Every girl loves Jane Austen, right? Almost 200 years after Pride and Prejudice was published, I still squeal with glee when I hear tell of a forthcoming new film adaption. I’ll even settle for a semi-awful Austen-inspired flick like the mostly horrible but inexplicably likeable Lost in Austen to satisfy my Jane fix. Although, I had to draw the line at The Jane Austen Book Club. I mean, please, not even Emily Blunt could save that movie. But why do we have an undying love for Ms. Austen when modern life is nothing like her Regency era novels?
I’ve got a million reasons floating around but let’s just start with this one: Mr. Darcy. And not just Darcy, but the other Austen heroes like Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars and my personal favorite, Mr. Knightly of Emma. Austen writes some real men into her books. They’re confident, noble and drool-worthy. And treating a woman right is just one facet of their meticulous philosophy of how things ought to be. And they don’t fall into the ‘nice-but-boring’ category, either. The banter between Elizabeth and Darcy and Emma and Knightly reveal some fantastic wit and… I could go on indefinitely.
I suppose we have to turn to Ms. Austen to meet a Darcy character because the modern rom com would have us believe he’s extinct. Instead, we’re presented with the anti-Darcy, who, unfortunately for us, keeps appearing in each year’s most wretched rom com. He appears in the guise of Gerard Butler in the painfully bad The Ugly Truth, but he is most perfectly embodied by the likes of Matthew McConaughey who always plays the same sleazy “men will be boys” character in the worst possible films like Fool’s Gold, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and what must be the most horrid of all: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Yikes. Can’t believe I’ve actually watched them all. I promise that in the guilty pleasure department, these three monstrosities of cinema consisted of all guilt and no pleasure. Well, Ghosts at least had Emma Stone as a minor character which provided its only redeeming moments. Redeeming is too strong a word. I digress.
Anti-Darcy is a 30-something guy with an unplaceable drawly accent of sleaze (where IS Matthew McConaughey from? What is that wretched accent?!) who prides himself on his lack of commitment to any romantic relationship and general lack of responsibility. He’s crass, immature, and kind of a jerk. For some unfathomable reason the attractive pulled-together female lead of the film is drawn to this scumbag and before the credits roll, they end up together. Anti-Darcy promises he’ll tone down the sleaze and Bemused Female Lead makes some speech about how she should loosen up or how opposites attract. Suspension of disbelief isn’t possible. We know the cad is going to ruin everything!
Even Austen’s villains are more charming than Anti-Darcy. Although I know the novels and films by heart I still get a little swept off my feet by Wickham, Willoughby, and Henry Crawford. But to their credit, Austen’s heroines leave the rake in the dust when his charming exterior crumbles to reveal the manipulative scoundrel inside. Maybe the abysmal state of the rom com doesn’t have as much to do with Darcy or anti-Darcy or Wickham. Maybe the real issue is with us ladies. Austen presents us with women with enough self-respect and brains to call a spade a spade instead of settling for the tiresome rogue and blaming herself for having unreasonable expectations. Maybe we love Pride and Prejudice because not only do we long for a Darcy, we know we should be a little more like Elizabeth Bennett. Now go watch the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice as a little Merry Christmas gift to yourself.
Who wins in your heart? Do you agree that McConaughey’s accent is so baffling?