DON'T FREAK OUT:
Your guide to watching Jane Austen film adaptations without totally losing your mind.
If you're like my family, films based on Jane Austen novels send you into a tizzy of psychological turmoil and public outbursts when filmmakers stray too far from the novel.
Here are some helpful tips!
* DON'T single out individuals as if they are personally responsible for your own suffering.
“Emma Thompson is the devil – why is MARGARET in a TREE?” – me
* DO try to avoid conflicts with other members of your family.
“Come on, Ma. The PBS Pride and Prejudice isn't perfect.” – my brother
“That's insane.” – my mother
“Colin Firth in that wet shirt? We see HIS point of view! We're NOT supposed to KNOW what Mr. Darcy is thinking until HIS LETTER. I'm totally in love with Colin Firth but we shouldn't know anything – until THE LETTER.” – my brother
* DON'T go see an Austen film with someone outside of your family.
“Fanny in Mansfield Park – spunky? Fanny is quiet – religious! Just because you want to spin a political element into the film doesn't mean you can change the plot line!” – my brother
“...I think you're going to miss your train.” – my brother's best friend
Note – it's best to avoid public theaters all together.
* DO apologize for your behavior.
“I'm sorry. I was just kind of a lunatic.” – my brother
* DO focus on the positive.
“The Bollywood version works! It got that idea of a “right marriage” for somebody and took each character seriously.” – my brother
“Clueless might be the BEST film adaptation of Emma! Ever.” – my mother
* DON'T encourage each other's neurosis while watching that PBS Persuasion from 1971.
“Anne is all wrong. Why is she so confidant?” – my mother
“I know! I thought she was supposed to have lost her bloom!” – me
“Oh, she has her bloom! Just look at her perfect posture.” – my mother
“Her voice is so commanding! She sounds like Bea Arthur.” – me
“They turned Anne into Bea Freaking Arthur.” – my mother
* DON'T repeat the worst line in the film as if you're becoming possessed.
“Darcy says, 'You bewitched me body and soul.' Darcy says it. He says it. Darcy.” – my brother
* DON'T start the conversation with this sentence:
“In order of my loathing, item number one...“ – my mother
* DO remember that just because Anthony Lane might agree with you, it's not a green light to lose your mind at the mall.
“Why is Keira Knightley soaking wet in every scene as if she's been pulled out of a hundred Brontë puddles? LOOK AT HER BANGS!” – me
* DON'T come up with imaginary solutions for your imaginary problems.
“It should be a law that if you're going to make a film version, it has to be a version where you can take your time – it has to be at least five hours long. Don't give me that Mr. Palmer Look. I'm right and you know it.” – my mother
* DO practice mantras to get you through difficult times. Try:
“This too shall pass.” – proverb
“Jane Austen is difficult to adapt to the screen.” – The Dalai Lama
Finally, when all else fails, ask yourself –
What would Jane Bennet do?
Next up – how to shield your mother from Jane Austen zombie or sea creature spin offs, including where to stand at the bookstore to block her view of Colonel Brandon as part-man, part-squid so she doesn't attack random citizens with her Jane Austen tote bag.
And, if worse comes to worse, how to answer questions such as,
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN MARIANNE GETS ATTACKED BY AN OCTOPUS?”