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The Firth Conversion

I have loved Jane Austen since I was in high school. As a woman with a degree in English, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. I have an unlikely favorite, Persuasion, which is an opinion I will defend to my grave. But, this is not about my alarmingly similar personality to Anne Elliot. This is about the most popular Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice.

I was at a book club meeting the other day and we were discussing BBC mini-series adaptations. One of my friends started gushing about the 1995 Pride and Prejudice and I nodded along. Then, she started going in on the 2005 film version.

“I love . . . I love . . . I love you,” she stuttered in a mocking voice, then laughed. “Terrible. I can’t get over it.”

I hadn’t seen the movie since college, but I remembered liking it and tried to defend it, but she had none of it. Books were thrown, finger sandwiches torn to pieces, curtains set on fire. It was a whole thing.

Determined to know the truth for myself, I sat myself and my husband down on the couch and watched all six hours of the BBC Pride and Prejudice over the course of three days. We were going to watch one or two episodes a week (we’ve deemed Sunday to be period drama day) but I couldn’t stop.

Me to this mini-series

I realized within the first episode that I had never seen it before. I’m guessing that it’s such a cultural mainstay that I had seen enough clips to trick myself into thinking I had watched it at some point in my life. But, I’m positive that if I had seen it before, I would have already been obsessed with it, making this realization a moot point. Now I am obsessed with it. For so many reasons. “The Gaze,” as my mother-in-law calls it…

The infamous wet-shirtedness…

The overwhelmingly endearing awkwardness…

Okay, I’ll stop now.

Seriously I’ll stop.

Me to myself:

Ahem. So, anyway. After I finished the mini-series, I immediately picked up the book again because I couldn’t bear for my life to not include an indecent amount of Regency era manners, riding breeches, and waistcoats. “I didn’t know we owned Pride and Prejudice,” my husband said, making me question if he really knows me at all.

It was, of course, wonderful and it surpassed the mini-series only because the book is always better. Except for Hunger Games. Don’t get me started.

I decided to put it to a final test and watch the 2005 film. For science, of course. I still think it’s a good adaptation overall. Matthew MacFayden does a fine job of portraying Mr. Darcy. He and Firth came to the character from very different angles. Mr. Darcy is known for being uncomfortable in social situations. He doesn’t say much and can come across as rude when he’s really just anxious around new people.

Colin Firth played Darcy as a man who doesn’t say anything unless he is absolutely sure of it. The things he says are confident because he’s put a lot of thought into every word. His awkwardness stems from his body language as he’s trying to figure out what to say to Elizabeth.

MacFayden played him as more blatantly awkward. When he’s trying to tell Elizabeth how he feels he storms into room, stares at her, says, “This is a charming house” in a voice that’s way too loud, then storms back out.

As endearing as that is, I feel that Firth’s representation is more accurate to the book. I have already texted my friend and apologized for ever attempting to argue with her about the superiority of the mini-series. I still love the movie, but Colin Firth has converted me.

Also, can we stop writing “You have bewitched me body and soul” on everything and attributing it to Jane Austen? That quote was not in the book. I’m looking at you, Pinterest.

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