The Neutering of Jane Austen

I was going to wait until Masterpiece Theater’s version of Sanditon (Jane Austen’s final novel) finally ended before completing my review (begun here) but they’re stretching out the plot like one of those Netflix shows that go on season after season until you realize you’ve been sucked into a damned soap opera. One that will go forever and ever, long after the original stars have died and been reborn and now fight twins who swap brains, obsessive orangutan nurses, and dolls that come to life.

Vampire actors are perfect for Soaps as they never die! They can go on and on and on. But Jane Austen heroines?

Jane Austen only finished eleven chapters of Sanditon before she died and so all of the characters and plot twists had to fleshed out by other authors, based on what she “laid out for them.” After eleven chapters, you can often guess where an author is headed.  But, by the end of the eleventh chapter of Pride and Prejudice (Austen’s most revered work)  we hadn’t even met Mr. Collins. 

For those you who’ve never seen a production of Pride and Prejudice, of which there have been many, he’s the distant cousin who, by reason of an archaic system of patriarchy,  will eventually kick the heroine (Elizabeth Bennett), all of her sisters, and their widowed mother to the curb, leaving them homeless.  Unless, of course, they marry.  Marriage in Austen’s time was the only way for respectable women to leave their parents and take their place in society and what better way to illustrate that injustice than by creating Mr. Collins, a man in whom “the deficiency of nature had been little assisted by education or society …’’ 

Yup, in jolly ole England even a man who was a pompous nitwit was worth more than a sensible woman and you gotta bet Austen wasn’t too happy about that!  So how did the writers who took on the task of completing her last, unfinished novel deal with that anger?  Well, they neutered it. Charlotte Heyward isn’t looking for a husband nor does she seem too worried about a future without one.  Heh? 

I had not read Sanditon in decades so I couldn’t really claim that  the screen writers were taking obscene liberties with her work. Luckily the story is only 66 pages long and so I reread it last night.  I won’t bore those of you who could give a figgy pudding about Sanditon or Austen or even Masterpeeve Theatre any further but, I wasn’t wrong.

Anyway, today’s Valentine’s Day and here in Northern California we’re seeing the first glimpse of green which to me is a romantic sight.

22 thoughts on “The Neutering of Jane Austen

  1. Hi. I can’t comment intelligently on Austen.

    But, speaking of Netflix: My wife took out a subscription four months ago and has watched quite a few hours of their offerings. I didn’t watch anything on Netflix till two weeks ago, when I started watching episodes of The Kominsky Method. I like this show. Have you seen it? Enjoy the weekend.


    1. I love the Kominsky Method! But they aren’t trying to stretch out a plot line. It’s believably paced and who doesn’t love Alan Arkin! Could watch him every day!

  2. you’ve been sucked into a damned soap opera

    That describes Netflix to a tee. I wish they’d just make their series following the book more closely, rather than dragging them out like the did with OITNB. Loved the book, got bored with the series.

    Also, kudos to you for featuring a photo of Barnabas in this post. Now THERE was a soap opera worth every second I spent watching it as a kid. The Dark Shadows theme song is floating through my brain as I write this.

    1. I agree with you entirely about OITNB. Started out strong and then … ugh. I missed Dark Shadows when it first aired. I think I was back in school. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. I, too, grow weary of series that start out dynamic and then slow and stall out losing my interest.
    I’m sorry Sanditon continues to derail your satisfaction with Austen. 66 pages? Maybe I will partake in your angst.

    1. If I hadn’t studied Austen for so long, I probably could have enjoyed the show without nitpicking! The show has many millions of fans and so I don’t dare go on twitter with my opinions – I’d be drawn and quartered!

  4. I wonder what will happen to Jane Austen novels and movies in the coming decades? The avalanche of Austen movies in the last few years has got to mean something. She’s a fantastic writer, there’s that. She wrote a lot about finding happiness, which has become an American obsession, I think. Her characters are careful about decorum, or at least conscious of maintaining it (or not), which makes her the anti-President Trump. Will all that hold in another couple of decades? Cheers —

    1. Yes, there is the desire to escape these times and return to a time when people at least feigned decency. To me, Austen novels always had a lot of wit and cleverly drawn characters. Nowadays the emphasis seems to be on action and sex and violence. Perhaps it has gotten to be too much.

  5. Hi JT!
    We are way more kindred than I ever realized – omg
    I love Masterpiece theatre and JA’s works

    Just last week — while resting up a bit – I finished an 80’s take on Pride and Prejudice –
    And so your post here is timely for me!
    Later I hope
    To read the 66 pages of the final
    – and the recent production it sounds like liberties were taken that did not fit the era… or author passion

    1. I remember that version as being the most faithful to the book. I loved it! Course it was a mini-series! Sanditon is well acted and entertaining but the writers went off in directions that I don’t think Austen would have.

      1. And JT – that is the crucial point – noting that Austen would not have gone in those directions – and I am a new fan of Austen – never had her work properly introduced to me or just never took the time to actually enjoy her work.
        And in the 80s mini series – so many little parts made me smile – like the “lowered lace” on one of the sisters – which was showing how that character was using sex appeal – and other little
        Details made me
        Smile to see more of Austen’s social intelligence

        Side note – amazon’s series Jack Ryan is poorly written – which seems to be a theme for Amazon Studios – they throw all this money into original series and have cameras, actors, directors – etc – but most of the writing is average – or targeted for the gen Z or immature millennial that has shallowness – sounds rough -and maybe that was a generalization – but they really really need to spend more money on a team of better writers –
        But my point was what irks me about the Jack Ryan series is that they constantly have the author name Tom Clancy associated with the series
        Because Jack Ryan is based on Clancy’s original character – but the series is not Tom Clancy-like at all!
        and we find the show is not even watchable –
        Which is sad because it all
        Comes down to not having a good team of writers

        But saying Amazon’s Jack Ryan is Tom Clancy like would be like me finding a Ferrari emblem and slapping it on a Dodge car 🚘

  6. In Jane Austen it’s all about the little things! So I’d say you’re off to an excellent start. I spent an entire year studying JA and did my senior thesis on Persuasion – which is the last book she’s known to have completed. I hope you enjoy her work! Tom Clancy is dead so unless they’ve hired a ghost whisperer, he’s not writing anything but publishing contracts are strange things and whoever inherited the rights to his name may have sold them to Amazon. It’s all about the money.

    1. I found the gif on Bing Images. Austen was gifted enough to hide her anger in clever dialogue and through ridiculous characters so that it would not offend her audience. Genteel women were not supposed to show their emotions in her day. But it doesn’t some through (at least for me) in Sanditon.

  7. I just don’t think Jane would have liked that ending at all. It’s like a slap in the face to her. She would have contrived a better ending. (I also agree they added some saggy midddle.) Even when all looked absolutely hopeless, well, that’s when Austen shines, and I stupidly thought they’d pull it off. So 😞

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