Friday, September 2, 2011

My prejudice

Like so many women in the last century and a half, I grew up on Pride and Prejudice. My mother had a glorious old hardback edition that was just this side of falling apart. I love a book that is just this side of falling apart because I know it has been read and read and read.  We watched it, too. When I was a kid.

If you do your math, it should be clear that if I was watching Pride and Prejudice when I was a girl (I'm 38 now and I have nothing to hide), it was before the Colin Firth-Jennifer Ehle version from 1996. I had graduated from college before that version came out.

No, I grew up on the earlier BBC version. The one that we Johnson gals (my mom, my sister, and I) still think of as the definitive version. I grew up on the 1980 BBC tv miniseries. I grew up on a version with a delightful Elizabeth and a truly beautiful Jane and a Darcy whose haughtiness was easily seen as awkwardness once we later realized his inherent goodness. My version had a Mrs. Bennett who was annoying, but in an endearing way such that you could understand why Mr. Bennett fell in love with her when she was younger. And a Lydia who looked just like she was the spitting image of her mother at that age. And a Lady Catherine who was stately and imperious. (Mary and Mr. Collins are pretty consistent from version to version. Those characters are hard to mess up or deviate from.) My version was so true to the book and so true to the characters and so perfectly cast. We watched it over and over again, off of old VHS tapes that my mom had recorded it on. (These days, we all 3 have it on DVD.)

So in 1995-96 when Mom and my sister and I heard the BBC was making a new version of Pride and Prejudice, we all looked blankly at each other and asked, "Why?" Because the BBC had already created the definitive version. The perfect version. A version that would outshine all future versions.

Imagine my consternation, then, when almost all of my friends consider the Colin Firth version to be THE Pride and Prejudice. It aggravates me beyond measure. But none of them have ever heard of my version. They look at me like I'm nuts when I say there was an earlier BBC version. "No," they insist, "This is the only BBC version." Sigh. One by one, I try to show them my version, the better version. But I fear Colin Firth with his "Love Actually" credentials (wretched movie) and the shinier BBC production values of the mid-90s as compared to 1980 has them blinded.

The truth, though, is that the Colin Firth version is so ridiculously inferior to my version, it isn't even funny. Why, the Colin version adds in scenes that never happened in the book. (Seriously, Mr. Darcy never fell into a pond...) And their Jane is not pretty. But the ONLY thing Jane truly has to be is pretty. And their Lady Catherine is dowdy. And here it comes to the heart of it. Their Elizabeth Bennett just isn't right. And their Mr. Darcy... Well, it's time to admit it. Their Mr. Darcy sucks. Yep. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy sucks. He's a one-note, with no range in his expression and no warmth. And he's not nearly as good looking as my Mr. Darcy. David Rintoul is the only Mr. Darcy for me.

So friends can keep trying to get me to watch and appreciate the atrocity that is the 1996 Colin Firth version. But I will never be swayed from my conviction that the earlier version, MY version, is the one true, definitive production of that greatest of books. So there.

I might just pop it in right now, even though it's midnight. Just to remind myself of how those characters were meant to be portrayed.


P said...

Naturally, I disagree, and remind you that we do like Colin Firth ("A Month in the Country" being our college intro, not the dreadful "Love Actually"). Ahem. I think there is true chemistry between him and Jennifer Ehle (who is a very good Elizabeth).

I will agree on the mis-casting of Jane, and the too over-the-top Mrs Bennett.

S said...

I know you disagree. :( It's so rare for us to disagree on something like this. And, yes, I love Colin Firth. (And love you a little more for agreeing with me on "Love Actually" 'cause almost no one else does.) But somehow, I think Firth did a better Mr. Darcy in "Bridget Jones" than in this P&P.

BellsforStacy said...

Hmm. I haven't seen the earlier version, though I did know it existed. I've yet to see a P&P that does the book (or Darcy for that matter) suitable jusitce, though I do love the 96 BBC version, and really almost dislike beyond measure the Keira KNightly 2000 whatever version.

To which I add the addendum ... if it's Jane Austen, I will watch it, and will own it, and will love it.

My favorite adaptation though is Persuasion (lately) and my favorite movie of all is Sense and Sensibility, because I've always have been, and always will be, Eleanor. :)

S said...

Stacy, I love, love, love that Persuasion. It is probably my favorite JA movie. Though I'm also quite partial to the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma, probably because I love Jeremy Northam so.

S&S is not my favorite book because those two women are the ones I identify least with. I used to think I was most like Emma, but as I've gotten older, I think the Anne in me has taken over.

BellsforStacy said...

I relate to Anne too. :) But I love S&S. I relate to Marianne too. I'm probably all of the JA ladies in some respect. I was born in the wrong century.

Well, if 1900s England had wifi, mobile computing, ereaders and oh yes - womens suffrage - than I could say that I belong there. For sure!

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