Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jane Austen rolls over in her grave again...

Can't we let poor Elizabeth Bennet stay inside the pages of Pride and Prejudice for just a couple of years, without turning her into a zombie or a comic book heroine? Yes, you heard me - Lizzie will be reincarnated in yet another form of media - the graphic novel. The first of the five-part series will be released in April.

The author, Nancy Butler, admits that she's cashing in on a Jane Austen craze - "At any point and time, there's someone filming a Jane Austen story somewhere," she says. Which is true, and not necessarily bad. The 1996 Pride and Prejudice miniseries by the BBC portrayed Elizabeth Bennet as a young woman who was limited by the social mores of Regency England, but refused to conform to them - much like the heroine of Austen's book. The more recent adaptation with Keira Knightley was more questionable, as Chloe pointed out earlier this year. But as a feminist, I like Elizabeth Bennet, even though the English major in me wishes sometimes that we could give her a rest. After all, there are other proto-feminist role models in Victorian novels - what about George Eliot's Dorothea Brooke or Henry James' Isabel Archer, or even Jane Eyre?

But when asked why the book is so popular, Butler's answer is troubling. "One of the reasons the story is so enduring is because Darcy represents a new type of hero," explained Butler. "He's this shy, kind of awkward man from nobility. He's not out slaying dragons. But he's rescuing Lizzie in other ways, by dealing with Wickham and correcting everything with Bingley. So this isn't a knight in shining armor, but he is doing these very noble things. And he does it anonymously. He rescues her sister and doesn't want anyone to know about it. He's a different kind of hero."

So is she saying...we're not even going to let Lizzie be the heroine of her own comic book? She's going to get rescued? And Darcy's going to be the hero? The cover of the comic book certainly looks more like Cosmo than a beloved piece of literature. Next, Lizzie will be giving her sisters tips on how to please their men. I think I'm going to throw up.

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