Secondary Characters in Love

I realized something recently.

There are lot of books, movies, television series, and so on about people falling in love, or whose main characters end up in a relationship. (No, that’s not the thing I realized.) Mulder and Scully. Lizzie and Darcy. Aragorn and Arwen. For a lot of people, these pairings are a big deal. Fans of these works love watching the characters fall in love (or arguing endlessly on the internet about it) and creators tease us with will-they-or-won’t-they flirtation and big payoff wedding days.

All of this is perfectly fine, but it’s not for me. I don’t mind that Mulder and Scully end up together, but that was never what I watched X Files for. I love Pride and Prejudice for the witty dialogue, expertly crafted story, and deliciously wicked satires of social pretension, not for the Darcy-Bennet nuptials.

Now here’s the thing I realized: even though I have no investment in main character romances, I adore secondary character romances. I love watching side and background characters fall in love and get down to happily-ever-after-ing. I don’t care one way or another if Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson end up together, but I’m all in for Dot and Hugh. To me, the climax of Pride and Prejudice is not when Mr. Darcy proposes (for the second time) to Elizabeth Bennet, but when Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane Bennet.

I think there are some reasons for this. Side characters’ romances are not generally made to carry the same dramatic weight as main characters’. That means they don’t usually get saddled with tedious will-they-or-won’t-they teases or artificial roadblocks to “build drama.” More often they get to be sweet, silly, stories of love. In longer-form works, like television series, secondary characters also often get to make progress in their romance, moving on from flirtation to dating to marriage to wedded life while main characters tend to get stuck in stasis.

Then again, maybe I just love secondary characters.

Anybody else feel this way? Or am I just peculiar?

Image: Jane and Charles via Giphy

In Character is an occasional feature looking at some of our favorite characters from written works and media to see what drives them, what makes them work, and what makes us love them so much.

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Three Favorite Jane Austen Screen Adaptations

July 18, 2017, marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, my favorite (deceased) author.

JASNA Truth Universally Acknowledged Book Always Better

To honor her work, we rewatched all of the screen adaptations that we could easily get our hands on.

Jane Austen Rewatch Owned Adaptations

Here, in short, are three of my absolute favorites. (For links to the complete reviews, visit my post A Jane Austen Rewatch Project for the 200th Anniversary of Her Passing.)

Sense and Sensibility (anonymously published in 1811) is by far my favorite Austen novel, and my favorite adaptation is the Andrew Davies miniseries (directed by John Alexander; 2008). It stars Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne. Both were new to me, but I was familiar with the significant male actors: Dan Stevens (Mr. Edward Ferrars) is in the first few seasons of Downton Abbey, David Morrissey (Colonel Brandon) portrays the confused faux-Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas special “The Next Doctor”, and Dominic Cooper (Mr. Willoughby) as young Howard Stark scratches science to see if it bleeds in Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter (and rules as King Llane Wrynn in the Warcraft movie).

It was a gutsy choice of Davies to begin the series with Willoughby’s explicit seduction of a 15-year-old girl, an event which happens very much off-screen in the novel and most adaptations, but becomes the crux of the plot.

The series does have some issues. For example, the Devonshire “cottage” that the financially strained Dashwood ladies had to accept was turned into a literal cottage instead of a good, solid house from the novel. The events are condensed, sure, but their pace doesn’t feel rushed like in the movie versions. Most of the writing, acting, propping, and costuming are solid to excellent.

Jane Austen Rewatch Three Favorites

Emma (1815) was the fourth and last of Austen’s works to be published during her lifetime, and the Emma miniseries from 2009 (adapted by Sandy Welch, directed by Jim O’Hanlon) outshines the other adaptations. (Unsuprisingly, the miniseries format serves Austen’s nuance much better than the movie length.)

The version has several strengths, starting with excellent casting. Romola Garai stars as Emma Woodhouse, and Jonny Lee Miller (who has more recently – and deservedly – starred as Sherlock Holmes in the series Elementary) as Mr. Knightley. Miller’s is by far the most enjoyable Mr. Knightley performance I’ve seen. Mr. Knightley is often played as rather curt and strict, which I find not just offputting but a mistake.

All major characters are introduced at the beginning of episode 1, which helps people new to Austen. Moreover, this version does the epilogue clearly and succinctly, without massive infodumping. In addition, I immensely enjoy the music, the set dressing, costuming and propping, and other visuals. It’s a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable Emma. In fact, if the same team were to make other Austen adaptations, I’d go to great lenghts to see them.

Finally, Persuasion is a novel of pressures, choices, and second chances, posthumously published in 1817. The 1995 movie version of Persuasion is excellent. The screenplay is by Nick Dear, and Roger Mitchell directed Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciarán Hinds as Captain Wentworth. I really like Root’s understated and considerate version of Anne; Hinds works well enough even if a few scenes tend towards hammy.

Although the picture quality is grainy, the soundtrack is nice and there are subtitles (not a given on older DVDs). The props, locations, and costuming are also great. This is my favorite version so far—in an ideal world, of course, we would be due another adaptation.

For links to the complete mini-reviews of these and all of the other adaptations, visit my post A Jane Austen Rewatch Project for the 200th Anniversary of Her Passing.

Images: Book is always better screencap from JASNA website. Both DVD images by Eppu Jensen.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Quotes: My dear admiral, that post!

Admiral and Mrs. Croft, out driving in their one-horse chaise have come across a group of their acquaintances walking and offered to give a ride to one of them. Anne Elliot joins them.

“Very good-humoured, unaffected girls, indeed,” said Mrs. Croft… “and a very respectable family. One could not be connected with better people.—My dear admiral, that post!—we shall certainly take that post!”

But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself, they happily passed the danger; and by once after judiciously putting out her hand, they neither fell into a rut nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined not a bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the cottage.

– Jane Austen, Persuasion

 

One of the loveliest descriptions of marriage I have ever read: we make up for one another’s eccentricities and, however strange we may look to anyone else, we get where we’re going in the end.

Austen may be famous for her romantic pairings like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, or Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon, but I think Admiral and Mrs. Croft are one of her best images of real marital happiness.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Love & Friendship Trailer

A movie version of Jane Austen’s never-before-adapted epistolary novel Lady Susan is coming out in a few weeks (released on May 13), and the trailer is finally here.

Love & Friendship TRAILER 1 (2016) – Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel Movie HD via Movieclips Coming Soon

I’ve been waiting for it for a long time without any real idea of what it’ll be like, as I’ve never even heard of the writer / director Whit Stillman before. It looks absolutely hilarious! Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan seems perfect in every way; I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Jemma Redgrave, James Fleet, and Stephen Fry. Can’t wait! Fansquee!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Proud and Prejudiced Zombies

160212ppzI’m really the wrong person to say anything about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, since I am not a fan of zombie stories to begin with, but having a fondness for Jane Austen I went to the movie hoping for something entertaining. I was not entirely disappointed, but something about the movie bothers me.

It’s not just that it feels like a joke that has gone on too long without getting to a punchline. It is Pride and Prejudice with zombies added, exactly as advertised. The confined and unvarying quality of the movie is a feature, not a bug, and I can live with that. What bothers me about it is what it does to Austen’s characters and in particular the female characters.

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Two Historically-Inspired Recipes to Accompany PPZ

Having seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies last weekend, Regency England is trying to take over my brain. (Braaaain!) Here are two historically-inspired recipes if brains aren’t your favorite dish.

A Charlotte Riley Flickr Yellow pea soup

Pea soup

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings shares a recipe for pease soup (pea soup) by Jane Austen’s longtime friend Martha Lloyd. It comes from Dinner with Mr. Darcy by Pen Vogler. Inspired by the food featured in her novels and letters, the cookbook takes recipes from Austen’s period and adapts them for contemporary cooks.

Ingredients and directions

Take two quarts of pease. Boil them to a pulp. Strain them. Put 1/2 lb of butter into a saucepan. Celery, half an onion, and stew them til tender. Then put two anchovies, powdered pepper, salt, mint and parsley (each a small handful) and spinach, and heat of each a small quantity. Half a spoonful of sugar. The soup be boiled as thick as you like it and the whole be ground together, boiled up and dished.

The mint sounds interesting, but anchovies…?! Visit Brain Pickings for Pen’s modern version of Martha Lloyd’s pea soup and two other recipes. Or take a peak at Amazon’s preview, which includes a few photos from the book, among them four recipes.

Cherries

Cherry bounce

The exact origins of this cherry-infused drink are not known, but it definitely existed towards the end of 18th century, since Martha Washington (1731-1802) had a recipe for it. According to Wikipedia, the village of Frithsden in Hertfordshire claims to have originated it. Since Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is mostly set in Hertfordshire, cherry bounce would make quite a plausible companion to P&P or PPZ.

This recipe is Emily Han’s version, via Design*Sponge:

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds (680 g) sweet cherries, pitted
4 whole allspice berries
2 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
3/4 cup (144 g) turbinado sugar
1 bottle (750 ml, or 3 1/4 cups) bourbon

Directions

Combine the cherries, allspice, cloves, mace, and sugar in a quart (1 L) jar. Pour the bourbon into the jar, making sure the cherries are submerged. Cap the jar tightly. Store it in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months, shaking occasionally. The longer it infuses, the better it will be. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or flour sack cloth, gently pressing on the cherries with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid. Discard the cherries, or reserve them for another use. Bottle and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Yields about 3 1/2 cups (823 ml).

A commenter in the Design*Sponge post suggested trying the discarded cherries on ice cream. That does sound yummy! Visit Design*Sponge for another historically-inspired drink recipe by Emily.

Images: Yellow pea soup by A. Charlotte Riley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Cherries by Eppu Jensen

Geeks eat, too! Second Breakfast is an occasional feature in which we talk about food with geeky connections and maybe make some of our own. Yum!

Bloody Lovely: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies opens tomorrow!

IMDB PPZ Poster Lizzy Darcy

Now, I don’t typically go for horror or zombies, but I’m actually looking forward to this one: the trailers and clips make PPZ look kick-ass. Check ’em out:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | official trailer #1 US (2016) Lily James Matt Smith via moviemaniacsDE

“My daughters were trained for battle, sir, not the kitchen.” – Mr. Bennet

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Official Trailer #1 (2016) – Lily James Horror Movie HD via Movieclips Trailers

(There seems to be a bit of perv cam action going on. I hope this is as much as there is.)

I know nothing of the 2009 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, but I do love some of the movie adaptation’s stars: Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet (James is no stranger to elegance based on her work in Downton Abbey) and Matt Smith (of the 11th Doctor fame) as Mr. Collins, and, finally, Charles Dance and Lena Headey (most lately, in genre interest, of the Game of Thrones excellence) as Mr. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Movie Clip – Admire via Sony Pictures Entertainment

“I do not know what I admire more, Elizabeth Bennet, your skill as a warrior or your resolve as a woman.” – Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Bloody Good Sneak Peek via Sony Pictures Entertainment

Ugh, pretty gruesome. Then again, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that to see and enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, one must be in a suitable frame of mind.

Showbizjunkies bennet-sisters-pride-prejudice-zombies

There will be murder and mayhem, surely…

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Movie Clip – Enviable Talent via Sony Pictures Entertainment

…aaand apparently everything ends in a double wedding:

EW ppz-pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-2zz

Seems like a combination of very silly and very kick-ass – “hopefully magnificently so,” to quote husband. 🙂

Images: Poster via IMDB. Bennet sisters by CTMG Inc. via Showbizjunkies. Double wedding by Jay Maidment via Entertainment Weekly.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

R.I.P. Alan Rickman

Actor Alan Rickman has passed. Apart from a fantastic Professor Severus Snape, Rickman brought to life both on stage and screen numerous other characters, including my favorite Colonel Brandon in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility.

Sense & Sensibility – Weep You No More Sad Fountains via anotherrainbow2008

I also have fond memories of his performance as Alexander Dane / Dr. Lazarus in Galaxy Quest and the sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (with the unforgettable delivery of “Because it is dull, you twit, it’ll hurt more!”, on the desirability of a spoon as a torture device).

Rest in peace, sir. You will be missed.

Tumblr Blog: Pride and Recreation

Aaaaaaaaaahh! This may be the best thing since sliced bread: screencaps from the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) with quotes from Parks and Recreation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, etc., etc., Pride and Recreation:

PrideandRecreation Darcy No

Prideandrecreation That Relaxes Me

My favorites include these two above (one, two).

Some things are just too silly not to share!

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies Trailer

The first Pride & Prejudice & Zombies trailer has been out for a while, and it’s kicking butt bonnet!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES – Official UK Trailer #1

The movie will be released on February 05, 2016. I’m generally turned off by zombies, but even still, I’ll certainly go see this one. And I’m looking forward to seeing Lily James (whom I know from Downton Abbey) and Lena Heady (Cersei in Game of Thrones) in action. Matt Smith’s Mr. Collins should also be something to see! 🙂

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.