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.

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Project Thankful: Reason #150

Since learning that I received a Teaching Assistantship and will be teaching first year writing in the fall, my brain has been a flurry of ideas on how to teach the class.

Popular culture is one of my areas of interest, and I would love to incorporate that into the class.  I often wonder where my interest in popular culture stems from.  Truth is, I would have to say my childhood.  I have an older sister, and there is a five year age difference between us.  Growing up, that’s a big difference, and that difference translated into my TV and movie preferences.

I watched what my older sister watched, and I was into what my older sister was into for the most part.  As an adult, I look back and am grateful to my sister for having influenced my media choices.  Years later, and those choices have become roots from which my academic interest in popular culture sprouted.

Thanks sis.

 

Project Thankful: Reason #45

I watched the Golden Globes last night, and I saw all these actors and actresses, producers and writers, costume designers and singers, and a whole bunch of other people without who these wonderful films and television series would not be here, or at least not be as wonderful as they are.  As I watched the awards ceremony I couldn’t help but be struck by the wondering if any of my work will ever be considered so significant.  If my writing, my literary contributions will ever be perceived as ground breaking or pioneering or deserving of critical acclaim.  And as I pondered these questions I realized it’s not that I want my writing to be considered popular or to propel me into fame such as that I could be termed a bestselling author.  I want my writing to touch people, to penetrate through the masses to reach the individual.  It’s the individual I am concerned with which is why I am in awe of these shows and movies that were nominated and won because they possess that quality in some way.

I sit here a simple blogger typing away at the computer, thinking of the potential power my words might have.

Project Thankful: Reason #31

Twice a year my cousins who live in Florida come up to visit.  After Christmas is one of those times.  I love seeing my cousins for many reasons, mostly because they are awesome and generous and thoughtful.  I am also thankful for their visits because my cousins force me to be social.  Not in a “Get your butt over here now or else we’re coming over to your house to drag you out to do stuff!” sort of force; rather, a “Hey, we’re thinking about going to the movies.  Would you be interested?”  Mentally, I think “I love movies!  But I don’t go to movies that much because movies require effort and eat up a lot of the day plus there is the cost factor and just thinking over this monologue of why I don’t do something I really like makes me depressed…but since my cousins invited me I’ll go (and be really happy we have similar taste in movies).”

Project Thankful: Reason #25

Call it “It’s a Wonderful Life” side effect, but I am thankful for the knowledge that I am important in this world and that I have value.  For this, I am thankful again for my students.

It was about two years ago.  My first year substitute teaching.  At the time, I thought substitute teaching would be a quick stop, a job that would last one year, before I began graduate school in Fall 2012.  I had applied to a handful of schools for English PhD programs, determined that I would get into at least one that I wanted.  When the emails notifying me of the admissions’ committees decisions came, revealing that I was not accepted into any of the PhD programs, I was devastated.  I had worked so hard my entire undergraduate career and post-college to be told an ominous “No,” by the schools.

I began to question my worth.  What was I going to do with my life?  Although I had thought about the idea of taking the MTELs to become a certified teacher, I knew then as I do now that I want to teach at the college level.  I felt as though all those years of hard work, all those hours studying, all my research was suddenly not important, didn’t matter, because a handful of schools didn’t admit me.

Even worse, I questioned my importance and my value.  All because a small number of schools told me they did not want me.

Then one day I found myself substitute teaching for a group of first graders.  Here’s the thing I have found about students: elementary school students are the ones who will vocalize how much they need you the most.  When I substitute teach at an elementary school level I know that I will not be able to sit down because there is always a student who needs attention.

By the end of the day, I had received a couple of drawings from students.  I had received drawings from students before, and that day when I went home I put the drawings with the others I had received before.  I found myself looking at these drawings and thinking about not just the students who gave them to me, but all the students I had ever had in class.  I began to cry because it hit me that students don’t care about what my grade point average was, or my presentations, or my publications, or my academic skills and abilities.  The skill they are most concerned with is being able to be there for them, and the ability they value is compassion.

I realized that my importance and value are not determined by, or centered around, academia.  Because one’s worth does not result from one’s mind.  One’s worth comes from one’s heart.