Monday, May 31, 2010

30 Day Movie Meme: Day 4


THE JANE AUSTEN EFFECT: A boy and a girl, perfect for one another (naturally), initially dislike one another because they have incorrect information about each other that affects their overall opinions. The audience knows that it's only a matter of time before the two will realize they are perfect for one another and fall in love once the air has been cleared and miscommunications are revealed in a flurry of relieved laughter.

I tend to avoid romantic comedies at all costs. When I say "romantic comedy", I'm not referring to  films of the genre that attempt to be unique and actually have something to say about relationships. For example, two superior romantic comedy films are Lost in Translation and, more recently, (500) Days of Summer.

The ones I'm referring to (the ones I will always avoid like a plague) feature the likes of Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Katherine Heigl, et al.

I don't usually like to have a prejudice against a certain genre of film, however, I usually feel I'm justified in wanting to see something other than frivolous fluff which solely focuses on women who just want to get married and compete with one another and men who are far too good to be true. Those films tend to feature the aforementioned actresses (and I use that term very loosely).

How is a Jane Austen ending (complete with a wedding or an engagement) any different from a film like Bride Wars, where Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway will stop at nothing to have a bigger and better wedding than the other, sanity and feminism be damned? As it turns out, there are significant differences.

Austen wrote biting social commentary with a touch of realism, and she dressed it up as romance. She covers the everyday banalities the women of her time experienced. Her novels are pivotal to anyone studying that particular era of British history, where women stayed home waiting to be courted and men came in and out of their lives in between stops to British colonies around the globe.

Austen's heroines are always aware of how ridiculous everything is around them and they tend to shy away from falling into the same traps other women do, regarding men and their station in society. This being late-eighteenth century literature, their reward (for lack of a better word) is a man who actually embraces the quirky, stubborn and spirited person that they are, no questions asked.

These are not light and airy women, these Austen heroines. They revolt against conformity and, despite the conventional endings involving big and extravagant weddings, the reader (or viewer) never forgets that the heroine, whether it be an Elizabeth Bennet or an Emma Woodhouse, retained her identity during a time where it was easier for a woman to hide behind a curtain or her husband's shadow.

Because, deep down, I do love a good romance. I love high drama and misunderstood feelings; a soap opera atmosphere dressed up in sexy historical costumes and English accents. I love that Austen's women are unique, even from one another. They are always complex, educated and headstrong women and, unlike some of the degrading romantic comedies that are thrown at women these days, they don't have to sacrifice their identity.

I love a good love story as much as the next woman, I just prefer to see my women paired up with a man who is their male counterpart and doesn't treat them as a commodity or sex object. Call me crazy, but I love my mushy Austen endings for all their drama and tears. It's satisfying knowing those heroines wound up with great guys without losing themselves in the process.

TOP: Sense and Sensibility (1995, Alan Rickman & Kate Winslet)
MIDDLE: Emma (1996, Gwyneth Paltrow & Jeremy Northam)
BOTTOM: Pride & Prejudice (1995, Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle)