Sunday, January 27, 2008

See Jane Wrecked

I'm so annoyed at the Masterpiece Theater productions of the Jane Austen novels. They've had three on so far, and they seem to be making a regular hash of each book in turn. They've apparently allotted just 90 minutes for each story, which is hardly sufficient, and have ignored most of the major plot points and supporting characters to give the most time possible to Hollywood-izing the love stories.

Yes, love stories are mostly at the center of her novels, but to state what is apparently a sort of heresy, they are not the main point. Gillian Anderson has been given the task of introducing each show, and whoever is writing her copy is terminally clueless. Before the first show, she declared that the consuming theme of Austen's work was "the search for a soul mate." What rubbish! The big thing in the novels -- and it can't be shoved aside fast enough in these adaptations -- is morality. Austen makes a point of punishing pride, lust, greed, dishonesty, inconstancy. The objectionable characters do not win the heart of the discerning herione, or only if they change. Gamblers and drinkers fall ill. Rogues are exposed. Frivolous or silly people are their own punishment. And her people do not find their soul mates -- they find the mates they deserve.

I hate that Austen gets robbed of her depth and her real talent is not displayed. It seems like her books get written off as "romances," which is a very superficial way to describe them. Masterpiece Theater, you should stop screwing up these masterpieces!


Anonymous said...

Ah, cK and I were thinking about watching Mansfield Park, which was on last night. Thank God we didn't!


Night Editor said...

Having just been introduced to Ms. Austen myself (what a woeful gap in my education) your analysis is right on, sister. The PBS folks probably had some branding session to set out how they'd pitch the masterful Austen.

A big thanks, by the way, for the visit and care package. It made our day!

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