A fan satire is created on a very fine line. If it is done properly, it is Lost In Austen. If it is not done properly, it is Austenland. I’m not going to talk further about Austenland, because it is simply not worth the effort.
Amanda Price (Jemima Roper) is a Janeite. She finds solace from her job and her less than Darcy like boyfriend (who proposes marriage drunk using the tab from his beer can as an engagement ring) by reading Pride and Prejudice. She finds Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) in her bathroom and they switch places. Amanda soon finds that she has irrevocably altered the plot of Pride and Prejudice and must find a way to set things right.
I love this miniseries. The in-jokes are there, the characters we know and love (or hate), are also there. Hugh Bonneville and Alex Kingston are perfectly cast (and age appropriate) as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. We even learn Mr. Bennet’s first name. Elliot Cowan is smoldering and sexy as Fitzwilliam Darcy.
This is the perfect Austen satire. I highly recommend this mini series to every Janeite.
In 2009, the perfect fan satire movie was introduced: Fanboys.
In 1998, months before the premiere of Star Wars, Episode I, a group of friends go on a road trip. Their mission is to sneak into George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and steal the rough cut of the movie.
This movie is hilarious. It’s not only a satire of the Star Wars Fandom, but of the science fiction fandom as a whole. The characters are what an outsider might see as a science fiction fan: a nerdy guy or girl who lives with their parents, whose sole focus in life is their fandom. As a Star Wars fan, I knew who these characters were without cringing, I was able to laugh at them. I understood their obsession. I was able to quote the movies along with them. And I loved the cameos, especially the ones from Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams.
Unlike other fan satire (Austenland, I’m looking at you), Fanboys is one of funniest movies in the past five years. Underneath the stereotypes of the scifi fan, there is heart to these characters and a solid friendship that keeps the story going.
This is a must see.
I think it’s safe to say that Jane Austen is an icon. Almost 200 years after her death, her books are still staples of libraries and bookstores. Hollywood and modern literature has given us numerous adaptions of her novels over the years.
On one level, it seems easy to re-create her writing. Put the characters in a Georgian era England with Georgian era clothing (or if it is a modern reboot, referencing her characters and story lines), creating an Austen-like story and it seems that success is imminent. But it’s not that easy.
At first glance, Shannon Hale’s novel, Austenland seems interesting. Jane Hayes, a single American woman in her early 30’s, is obsessed and finds solace from her job and a string of failed relationships by re-reading Pride and Prejudice and re-watching the 1995 miniseries of the book. When her aunt dies, Jane receives an inheritance of an all expense paid trip to Austenland, a vacation where one immerses one self in everything Jane Austen.
I saw the movie last year, it was one the of the worst movies I have ever seen. The book is just as bad.
The problem with the book and especially the movie is that the main character is exactly what someone who does not get the nuances and in-jokes of her novels, is exactly what she appears to be. She is single and so obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and Fitzwilliam Darcy that she is incapable of finding real, long lasting relationships. It’s as bad as conjuring up an image of Star Wars or Star Trek fan, a nerdy looking person living in their parents house with no relationships other than their immediate family who spends most or all of their time re-watching the movies or the TV series. This book makes me embarrassed to be a Janeite.
Don’t visit Austenland.
This weekend, I was part of a group shown a preview of the upcoming movie Austenland.
Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a 30 something single American woman obsessed with Jane Austen and more specifically, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. On a whim, she spends her life savings on a Jane Austen theme park run by Mrs. Waddlesbrook (Jane Seymour), hoping to meet the perfect English gentleman. Joining her is Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and Lady Amelia Heartwright (Georgia King).
The gentleman are actors, paid to give participants the full Austen experience. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), Martin (Bret McKenzie), Colonel Andrews (James Callis) and Captain George East (Ricky Whittle).
This movie is based on a book, which I have not read, but some of my friends have said the book is good.
As a rom-com based on Austen’s novels, it certainly appeals to the Janeite in me. Anyone who knews me to a certain degree or has read this blog knows that I am a very open and proud Janeite. But this movie creates stereotypes that are far from reality. As one of my friends put it, the first 15 minutes are extremely unrealistic. As much as I adore and appreciate the 1995 P&P miniseries, I do not have a life-size Colin Firth Mr. Darcy cutout in my home.
The bright spots in this movie are Jennifer Coolidge who has the funniest lines and JJ Feild who looks good (and I mean looks really, really good) in regency era clothes.
That being said, this movie is not good. It panders to the Janeite fandom community and to women in general, reducing what could have been a very good, very smart and very funny homage to Miss Austen into a predictable and stale rom com. The ending, even as predictable as it is, is too predictable. I’m glad I saw it before it comes to theaters, it is not worth going to the movies for.