Lately I have had Austen on the mind. It is likely due to the fact that Claire is writing a persuasive research paper (isn’t that called a position paper?) and has chosen Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as her topic.
In researching her position, which has to do with the unnecessary additions of modernized and ‘sexy’ scenes in the more recent film versions of the book, we’ve both been led to various websites, blogs, chat-spaces and online and professional journals (not mutually exclusive). One particular site, JASNA, is the premier online site for scholarly publications regarding Austen. However, the inclusion of a piece called The Jane Austen-Twilight Zone threw me and Claire and several others into laughter mode, with the occasional blink of incredulity.
I have posted the original essay, as well as the responsive blog, here, but what I ask forgiveness for from Jane is not that: it is the fact I have (shamelessly) added my two shillings’ worth. And in my attempt to uphold Jane, I have found myself deriding other authors. Wicked me.
The claim that Twilight is based on Pride and Prejudice (albeit loosely) is simply ridiculous and, perhaps, even superfluous. In contemporary terms, Pride and Prejudice is what is known as a romantic comedy, where two people who are right for one another meet and, for one reason or another, don’t hit it off in a way that leaves a pleasant taste in either party’s mouth. However, in romantic comedy (and Austen) fashion, the taste that remains, however unpleasant, is not so injurious as to prevent either party from engaging in the eventual and inevitable next meet-up. The meet-up leads to (or is often times preceded by) intrigue, misunderstanding, discouragement, and finally, maturity and growth. It is a repeated pattern that, nevertheless, leaves us immutably satisfied, as all good workouts do.
As I’m sure you’ve deduced by now, the cinema, and I dare say literature, is crammed full of such storylines–the origin of which falls somewhere near 1811.
So to call Twilight a devoted P&P offshoot or to compare characters Bella and Edward to Lizzie and Darcy seems hardly to produce more than a yawn from readers. It’s done. It’s old. It’s been there. Each and every Nora Ephron film has a similar tenor, and the term ‘meet cute’ was coined for the romantic light-hearted film. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert made us raise our eyebrows in It Happened One Night and then so did Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant (and Jimmy Stewart) in The Philadelphia Story, but I hear no Janeite sounding the siren for comparison to P&P.
And for good reason. The real comparison, dare I say, in the Twlight-Pride and Prejudice shadowbox is the one between authoresses Meyer and Austen. As I’m certain time will show, Meyer loses hands down, as do all the others. But in Meyer’s case, can we expect two hundred years of literary criticism, avid readers, altered genres and linguistic insight to result from an over-written quartet of vegetarian vampire tales?
I beg pardon, but I believe not.