Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Mrs. Darcy"

by Chloe Angyal

Everyone loves Lizzie Bennet. My friend Anna and I love her so much that whenever I come home to Sydney, we sit down and watch Pride and Prejudice. We prefer the BBC version, which is pretty faithful to the book, but since it's about eighteen hours long and we were short on time today, we watched the 2005 version, starring Keira Knightley. And we made the mistake of watching it with the US Alternate Ending.

This ending includes the repetition of "Mrs. Darcy" over and over again, as if to remind us that, despite Lizzie's fierce independence and resistance to the dominant social norms of the day (which we've just spent two hours experiencing), once she's married, her fate is the same as that of every other woman. She's married to Darcy, so she's happy, even if she's no longer the fiercely independent and freethinking woman she was before her father consented to the marriage (which, incidentally, is where the UK/Australian version leaves the story). The woman we see in these final minutes of the American version is no longer Lizzie Bennet, or at least, she's not the Lizzie Bennet we've spent two hours getting to know. She's now Mrs. Darcy.

But Mrs. Darcy isn't the woman we love as readers, the woman generations of readers have identified with and cheered for. It's Lizzie Bennet we love.

This new woman is totally alien to us, and, watching this interpretation of the ending, one can't help but feel that she lacks a lot Lizzie Bennet's wit and insight. It's as though by shedding her surname, she's shed the characteristics we loved most about her, and has become just another blushing, "incandescently happy" bride, like her sister Jane. It's not that we don't like Jane, we just don't like her the way we like Lizzie, who is sharp and quick and not afraid to call bullshit on someone. Jane, lovely but docile, isn't the woman we wish we could be when we read Pride and Prejudice. And "Mrs. Darcy," happy but two-dimensional, isn't the woman we wish we could be when we watch this ending of the movie.

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