The Jane Austen Social Scene Part VIII: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (2016)

 

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(Photo source: comingsoon.net)

As a Jane Austen fan and a fan of Seth Grahame-Smith’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, I was very excited when the trailer came out for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” I was so excited that I actually went to the movies to see it, an act I sheepishly admit to not doing enough of when it comes to film.

Now, I try to keep an open mind in regards to movie versions of books. Maybe it’s the scholar in me reminding myself that adaptations are meant to be different. Still, it’s hard not to sit there and go, “That’s not in/like the book!”

I found myself thinking just that as I sat through “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” (Note: Spoilers ahead)

I could look past changing some of the plot. I get it – it’s being made into a movie, they might need to change some points around. What I could not look past was changing the characters.

Take Wickham, for instance. In the novel, he runs off with Lydia Bennet thinking that her family has money. After being paid by Darcy, he finally agrees to marry her. This point is kept in the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with some added zombie, sci-fi/fantasy plot elements added to it. In the movie, however, Wickham kidnaps Lydia and keeps her prisoner in the basement of a zombie church, using her as bait to lure Mr. Darcy to the church. He never gets forced into marriage. In fact, if the end of the film is any indication, he gets to be made leader of his own rebel zombie army and charge the double wedding of Jane and Lizzie.

Then there’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The movie keeps her animosity towards Lizzie but then does a 180 with her character, transforming her from the snobby elitist that she is into a generous savior who allows her estate to be used as a refuge for the Bennet family when the zombie war starts to heat up. Lady Catherine, the character who openly insults Lizzie for the class distinction between the two of them.

The change that made the Jane Austen fan in me grit her teeth the most though was Mr. Darcy. Yes, Mr. Darcy is reserved. He insults Lizzie’s family the first time he proposes to her. He’s not the most outright amiable character. But what Darcy is not is cruel. Lizzie begins to see the softer side of Mr. Darcy when she visits Pemberley, and his servants talk about what a good master he is and how kind he is to his sister. This man is a far cry from the Darcy of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” a man who purposefully switches out the communal zombie church offering of pig brains (a substance the zombies choose to consume so as not to lose their sanity and become slaves to the lust for brains) for actual human brains, resulting in turning the zombies into, well, crazy zombies that need to be killed. That act is cruel, unfeeling, and not keeping with the Mr. Darcy Austen created.

Despite my frustrations with certain elements of the movie, I have to remember that the movie is an adaptation of an adaptation. In other words, it’s not only about what they changed but also about what they kept. The Bennet sisters are still strong, powerful women. Lizzie rejects Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal in a scene that affirms her independence. She also rejects Mr. Darcy’s initial marriage proposal in a similar scene. Jane marries Mr. Bingley, and Lizzie marries Mr. Darcy. The movie ends with a wedding.

So, then, what’s my take on the movie?

It’s not a happily-ever-after version of the original tale. It’s reads more as a struggle to hold onto decorum and tradition while constantly being made aware of threats to civilized society. And I think that’s something modern audiences can relate to.