightley is better than mr. darcy

So what that article seems to miss is the somewhat creepy side of Knightley; he is 37, Emma is 20, and he has had a thing for her since she was much younger. And they are kind of related. The Mr Darcy fantasy is all 'handsome rich dude sweeps in and proves himself worthy of you', whereas the Mr Knightley story is more 'getting together with your older second cousin'.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:19 PM on April 8, 2015


okay, but: Henry Tilney.
posted by nonasuch at 9:00 PM on April 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Best Mr. D'arcy
posted by readyfreddy at 10:23 PM on April 8, 2015


What, no love for the gents at Pemberley Digital? William Darcy is perfectly cast, Bing Lee is adorable, and Alex Knightley is the sanest one there and a total sweetie.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:35 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mr. Darcy isn't the hot one, it's Pemberly.
posted by superior julie at 10:39 PM on April 8, 2015


> the somewhat creepy side of Knightley; he is 37, Emma is 20, and he has had a thing for her since she was much younger

Ah, the Hikaru Genji Plan. Minus the kidnapping part.
posted by needled at 4:59 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think with Mr. Rochester, as far as casting him, you need to take it in the context of the story about Jane's conquest of all- including his male advantage, and take his low brow and barrel shape to cast someone hypermasculine in features. He should be sexy the way an erection can be sexy- overwhelmingly male and easily vulgar, something he emphasises as a defence mechanism to feeling fundamentally unworthy of love.

There's a duality there in their stories, where both are abuse survivors- Jane by most folk and Rochester by his mentally ill (looks to be severely bipolar with untreated mania, maybe borderline?) wife Bertha. Rochester's maiming is a pretty important part of the romance arc- its a story of a woman who will *never* be dominated. She might narrate with imagination and insecurity but at the end of the day its about her needing and equal who does not ask herself to comprise herself for him as Mr. Perfect missionary did or her school or horrid family had.

Where as Rochester is a submissive by dynamic, he wants the comfort of Jane's dominance and is attracted to her because he appreciates she's tougher than him and calls him on his bullshit (their discussion on sin basically being about self indulgence).
posted by Phalene at 5:37 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


This whole discussion makes me think of something that we work to manage in a book discussion group I run - different ways of speaking "inside" and "outside" the story.

The stated logic of Jane Eyre is that Rochester is an abuse victim, as you say, Phalene - he's not loved enough by his family, his wife abuses him, other people use him for his money, etc. And in fact all his power is a kind of illusion - he has money and masculinity and physical strength but they are all basically useless in making him happy, and since he isn't cut out to dominate (which is a really good observation!!) they actively make him unhappy.

The "outside" logic is that here is a rich straight guy of good family with very few genuine constraints on him, someone who in fact blames women for his problems and who repeatedly denies the ways in which he does inevitably dominate by virtue of his gender, wealth and race. Rochester alleges that he is abused by Bertha and exploited by his mistresses, who are in fact in much weaker social positions than he is. He's someone who wants to have his cake and eat it too - a wife who is a real firecracker but who also "naturally" wants to do what he wants.

I think these are both important readings - it's pointless to do the second kind without the first, because the second kind does not cultivate a careful reading of the text. (At least as I observe the second kind in my discussion group!) What I notice about myself is that because I really kind of resent Mr. Rochester (what a fucking jerk!! what a titanic and pompous bore!! Jane is so interesting and smart!!! Why can't she just stay with her girl cousins or go and be a philanthropist and marry somebody else?) ....I find it very easy to do the second kind of reading, whereas in class I'm always pushing people not to do the second kind and getting grumpy when they insist on it.

~~~
I do feel like both Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice are essentially fantasies by women who, as a class, are trapped - a way of reconciling yourself to having to marry someone who has little incentive to be nice to you; a way of adding meaning to a life of catering to a grumpy dude's whims - you're not doing it because you have to, you're doing it because you're really the dominant one, etc etc. Basically, real-world Elizabeth Bennett is Charlotte Lucas.

SPOILERS FOR VILLETTE FOLLOW!!!!!!!!



I never really thought of it this way, but the professor's death (I realize now that I'd thought he was also qualified as a doctor but he's not) in Villette, which is played as this huge moment of ironic narration....that's really freedom, right? She has won the affection of Self-Important Cranky-pants, she has professional success, and then she doesn't have to live with him - meaning without servitude.

It's also so weird that both Villette and Jane Eyre have this theme of female freedom but there's no meaningful critique of slavery even in passing as an aside (at least as far as I remember - I haven't read Villette in a few years) - the professor goes to supervise a slave plantation and of course everyone's money in Jane Eyre comes from slavery or near-slavery, plus ultra-creepy creeper St. John is going out to improve the natives in India. (How long, oh lord, how long?) On the one hand, of course, people's money did come from slavery, that was normalized; on the other, it wouldn't be totally out of line with the British abolitionist movement of the time to draw some parallels.
posted by Frowner at 7:06 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess Colin Firth is a bit of an acquired taste.

Are you kidding me? Firth officially won the Oscar for the King's Speech, but he really won it, because there are legions of women who view him as the definitive Mr. Darcy.
posted by jonp72 at 7:14 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


But...but....he has tiny eyes! And medium-sized undistinguished features!!! And he's sort of medium-pallid with medium-colored hair, eyes and mouth!!!

I mean, I'm sure he's a lovely human being and an accomplished actor and much better looking than the average fellow on the street....It's not that, like, I have never dated or been attracted to men, but the more conversations I have with basically straight women about their preferences in dudes, the more I realize that my preferences in men have always been marked by basically not being a straight person. Colin Firth, that Don Draper guy, Ryan Gosling, that guy who plays James Bond, the guy from around town that my best friend has a tragic crush on...I mean, I totally accept that they are intensely compelling to many women, but it's like they're some kind of weird optical illusion to me. I know there's a totally normal way of seeing them which reveals their essential attraction, but they just look sort of flat, the kind of people I would pass on the street except with more symmetrical features.

On the other hand, this did always mean that back when I dated men I was never competing with my friends over any particular fellow.
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on April 9, 2015


Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth. Nothing more needs to be said.
posted by msjen at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2015


David Bamber really is the definitive Mr Collins. If you wanted to illustrate "obsequiousness" in the dictionary, just put that image of his cheesy grin where, YET AGAIN, he gets to talk about how many windows there are at Rosings, next to the definition.

I prefer the slightly grittier 1995 mini-series version, including Colin Firth as Darcy, though I saw the 2005 movie first (and the less said about the 1940 version, the better, as far as I'm concerned). Matthew McFaydden was unrecognizable to me when I saw him last on the Mitchell and Webb dramedy Ambassadors in 2013, where he was an excellent straight man. Not that there's anything wrong with the movie, but it was just so... swoony. Meh. However, I do think I would swap out Barbara Leigh-Hunt for Judy Dench as Lady Catherine. Judy's Catherine looked like she could do Jennifer Ehle's Lizzie some serious social hurt, and I would've loved to see Dench face-off Ehle.
posted by droplet at 1:13 PM on April 9, 2015


doesn't dance

Huh? He dances in the book and in the movies.
posted by caryatid at 4:06 PM on April 9, 2015


Iridic: "Did Austen know a particularly unpleasant John in her private life? Or did she just dislike the sound of the name?"

One time I had to do some data-gathering on a phone directory of upper-middle-class women in my area during World War II; fully 30% of them were married to men named John. (That wasn't part of the data-gathering, that was just my side project for having to go through so many records.)

5_13_23_42_69_666: "So what that article seems to miss is the somewhat creepy side of Knightley; he is 37, Emma is 20, and he has had a thing for her since she was much younger. And they are kind of related. The Mr Darcy fantasy is all 'handsome rich dude sweeps in and proves himself worthy of you', whereas the Mr Knightley story is more 'getting together with your older second cousin'."

I am objectively aware of the creepiness of this on the one hand, but on the other hand MR KNIGHTLEY? SWOOOOOOOOOOOOOON.

It makes me concerned there is something wrong with me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:04 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Frowner, Jane Eyre is explicitly racist against continental Europeans, much less the rest of the world and more than a little classist. I think if you are looking for liberalism in all things you are going to be disappointed.

But the thing about hoping that Jane gets out of her paridigm is that its about conquest, not escape. Its also about the compromise of heterosexuality- as a straight woman finding partners exempt from privilege is impossible. (Although honestly on the spectrum of things, gently raised and born Jane was privledged out the ears herself)

I found Rochester was cranky, but him being a straight white male in no way excludes him from sympathy, and the book does examine other modes in her more horrid cousins- the one who followed sexual excess into ruin and the one on her way to a catholic nunnery (whom Jane didn't like, but she was satisfied). I presume her specific fixation on Rochester, beyond some very obvious sexual chemistry, was that he in turn was particularly crucial as a rejection of her self control fixated obsession. Obviously outside a book plot she had more options than Brooding Bigamy and NiceGuy SaveTheHindoos but as much as she called Rochester on his self pity powered dissipation, he made it impossible for her to pretend she was Plain Jane as a defence mechanism.
posted by Phalene at 2:18 AM on April 10, 2015


I've been mulling this over, and I think Darcy is dreamy because of the precision of Austen's plot.

The Bennett sisters are caught between the Scylla of poverty and the Charybdis of gentility. They have no personal income or prospect of earning one; their family income is only sufficient because they live rent-free in an entailed estate: when their father dies they will lose both the house and the estate's produce, such as it is. The terror of this predicament is the only thing that can can account for Mr Bennett's quite remarkable treatment of his wife: he has failed his family and is deflecting the shame that he ought to bear.

Elizabeth must make a good marriage. If she does not she will be doomed to semi-genteel poverty, or perhaps life as a governess or some such. But, Elizabeth is bright, witty, sensible, and perspicacious. She would be miserable with Mr Collins, and knows it. Darcy offers an escape, both from future poverty and from the dullness of her potential suitors. We don't see as much of Darcy as of Elizabeth, but Austen does show us that he can keep up a conversation and that he has an internal life.

The problem with this romance is that we don't want our heroine to be a supplicant, a toy, or a charity case. Elizabeth is a heroine! But why should the Master of Pemberley take Elizabeth, whose family is undistinguished; whose wealth is negligible; and whose relatives are mostly tiresome or offensive? That match merely reflect Darcy's infatuation; Elizabeth would be forever subordinated to the real business of his life. Elizabeth realises this and (to her very great credit) sees that it is an obstacle to their union.

However, events show Darcy that his pride has led him into error and isolation. Darcy then realises that Elizabeth is not only beautiful and bright and witty, but also frank, sensible, and thoughtful. She is not merely a love-object but (potentially) the friend, companion, and advisor that he needs. This places them on an equal footing; there need be no insecurity on her part. It's not like (say) Cinderella: Darcy and Elizabeth have rescued each other, and their bond means that we don't need to worry what will happen when the glitter wears off. This is profoundly satisfying and this relief is, I think, why we find Darcy so pleasing: we love Elizabeth and he is indisputably the right person for her.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:25 AM on April 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I realize that my preferences in men have always been marked by basically not being a straight person. Colin Firth, that Don Draper guy, Ryan Gosling, that guy who plays James Bond, the guy from around town that my best friend has a tragic crush on...I mean, I totally accept that they are intensely compelling to many women, but it's like they're some kind of weird optical illusion to me.

I think it's some kind of cheekbones thing with most of them, if that helps you any. Also, English accents are another "thing" for a lot of people.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:56 PM on April 15, 2015


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