Jane Austen: the chewing gum that stretches and stretches

The new adaptation starring Dakota Johnson is only the penultimate in a long line of films based on her work, and it causes divisions among the followers of the classic British author.

In the middle of last June, fans of Jane Austen they were put on alert. Netflix released the first trailer for its adaptation of Persuasionwith dakota johnson as the lead actress, and showed that the film was not going to be too faithful to the book. However modern the English author had become, there was no way her leading lady could have said “worse than boyfriends. Now we are friends & rdquor ;, one of the frames that circulated the most on social networks as soon as the advance was released. Everything indicated that the platform was going to take advantage of the overwhelming success of the series The Bridgertons to sneak another period fiction into its catalogue. But this time he was playing with fire. They were not based on a saga of novels with more romance than historical accuracy like the one written by Julia Quinnbut in a classic of literature.

Fears were confirmed when the film directed by Carrie Cracknell. the writers Rum Bass Y Alice Winslow tried to modernize the novel using devices such as breaking the fourth wall [el personaje habla directamente al público] and unlikely dialogues. Kind of a mix of the series fleabagof Phoebe Waller Bridgeand the aforementioned The Bridgertons of Shonda Rhimeswhich work very well separately but together give rise to a questionable product for lovers of Austen’s work. Netflix it managed to generate conversation about the film – a not entirely negative aspect when it comes to attracting a curious audience – but, possibly, its will not go down in the history of the best adaptations.

Alejandra Palesjournalist specializing in series and responsible for the podcast tokipopconsiders that this new audiovisual version of Persuasion it is a betrayal of Austen’s writing. “They have turned it into a kind of comedy with a protagonist between clumsy and perky that I think is quite far from the one in the novel, which is dramatic”. He clarifies that it is not a matter of ‘purism’ but of respect for the public. “I am in favor of transgressing if we have to tell something, but if it is just to make it look cooler or to simplify, no. There are scenes that are embarrassing, like when Anne Elliot goes to pee in the woods, as if we were idiots and we didn’t know that people have peed all their lives & rdquor ;.

The opinion of Maria Belen Menargues Cuartero It goes in the same direction as that of Palés. She is the administrator of the Instagram account @fan.janeausten –which currently has 12,700 followers–, whose content is mainly based on images of the different film and television adaptations that have been made of the writer’s works. Also, in 2018 she published the novella My dear Jane Austen (Red circle). For her “the sweet and long-suffering Anne Elliot is nothing like the role played by Dakota Johnson. The actor who plays Captain Frederick Wentworth, Cosmo Jarvis, neither conveys the pretended indifference that he shows in the book. There were too many expectations, hence the disappointment & rdquor ;.

But there is always some light in the dark. Blanca Pujals, creator with Charlotte Freixenet of 19th century punks, a podcast of Victorian ladies of the 19th century (in Catalan), states that he liked the film. “It doesn’t have the vocation to be a faithful adaptation, it maintains Austen’s humor, which many adaptations forget a bit. Here It shows that all those involved are very fans and that they have tried to adapt their humor to the 21st century, with more or less success & rdquor ;. He agrees that Anne Elliot has little to do with the original, but the relatives and the absurd situations “are very Austen. I think that the fact that there is an adaptation with fashionable actors on Netflix is ​​fortunate, because many people will see the film, want to know more and will read the books & rdquor ;.

Stretching the gum?

The list of adaptations of Jane Austen’s works for film and television is so long that the possibilities of creating new and original ones may be running out. Has the author’s legacy been rubbed too much? Among those surveyed is the writer Espido Freire, a scholar of Austen’s work. She has published the books Dear Jane, Dear Charlotte (Editorial Aguilar, 2004) and In the footsteps of Jane Austen (Editorial Ariel, 2021), as well as the podcast Pride and Prejudice, available on Podimo, among other works related to the nineteenth-century author. For her, this question “does not arise with shakespeare or with bram stoker, for instance. A legacy is not stretched, it is shared as long as it makes sense to the reader. How many is ‘too many’? Classical texts possess that capacity. And there is Jane Austen for a while & rdquor ;.

The sisters Almudena Y Carmen RomeroEnglish language philologist and engineer respectively, created the web Jane Austen’s site twenty years ago to make the writer known in Spanish beyond university and specialized circles. This site gave rise to Tea Room, “a forum with which to share this love for the author. Our work has allowed us to interact live with other fans, holding meetings, picnics or collaborating with the university and libraries, for example”. For them, Austen’s work is somewhat worn. “Sometimes one wonders what value some creators see in going back to the author with sequels or adaptations, when they seem to contribute nothing, apart from taking advantage of the Austen brand, and their fans. There are many other authors who deserve adaptations, such as Emilia Pardo Bazanjust to cite an example & rdquor ;, they maintain.

For Austen lovers, there will never be too many adaptations, says María Belén Menargues. “Her works of hers continue to be a claim, both for publishers and for film and television companies. They have survived through the years.” Alejandra Palés maintains that if the filmmakers are clear about what and how they want to adapt the novels, there is no problem. “little women, of Louisa MayAlcott, has been adapted a gazillion times. But the latest version of Greta Gerwig it has a very determined discourse, there is a fundamental thesis through the character of Jo March of what it is to be a woman at that time, of wanting to have a career. It tells the story from a certain point of view”.

Another different issue is that of movies based on novels by Jane Austen, but modernized. It’s what happens with The diaryof Bridget Jones Y pride and prejudiceor with clueless Y emma, for instance. For Alejandra Palés, this is acceptable, because unlike with Persuasion, “At no point are they telling you that this is a faithful adaptation. Bridget Jones it’s more of a mirror game with Bridget’s heartthrob being named Darcy. Even in the second novel of Helen FieldingBridget Jones interviews Colin Firth who plays Darcy in the BBC version of Austen’s novel & rdquor ;.

The ‘nineteenth-century punk’ Blanca Pujals loves these versions and “freaks out & rdquor; with the look on her face that people make when she tells them they’re based on those books. “She demonstrates that Jane Austen’s dramatic and humorous genius is universal and timeless. It’s great that the modern adaptations of it are references of current pop culture. Alicia Silverstone could not be more faithful to Emma’s character and attitude. I like all of them, even the freest ones, like Weddings and Prejudicethe Indian adaptation, or Metropolitan by Whit Stillman, inspired by Mansfield Park”.

That in recent years there has been a revival of interest in Austen’s works is unanimous. But while Alejandra Palés considers that men still need to be interested in her literature, Pujals comments that, in Spain, “The gender barrier has finally been broken, surely in part thanks to these new adaptations. It’s fun to find so many rave reviews on Twitter or TikTok.” He points out that in England it has never been said in a derogatory way that Austen’s literature was “for girls. Her books were the ones most often taken by soldiers into the trenches during World War I, and even doctors recommended them for those returning with post-traumatic stress. Rudyard Kipling He wrote a story titled The Janeites, about a group of soldiers who admire Austen & rdquor ;. In the end, as Freire maintains, “passions must be shared & rdquor ;.

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