Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review #12: 19th -Century England Sucks

Pride & Prejudice

Writer: Jane Austen [adapted by Nancy Butler]

Artist: Hugo Petrus

Published: Marvel, 2009

Unfortunately, this is the zombie-free version.

I have never read any Jane Austen in my life. I saw the movie Little Women when I was a little boy. OK, a googling reveals that Little Women was written by Louisa Alcott 50 years after Austen died. Who knew?

Anyway, I'm a fan of expanding my horizons, so I figured I would pick up this proto-chick lit and see what it's all about.

Meet the Bennets! We have the Mr. and Mrs. and their five charming young daughters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. This gaggle of girls seems set on marrying whoever is “in possession of a good fortune” [not as a group, of course, but that would probably make everyone's lives easier]. Enter: Charles Bingley, a good-looking, good-natured, rich young gent in possession of a funny name. Swoon! go the Bennets... Elizabeth is intrigued by Mr. Darcy, Bingley's BFF, but he seems cold and asshole-ish.

Bingley expresses interest in Jane and begins the long, arduous courting process. Dances are held. Dinners are eaten. Things seem to go well until BAM! Bingley's manipulative sister tries to get him to forget Jane and court Mr. Darcy's sister, because she wants a tighter connection to Mr. Darcy so she can eventually have him for herself. Bitch! Also, Mr. Darcy goes along with it because he is a closet romantic and doesn't see a connection between his friend and Jane, and because he finds the rest of the Bennet family to be uncouth [seriously though, Mrs. Bennet alone would make me rethink marrying into this family].

Mr. Wickham, a soldier [ooo! A man in uniform!] at the local garrison prances into town and hits it off with Elizabeth. It seems he and Mr. Darcy have beef from a mysterious incident in the past. Are they gonna duke it out? Fisticuffs? Maybe have an awesome duel and shoot at each other like real men? Nope! Instead, they decide to scowl at each other from a distance.

Oh, also, Mr. Bennet's cousin, Mr. Collins shows up earlier looking to wed one of his... first cousins, once removed [I had to look that up]. Just a little inbreeding, as was fashionable at the time. Mr. Collins takes an interest in Elizabeth [this is like 19th -century Something About Mary] but she rejects his advances because, baby, he can't dance.

He actually asks her to marry him, but she responds with this look:

not what you want to see after your proposal

“No biggie!” says Mr. Collins, as he goes on to marry Elizabeth's best friend, Catherine, instead. What a weird society.

Mr. Darcy eventually reveals that under his crusty exterior, he actually really likes Elizabeth! Aw! She, however, tells him off, because of the aforementioned meddling in her sister's affairs and because Mr. Wickham convinced her that Mr. Darcy was an asshole.

Mr. Darcy writes Elizabeth a 2-page love letter [aw!] laying out his side of the story and convincing her that it is Wickham, in fact, who is the asshole. He is seeking to marry any woman just for her inheritance! She ignores Mr. Wickham's charms from then on, which inadvertently leads to him switching his sights to Little Lydia. Lydia ends up running off with Wickham [which is fucked, 'cause she's 16 and he's in his late 20s, but hey, those were different times!], and the entire county is aghast. Not at the age difference, but at the fact that they are unwed. Weirdos.

Eventually, they are found and brought back in order to make things official and save the family from embarrassment. What a terrible era! Marriage was such a huge deal! Everything gets wrapped up nicely with Jane and Bingley/Elizabeth and Darcy ending up together. Huzzah.

Analysis: the cover is funny, being a send-up of Cosmo-esque magazines, which have little to no literary value. “How to CURE your BOY-CRAZY SISTERS!” and “17 Secrets About SUMMER DRESSES” they boast. And yet... no trace of this humour is found anywhere else in the book. The writing in the story itself retains its archaic original form. These two styles seem at odds with each other. The cover is almost false advertising.

I guess the adapters were trying to find a happy medium between 19th-century literature and modern comics for the kids of today, kind of like Baz Luhrmann's modernized Romeo + Juliet, which kept the original dialogue. Actually, the overwrought writing sometimes makes me feel like I'm reading Shakespeare, but at least Billy had sword fights and bawdy jokes. This shit is too prim and proper for me.

I found myself confused at times by some of the language and some of the customs of these strange, 19th-century British people. As I mentioned before, this society weirds me out. They have this strange habit of being very forward about things but, at the same time, hiding behind formalities and all that jazz. “Good sir, you are surely acting in the manner of male genitalia of the largest proportions, so I shall bid you good day!” *doffs top-hat* This Wickham guy is a huge turd, but nobody does anything! He basically weasels his way into the Bennet family so he can get a chunk of inheritance pie, half the members of the family hate him, but they all sit around and let it happen. Kick his ass, Mr. Bennet! ...No? Darcy? Anyone? They deserve every awkward family dinner they get.

And don't even get me started about Mrs. Bennet.

Also, I have theorized that Mr. Darcy is the reason that girls dig assholes: ladies think their guy will turn out to be nice under the surface, but they are often sadly mistaken. Sometimes an asshole is just an asshole.

Actually, at first I thought Wickham was a douche bag for the whole marrying just for inheritance thing, then I realized...That's pretty much what Catherine did. That's pretty much what most people are doing in that day and age. So, can't fault the player for playin' the game!

So, the artwork was good [not great, noticed a few mistakes], the story was somewhat engaging and my horizons were slightly expanded.

Mostly, I was bored.


  1. Hmmm, well, I read it Thor, here you go:

    concerning your accusation that the authors were misleading in their use of 'Cosmo-esque' cover:

    I would say that to many girls/women the magazine is not supposed to be 'humerous', necessarily. Many women consider the issues discussed in those magazines very serious:P So I don't know why you have assumed that the book/graphic novel is supposed to be humorous like the cover of a magazine...that is your own bias you're pushing on it. Fair enough, we all make assumptions based on the way we view the world.

    To me, the idea is that it is showing the parallels of the issues women of the time had, and present day; as a society we are still obsessed with knowing who with whom and who's getting married and who's having a baby, and even some self-help literature, etc. I'm sure you've considered this.

    Now, as a male, I understand that you might think a Cosmo magazine is maybe you're saying, in general, that you think stories, or magazines revolving around women obsessed with men, or getting married, etc., is silly and you assume it should be funny??? I don't know, I just think that's a pretty big generality. The story is a classic for a reason, just saying...

    You might be less bored if you fully understood the background/setting of the story? And maybe if you appreciated it for its exploration of the characters, rather than look at it for the non-action, as you see it?

    Overall I enjoyed reading your blog. I laughed as I read your interpretation and analysis of the story.

    And, btw, in my view, Mr. Darcy is such an alluring character because he is so passionate in his love for Elizabeth. He is what every girl hopes to have someday...

  2. Well, first off, thanks for posting, as we do live in the same house and could have simply discussed this in person, but this way, it shows that people are actually reading this thing. Huzzah!

    So: Cosmo. I find Cosmo to be retarded and thus funny. I find it stupid to be concerned about who is marrying who and who is having babies and all that jazz. So I must laugh at it or else I fear I would weep for the pointlessness of it all.

    So if they are trying to be funny and poke fun at the dumb obsessions in P&P, I get it! But I don't think they are trying to be funny. So them advertising that P&P is like Cosmo is, if anything, sad. It makes P&P look worse. And I realize that a woman is far more likely to take Cosmo seriously, but hey, I'm not a lady. I'm writing from my perspective and I'm not gonna censor myself because I know people will disagree with me. That would defeat the whole point of doing this.

    Being "a classic" doesn't mean that I can't find it dull. I read Robinson Crusoe.. that was about a ship-wrecked guy and it was boring. I read Paradise Lost...super epic stuff going on in that one... Satan and his legions fighting God and his hordes! Still boring. It's the writing style that makes it boring to me. So I guess I should be thankful that I wasn't around when this style was the only kind available.

    But yeah, combine the boring writing style with a boring topic, like rich chumps marrying other rich chumps in 19th-century England? Perfect storm of boredom.

    I am well aware of the dumb stuff that went on in England at that time. Why do I have to enjoy reading it? If I think their society is stupid, why not mock it?

    As a modern man, it was not my cup o' tea.

    And modern women shouldn't base their "ideal man" on stuff from 200 years ago. that's like modern doctors using techniques from 200 years ago. basically a lot of leeches and amputations. and that would be silly.

  3. Thor - I think you should also start a dating advice blog. Give it some thought.

    Still enjoying your blog!

  4. Hahahah
    I don't recommend anyone take dating advice from me, but I will gladly give it!