Austen and Arrogance and Exploitation

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

I am less than thrilled to see that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Jane Austen/gore flick mashup novel that came out earlier this year, is receiving sequel treatment in the form of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

"Whaaaaat? But it's about clever Regency ladies fighting zombies! Why the hate?" you may ask.

Hey, I love clever ladies kicking ass, too! But I love clever ladies kicking ass in the real world. The "Austen & Male Rewriter & Monsters" formula is no way empowering. Quirk Books, a male-edited and owned publishing line, is hiring male authors to co-opt women's fiction and marginalise women's voices to achieve press, visibility and shitloads of money. And I mean shitloads of money. New York Times-bestseller-list, movie-deal shitloads of money.

And they do it by stomping all over women's genre fiction. The authors handwave a bit about how Austen is a "brilliant" writer and blah blah blah, but far more frequent are comments such as:

"Traditionally, men tend to avoid Austen, dismissing it as chick-lit. Certainly, the BBC's acclaimed adaptation in the 1990s did nothing to counter this with its almost gratuitous shots of Colin Firth in his britches, designed to draw in the oestrogen-fuelled female audiences."

(Anthony Harvison, some idiot reviewer)


NOW WE KNOW: Colin Firth diving into a lake in old-fashioned trousers = sop to the hysterical underpants-flinging girls. Halle Berry's boobs in Monster's Ball, Mena Suvari's boobs in American Beauty, Brenda Vaccaro's boobs in Midnight Cowboy = Oscar-winning art. Got it.

"Most people have a great sense of humour about it, particularly the 'Jane-ites', who must prefer this to the 60th or 70th Mr Darcy's private thoughts collection that seems to come out every year."

(Seth Grahame-Smith, co-author, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies)


He is referring to the female authors have been writing derivative fiction based on the works of Jane Austen for at least 160 years. Pemberly.com, a Jane Austen fansite, has a list of 68 sequels and continuations, 61 of which were written by women. The first was published in 1850. Re-envisioning and rewriting Austen's novels is not some new edgy trend; it's just that the media has only started to pay attention to it now that male authors are co-opting it and putting it into traditionally male frameworks. "I think we've started a mini-trend of literary mash-ups," Grahame-Smith said in a BBC interview. No you haven't! And you know you haven't, because you were talking about all those other lady-penned reworkings like five seconds ago!

Solution
So ladies, I think we need to do some co-opting right back.

Presenting...

Saving Private Ryan From Her Dead-End Desk Career
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Tailored Trousersuits
Full Metal Jacket and Cubic Zirconia Earrings
Gladiator Sandals are Actually Really Uncomfortable
Dye Hard: One Knitter's Craft Fair Struggle
The Great Escape out of a Lower Salary Band
Blade Runner, Speed-Skating Ice Dancing Champion

Let's go, big movie houses! I can knock out a few spec scripts by Monday.

9 comments:

stegersaurus said...

Dude, I seriously enjoyed this post.

Erica said...

Have I mentioned lately you're awesome?

Anonymous said...

otoh, I think this post is ludicrous.

Elizabeth said...

I would go see those movies. Probably multiple times. And then I would buy the DVDs.

Untapped market, Hollywood!

Sylvia said...

But Judith, don't you understand? MEN are doing it. Not ladies--MEN! That means it's for REAL!

(Actually, though, I think now I finally get why I was feeling unenthusiastic about P&P&Z. I hadn't been able to put my finger on it...)

Erica said...

PS: Interestingly, I just read on amazon today about two different Pride & Prejudice vampire novels coming out later this year. They both appear to be firmly stuck in the "oh those silly women and their silly books" camp, since they're being marketed as paranormal romance.

Judith said...

@Sylvia

Oh man, I totally forgot about that unbreakable rule of all accomplishments ever! :( I will go find a dude to ghostwrite this blog for me and then it will be legitimate commentary. Score!

@Erica

I'm guessing they're written by women, am I right? I think it's interesting that vampire pop culture is mostly gendered female (Buffy, Anne Rice, Twilight) while zombie pop culture is mostly gendered male (28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, ...Shaun of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead). I guess because vampires are all about chick stuff like feelings, and zombies are all about dude stuff like fighting automatons.

steeple333 said...

I thought the P&P&Z book seemed like a silly sort of idea - rather like a fanfic. Fun to read, but not anything mind-blowing.

But when I saw the back of cover declaring "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read", I linefaced. Hard. 'Cause social commentary on the lives of women at the time is just such a boring chick thing amirite.

writtenwyrdd said...

Thank you! You have articulated just what was bugging me about PP&Z. And I did read it to see what the hoopla was about and found it a lousy read, full of little boy gross-out humor and unfunny sexual innuendo.

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