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JABC #6: "Lost in Austen" mini-series

I'm behind in my postings for the Jane Austen Bicentenary Challenge, but I am actually all caught up on my reading and viewing. Not having WiFi at my new place has been a pain in the behind for more reasons than one, and it's certainly put a damper on my keeping up with this project!



I've watched "Lost in Austen" many times since I bought it for myself a few years ago. If you know me well, you probably know that I'm ridiculously cheap and rarely buy things like DVDs for myself unless I can somehow justify the purchase in my mind. Luckily for me, I received a B&N gift certificate a few birthdays ago, et voila! It's certainly paid for itself in the viewings.

Since this is not quite the same as a book review, I'm going to go ahead and put my thoughts on this mini-series in the form of bullets. Sometimes, that just helps me think and organize my thoughts! So here goes nothing...

  • The idea of finding yourself (quite literally) lost in [Jane] Austen is a concept that I find both interesting and tempting. If only, right?? I had the pleasure of receiving a gift of fan-fiction where Hermione and Snape (from the "Harry Potter" series, of course) were magically ensconsed in Pride & Prejudice, and it was a delicious read. So the concept of "Lost in Austen" was appealing to me from the start and I thought that it was pretty well executed. The idea of there being doors between (what I must assume are the equivalent of) parallel universes works well enough; I've heard of stranger things. The question then, of course, is whether there are similar doors elsewhere in the world and where do they link up? Are there likewise "Harry Potter" doors, "Alice in Wonderland" doors (God forbid), or - terrifying thought - "Twilight" doors?? I see spin-off series like woah

  • One of the things that I initially did not like about the mini-series was the main character, Amanda Price. That's mean, I know, but I suppose the problem I had with it was that she wasn't ME. I loathed the way that she responded to the (admittedly overwhelming) stimuli of the Regency world; as a professed lover of Austen, shouldn't she be a bit more well-versed in how to act in that sort of society? Of course, it's all about the humor, and I absolutely get the jokes. I guess I'm just a stickler because I like to think that I would have fit in quite well and not made some of the ridiculous faux-pas that she did. Then again, Amanda's anxiety at being indefinitely being stuck in a strange place with strange people and even stranger customs is understandable and would surely get the best of even the greatest of Jane-ites.

  • I was sad that there was only one Bingley sister. If you're going to get sucked into an Austen novel, at least get sucked into one that is canonically accurate!

  • That said, I had a small laughing fit at the "revelation" of Caroline Bingley being gay. I had to give credit to the writers; that's one plot twist that, while crazy and completely off the grid, makes sense in a weird way. It's not as if Miss Austen would have written about that particular "proclivity" in her novels, so the absence of any such mention is natural. Why not jump in and fill in the blanks? Lord knows that stranger things have been done to Austen novels... (*cough* Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters).

  • It was almost painful (but not, necessarily, in a bad way) to watch Amanda blunder through the novel and, in her attempts to help move the plot along, actually hinder the action of our beloved P&P. Losing Elizabeth certainly changes everything in the book, including (but decidedly not limited to) the fact that, without Elizabeth, there is no one to speak for Jane's quiet love of Mr. Bingley. Thus, incidents like Jane's being ready to accept Mr. Collins' proposal make very much sense, indeed, as disgusting as it is to admit it.

  • I felt as though the Charlotte Lucas plot line was rather contrived and pretty obviously a means of getting rid of a character who, thanks to Amanda's botched influence, was no longer necessary as a mate for the odious Mr. Collins. Really? Africa? How many proper, Regency ladies would have the means or the wherewithal, let alone the sensibility to go off alone to Africa to work as a missionary? What missionary organization would have taken her, a young woman (though a professed "spinster") without a male chaperone? So yeah, that was weird.

  • What a devastating moment when Mr. Darcy's finds and confronts Amanda with her copy of Pride and Prejudice! I mean, think about it, how crazy would it be to be a fictional character who, unknowing that you are a fictional character, find a copy of a book all about your life that does not portray you in the most positive of lights? No wonder he was upset, and really, how could Amanda prove or convince him that she isn't the mysterious author?

  • I was very fascinated by the character of Mr. Wickham and his pseudo-redemption with the revelation that he did not truly seduce Georgiana and that, in fact, she was the one who put the moves on him. I was a little confused as to whether Georgiana was supposed to be developmentally challenged, because when Amanda sees her in her room at Pemberley, she's playing with some sort of toy and there are drawings scattered all around her room. Meh? But yes, Mr. W! That perfidious chap has a very interesting twist in this adaptation, being a somewhat wronged man - at least in terms of Miss Darcy. He's still a gallant and a bit of a fop, but he's one of the few people who helps Amanda without asking anything in return. I'm also curious about whether he has some connection or experience with time travel; when Amanda asks him whether he understands what she means when she says that Mr. Bennett needs stitches, he says that he does in a very serious way - maybe that's just because he's smarter than your average Joe (were stitches commonly used in the late 18th/early 19th centuries?), but there seemed some potential for him to have some Other Experience, too. Thoughts?

  • The biggest "ouch" moment was when Darcy rejects Amanda because she does not possess her maidenhead. Little does he know of our 21st "loose ways


EDIT: I am indebted to kerravonsen for pointing out my failure to mention Mrs. Bennett, played by Alex Kingston. I am appalled that I forgot to write that in! I thought about it, meant to do it, but... whatever. I adore Alex Kingston, as many of you know, and it was such a joy to see her in this mini-series. Aside from being a generally brilliant and gorgeous actress and an amazing River Song, she is the perfect Mrs. Bennett. She is just the right mixture of nagging and dramatic, but in this version (as opposed to the BBC version) she's more than just obnoxious: she's convincing. Her grating personality makes sense in light of the efforts she's making for her daughters personified in the conversation she has with Amanda at the Netherfield ball. I laughed at Amanda's description of Mrs. Bennett as a "real ball-breaker," but it's so *true*! It may not make her likable, but it certainly makes her understandable when you realize that she truly is concerned for her daughters and knows that the only future they have as a gentleman's daughters without a male heir is to find good husbands - a fate that very well may not come to pass in such a small, rural community as Longbourn. Mrs. Bennett gets a lot of crap talk from fans and critics, but she's realistic. As a woman without significant higher education and no experience working or fending for herself in a patriarchal society, she uses whatever means necessary to provide for her daughters; after all, her husband has proved relatively useless as a provider, because as much as I love the sardonic and cuddly Mr. Bennett, he's a shite family head who never planned for the potential of having five daughters and thus has no real way to provide for them financially after his inevitable death.

I enjoy the series whenever I watch it, and it always makes for good viewing as I sew or craft. If you haven't watched, and especially if you're an Austen fan and have ever wondered what it would be like to be a real part of your favorite Austen novel, this show is for you!

Tags: jane austen bicentenary challenge 2013
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