Pride And Prejudice Character Review: Caroline Bingley

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

For most of human history, women have been told, both consciously and unconsciously that being single is unacceptable. A woman needs a husband. This has created in some women, especially those seeking a wealthy husband, a less than likable reputation.

In Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley is one of these women. The older sister of Charles Bingley, Caroline knows that she must marry, like all women of the era. She has her sights set on one man: her brother’s best friend, Mr. Darcy.  But while Elizabeth Bennet, Caroline’s unknowing rival for Mr. Darcy is charming, intelligent, likable and witty, Caroline is the opposite. She is a two-faced snob who pretends that her family wealth does not come from trade. She is constantly flirting and throwing herself at Mr. Darcy, despite the obvious signs that he is not interested in her whatsoever. She also pretends to be friends with Jane Bennet, but then convinces her brother (with the help of Mr. Darcy) to walk away from Jane.

If Pride and Prejudice were set in a modern day high school, Caroline would be the perfect mean girl.

To sum it up:  Caroline is the character we love to hate. We cheer when Darcy and Elizabeth marry, knowing that Caroline has not won, she will not be Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley. Ironically, sometimes the favorite or the most memorable character is not the hero or heroine that we love, but the villain or the pseudo villain that we love to hate. It’s fun to watch them try to win, knowing that in the end, they won’t. A writer’s job is to create compelling and memorable characters. If being compelling and memorable means that the we love to hate to the character, then so be it.

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Throwback Thursday-Drop Dead Fred (1991)

Many of us have imaginary friends during our childhoods. As we grow older, the imaginary friends are replaced by real friends. But what would happen if the imaginary friend from our childhood came back to us during adulthood?

In the 1991 movie, Drop Dead Fred, Lizzie Cronin (Phoebe Cates) is dealing with the very adult situation of a less than faithful husband and a helicopter parent of a mother. Just when the chaos seems to be at its peak, her childhood imaginary best friend, Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall) comes back into her life and creates more chaos.

This movie is an interesting one for me. There are comedic elements that appeal to the young ones in the audience, but there is also a message about being an adult and finding your way as an adult when everything seems murky and unclear. If there is one thing that I take away from this movie is that is it possible to traverse the uncertain mountain that is adulthood and still come out reasonably sane.

I recommend it.

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The Kommandant’s Girl Book Review

When faced with decisions of life and death, we make choices that in retrospect seem questionable, but in the moment, feel like it is only thing we can do.

In Pam Jenoff’s 2007 novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, 19-year-old Emma Bau is reveling in the glow of being a newlywed. Not even a month after she marries her husband, Jacob, Germany invades Poland. Jacob has no choice but to disappear and Emma joins her parents in the quickly overcrowding Jewish ghetto. Smuggled out of the ghetto and into the home of her husband’s Catholic aunt, Emma is now Anna Lipowski, a Polish orphan.

Adding to the danger, Anna/Emma is hired as an assistant of Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official. While she is working for the Kommandant, Anna/Emma uses her status to help the resistance. But while she is doing this, she is potentially compromising her life, the lives of her loved ones and her marriage vows.

This book left me with wanting more. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. My favorite thing about the book was the character of the Kommandant. On one hand, he was responsible for the death of an untold number of innocents. But on the other hand, his affection for Anna/Emma was humanized him and if only temporarily removed the mask of the monster.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice Book Review

At the beginning of their career, every young writer has a long list of questions. The problem is that the list of answers, depending on whom is asked, is often longer than the questions.

Earlier this year, respected writer Colum McCann, published Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice. Though the book is small and the essays contained within the book are short, they are reassuring, inspiring and powerful. He speaks of the writing process from the start of the initial draft (shaping character and narrative) to editing (the dreaded kill your darlings) to hopeful publication and the many rejections that will come before one is hopefully published.

As a writer who hopes to be published one day, I found this book to be a worthy read. The one thing that strikes me about the book is that he takes the reader/young writer on a journey from initial draft to publication. Is that path easy or smooth? Not by a long shot. But if one goes on the journey and is willing to deal with the pot holes along the way, they may have the success they have working and yearning for.

I absolutely recommend it.

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RIP Adam West

Every generation has their Batman.

For those coming of age in the late 1960’s, their Batman was Adam West. West died today at the age of 88.

Airing from 1966 to 1968, it was emblematic of the era. Compared to the darker and grittier film adaptations of comic book super heroes over the last twenty years or so, the 1960’s television series looks to be kind of silly and colorful. But it is also whimsical and fun and represents an era when America and the world appeared to be a simpler place, but was actually on the brink of a cultural shift that is still being felt today.

RIP Adam West. While other actors have worn Batman’s suit since 1968, you will forever be remembered as television’s original caped crusader.

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Wonder Woman Review

It’s no secret that the world of super heroes is a boys club, especially the old school super heroes. Wonder Woman is an exception to the rule.

Last week, Wonder Woman hit theaters. Stepping into the very famous shoes that Lynda Carter wore in the 1970’s television series is Gal Gadot. The movie starts with Diana’s childhood on the idyllic island of Themyscira. The daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), the Queen Of The Amazons, Diana is protected from the outside world by her mother and her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), who is the general of the Amazons.

While Diana’s curiosity is temporarily quelled by her elders, it will soon be made unquenchable by the unexpected arrival of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Saving Steve from death, he becomes her conduit and her guide to the outside world. World War I is raging on and Diana, believes that she can end the war. She will soon learn that the world is not as simple as she believes it to be and sometimes, meeting our destiny means learning some hard truths.

The problem with many super hero films that are based on comics is that the films are often short on narrative and long on action. They also have a mostly male cast with a male director. If there are any women, they are either the token female or the damsel in distress love interest. This film contains neither. The character arc in this film is exactly what it should be. Diana starts off not exactly naive, but very gung-ho and eager to complete her mission. Steve, on the other hand, starts off as believing himself to be the traditional dominant male, but will learn quickly that Diana/Wonder Woman can easily take care of herself.

The film was also very funny, which is not often the case of the film of this genre. Many films take themselves a little too seriously.

I absolutely recommend it.

Wonder Woman is presently in theaters.

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Flashback Friday-Radio Days (1987)

When a writer mines for ideas, sometimes the best ideas come from their childhood.

The 1987 movie, Radio Days, is based on the childhood memories of writer/director Woody Allen. Growing up in Rockaway Beach, NY during World War II, Joe (played by Seth Green as a child and voiced over by Woody Allen as an adult) associates the various aspects of his life with the radio programs of the era. Told through the memories of the adult Joe, the film is a love letter to not just childhood, but also a time when radio was the medium that the world relied on for news and entertainment.

The best films are timeless because there is a universal quality to them. Despite the physical location and the time period that the film is set in, anyone from anywhere will find an aspect of the film that they can relate to. This movie is universal because it is about childhood, family and the memories we have long after we have become adults.

I recommend it.

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Pride And Prejudice Character Review: Lady Catherine de Bourgh

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

On either end of the 1% spectrum, there are two kinds of people. On one end is the Bill Gates type, the person who uses his or her name and fortune to help those less fortunate. On the other end is the person who expects the rest of us to kiss their behind and fawn all over them just because they are famous, powerful and wealthy.

Jane Austen’s most notable member of the 1% community is Lady Catherine de Bourgh, from Pride and Prejudice. The elder sister of Mr. Darcy’s late mother, Lady Catherine is everything that the 99% expect of not just the upper classes, but the aristocratic set.  Lady Catherine is a first class snob who talks over everyone, thinks she is always right and has kept her only child, Anne, on a very short leash.  Under the assumption that her nephew and her daughter have been betrothed since childhood (despite any lack of evidence), Lady Catherine is far from pleased that Mr. Darcy may have an interest in Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman from a middle class family whose dowry is small and whose family home is entailed away to Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is not just Elizabeth’s cousin (and her father’s heir), but also  Lady’s Catherine’s rector.

Every good story needs a villain, an antagonist to the main character. While Lady Catherine is not a villain in the traditional sense, her opposition to Elizabeth makes her the villain in Pride and Prejudice.

To sum it up: Sometimes stereotypes are good, but only in small doses. While Lady Catherine is very much a stereotype, she is also the perfect antagonist to Elizabeth, the lead female character. If Austen was using Elizabeth as an example of how to act and how to grow from your mistakes, Lady Catherine is very much the opposite. She remains staunch in her beliefs, refusing to change or believe that her nephew would be happy married to Elizabeth. In creating Lady Catherine, the polar opposite to Elizabeth, Austen created a villain who is unforgettable. Characters must stand out to engage a reader or an audience member. If I take one lesson away from reading Pride and Prejudice, that is the lesson. Without memorable characters, the story falls flat and the reader/audience will walk away.

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Flashback Friday-Bringing Up Baby (1938)

There are romantic comedies and then there are romantic comedies. Some are so horribly predictable and forgettable that it makes bad, predictable action films look good. Then there are the classics, that after generations, still make audiences laugh and are still as highly regarded as they were when they first hit theaters.

One of these classics is Bringing Up Baby (1938).

Good natured Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a paleontologist and a professor who has spent the last four years putting together a Brontosaurus skeleton. With the skeleton completed, he needs only the intercostal clavicle bone and one million dollars to complete the project. Wealthy and widowed Mrs. Random (May Robson) can provide the money, but first David has to go through Mrs. Robson’s lawyer, Alexander Peabody (George Irving). In addition to getting past Mr. Peabody, David also has to deal with Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn), Mrs. Random’s ditzy niece who always seems to make trouble for David and make him look bad. Susan has recently adopted a leopard, named Baby, who seems to get David in as much hot water as his human mother.

Can David finish the project or will Susan (and his slowly to burn affection for her) for her stop him from seeing the skeleton in its complete form?

This movie is one of the essential romantic comedies. It is funny, it is charming and it has two of the best actors of the era playing the leading characters. Cary Grant was one of those actors whose good looks belied a comedic sense that is often repeated today, but never duplicated. Katherine Hepburn was not just a smart and independent woman off camera, but on camera as well. There are very few performers, especially female performers, who have the ability to smartly play down their intelligence to play up the comedy. Katherine Hepburn was one of those performers.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Difficult Women Book Review

For an untold number of centuries, women have been portrayed as one note 2-D characters. We were either the virgin or the slut. The power/money hungry woman or the innocent. There was little to no in-between.

In Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, through the character of Anne Elliot, Jane speaks of this one-sided view of women.

“I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

“Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. 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.”

Thankfully, things have started to change for the better in recent years. Respected writer Roxanne Gay’s new book, Difficult Women, is about difficult women and how complicated we truly are. In this anthology of short stories, she writes about everyday women deal with in their own complex way. Love, sex, relationships, jobs, etc. Not one of her female characters is a 2D cardboard cutout of a character. Each has her own unique sets of traits that makes her difficult, complex and thoroughly human.

I very much appreciated this book. Even in 2017, it is still hard to find female characters that are not confined to either a stereotype or forced into a character trope that has been seen one too many times. I appreciated this book not just because of the vast array of stories and characters, but because I enjoyed reading it.

I recommend it.

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