Charm has its uses. It can get us places that being curt or direct cannot.
The new play, Being Mr. Wickham premiered worldwide (via the internet) this past weekend at the Theatre Royal St. Edmunds Bury in the UK. In this one hour, one man play, Adrian Lukis brings his 1995 Pride and Prejudice character, Mr. Wickham back to life. It’s been 35 years since the book ended. Wickham is now 60 and contemplating how his life has turned out. His marriage to Lydia Bennet is still somehow thriving after what looked to be a rocky start. Sitting in his library and enjoying a brandy while his wife sleeps upstairs, Wickham tells his story as only Wickham can.
This play is such a treat for Austen fans. Though it has been 26 years since Lukis played Wickham, it feels like no time has passed at all. He is still the charming, smooth talking rogue that he was in his youth. But age and experience has mellowed him out a bit. Co-written by Catherine Curzon and directed by Guy Unsworth, it is an intimate look at one of the most infamous characters in classic 19th century literature. I feel like wherever she is, Austen would approve. It is fanfiction of her work in the best sense of the word.
Give a girl an education, and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without farther expense to anybody.-Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (Volume 1, Chapter 1).
March is Women’s History Month. This year, I would like to shine a spotlight on some of the female characters who both push against the glass ceiling and inspire us.
Behind Her Eyes (Netflix): It would have been easy to peg Adele (Eve Hewson) as the wronged wife and Louise (Simona Brown) as a modern version of Glenn Close’s character from Fatal Attraction. But both women are given the opportunity to be fully fledged characters that go well beyond the stereotypes.
Bridgerton (Netflix): For non-fans of the BPD (British Period Drama), Bridgerton would just another Jane Austen-ish historical romance/drama. But fans know that though women are second class citizens in this world, they have other abilities that are not obvious to the naked eye. My favorite characters are Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) and Lady Danbury (Adjoah Andoh). Instead of mindlessly following in her elder sister’s footsteps, Eloise would love to be free of the constrictions that women are placed under in the 19th century. For her part, Lady Danbury is a badass who knows of her place in society and uses her experiences wisely.
WandaVision (DisneyPlus): Every female character in this series is fully formed. As we learn more about this world and the women who inhabit it, their humanity is revealed in a manner that is normal and natural. They are allowed to be who they are without being pegged as certain character types and forced into boxes that can be easily checked off.
P.S. That series finale last night was nothing short of mind blowing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am ready for season 2.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC): For a television show to last twenty plus years, it has to have a certain something about it. In a nutshell, what makes it stand out is the difficult subject the show brings to the forefront and the capable female detectives whose job it is to solve the crimes. At the head of the unit is Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Though she has been working sex crimes for decades, the job has not hardened her. She can be tough when she has to be, but she can also be compassion and humane. Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) has fought against her demons and survived. That alone is worth its weight in gold. The newest and youngest member of the squad is Katriona Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder). Though she still has a lot to learn, she has the passion and the drive to bring the criminals to justice.
Readers, what other female characters inspire you? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.
Discovering a favorite podcast is akin to discovering a new television show.
When the United States was founded more than two centuries ago, real democracy was a pipe dream. Most of what was considered to be the known world (aka Europe) was ruled by Kings and Queens. The Founding Fathers were akin to political scientists, trying different experiments until one worked. The latest podcast from WNYC is called The Experiment. The premise is to explore what has worked within our country and what needs to be improved upon.
Jane Austen once wrote the following about friendship:
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”- Northanger Abbey
Friendship is so important. When it comes to mental health issues, it can be the one thing that keeps the emotional wolves at bay. Especially when we are locked in our homes due to the pandemic. Anxiously is the latest podcast from Tablet Magazine. Hosted by two friends, Aimee and Lisa, their conversations revolve around what makes them well, anxious.
So far, I have enjoyed both The Experiment and Anxiously. I like the way both explore their respective subjects in a way that the audience can connect to without being talked down to or over.
Chef Ashna Raje has a lot on her plate. She is trying to ensure that her late father’s beloved restaurant lives to see another day. Her overbearing and emotionally distant mother, Shobi, is trying to control her life. Out of sheer desperation, Ashna signs up for the reality cooking competition, Cooking with the Stars.
What could only make a bad situation worse is being partnered with Rico Silva, the recently retired superstar soccer player. He is also her ex-boyfriend from high school/first love.
Rico is not happy that he will be working with Ashna and is determined to prove that he has moved on. Their first meeting after twelve years does not go well. As much as Rico and Ashna would prefer to work with someone else, their chemistry is undeniable. But with too many unanswered questions about the past and unspoken feelings, is there even a possibility of re-kindling their relationship?
Among the six completed books by Austen, Persuasion is the hardest for modern writers to replicate. The past romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth creates a narrative complication that is unique to this particular novel.
That being said, it is not the worst JAFF (Jane Austen fanfiction) that I have ever read. Though the middle of the novel is a bit slow, I like that the author gave the reader insight into both Rico and Shobi’s perspectives, fleshing out the overall story. Austen only gives her readers a short time to see the world through Wentworth’s eyes, the rest of the story belongs to Anne.
I also liked the insight into traditional Indian culture, which I suspect is not much different than other traditional cultures.
Towards the end of Jane Austen‘s novel, Persuasion, there is a conversation about books and the portrayal of women within the world of literature. This conversation ends with the following statement that is as true in Austen’s time as it is in ours.
“Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”
The new non fiction book, Mad and Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency, was published in the fall. Written by Bea Koch (co-owner of the Los Angeles area bookstore, The Ripped Bodice), the book tells the story of women who did not fall in the White/upper class/Heterosexual/Christian category. It shines the spotlight of women of color, Jewish women, female members of the LBGTQ community, and women who actively chose to step out of the boundaries of what was considered to be appropriately “feminine”.
I wish that this book had been around when I was younger. It is one of the best history books I have read in a long time. It is educational, entertaining, and a reminder that there have always been women who have been willing to buck tradition to follow their own path.
World on Fire (PBS): This PBS/Masterpiece follows a group of individuals as World War II is on the horizon.
Mrs. America (F/X/Hulu): In the 1970’s, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was close to becoming the law of the land. A tug of war begins between one group of women that is for it and another that is against it.
Sanditon (PBS): Based off the unfinished book of the same name by Jane Austen, we follow Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), a young woman who leaves her family for the seaside resort town of Sanditon.
Bronte’s Mistress, by Finola Austin: Austin delves into the myth of the affair between Branwell Bronte and Lydia Robinson, his older and married employer. Giving voice to Branwell, his youngest sister Anne and Mrs. Robinson specifically, she introduces the reader to the woman behind the rumor.
Rage, by Bob Woodward: Legendary journalist Bob Woodward takes the reader into the current Presidential administration and the chaos created by you know who.
Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
#AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.
A good romance has the power to metaphorically sweep the audience off their feet.
The new Netflix series, Bridgeton premiered on Friday. Set in Regency era England, the program follows the romantic trials and tribulations of the eight children of the widowed Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell). Her children are named in alphabetical order, from A-H. It is based on the book series by Julia Quinn and the first book in series (The Duke and I). The female protaganist is Lady Bridgerton’s eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), who is entering her first Season.
The initial response to Daphne, according to the unseen narrator and gossip Queen, Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), is that she is the one to watch. But before Daphne can enjoy the spotlight, she is downgraded by Lady Whistledown to persona non grata. On the flip side, the husband that every match-making mama wants for her daughter is Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Having recently come into the title after the death of his father, Simon has made it clear that he is content to remain a bachelor for the rest of his days.
Simon and Daphne have a plan. They will pretend to court. He will appear to be spoken for and she will have more suitors than she knows what do with. But like many plans, there is a hitch. Somewhere along the way, their relationship begins to change.
Bridgerton is easily the best new television program of the year. In a nutshell, it is Jane Austen meets Shondaland. I love the diversity, I love the characters, and I love the smart and capable women who populate this world.
This Regency nerd is ready for season 2. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.