No matter the specific details of any Pride and Prejudice remake,Darcy pretty much always ends up wet-shirted. Whether we are in Georgian England, or a zombie-pocalypse, or present-day London, there is something about Darcy’s blend of hauntiness, keen letter-writing skills, and lamb-chops that makes us want to dunk him in a pond just so we can watch him shake out his floppy hair.
This includes the latest edition of Fitzwilliam Spankpants—a scrumptious douchy neurosurgeon who appears sweaty and hot in teeny jogging shorts in Curtis Sittenfeld’s hilarious modern retelling of your fav Austen novel, Eligible.
It’s fun to think about how you would transpose the world of the Bennet family to current-day America. Sittenfeld places the Bennets in uncool Middle America (Cincinnati): Lydia and Kitty are basic b*tches into Crossfit, Mary is _maybe into bowling?_, Jane is a Brooklynite yoga instructor, and Lizzie is a women’s magazine writer in New York, each brought home to their twin beds after their father suffers a heart attack. Pemberley is a gorgeous historical estate in the monied, buccholic hills of Northern California, “Chip” Bingley is a hopeless romantic (a cardiac surgeon! *metaphor*) who recently competed on a Bachelor-esque dating show called Eligible in a fruitless search for love, and Mr Collins is an insufferable tech start-up billionaire from Silicon Valley (of course!). It’s all pretty pitch-perfect.
But in figuring out how the minute power relationships of Austen’s time (a time when women couldn’t own land and were traded about in marriage on the merits of their endowments) fit the “modern” world is where it gets interesting. Charlotte Lucas, the smart but modest friend of Lizzie’s is drawn as a plus-size girl, which seems a fair representation of an arbitrary prejudice that limits her dating prospects. Likewise, Jane and Lizzie are aged up to their late thirties, worrying about their limited baby windows, less than the tarnish of being branded old matrons. And the classism is delineated by Ivy League pedigrees (Darcy comes from Harvard Medical School of courrrseee, Georgie is Stanford, Caroline is I-can’t-remember-but-boy-is-she-a-b*tch!). Even if America thinks of itself as a meritocracy, money is still money, and social stratification is hard at work keeping people in their place.
Mr. Bennet is sarcastic and winning and yet(!) Sittenfeld is careful to note that he isn’t a Democrat or anything. His estate may be dwindling, but he nevertheless enjoys a position of privilege. Likewise, Mrs Bennet manages to pass with the upper class patrons at the Country Club, but is given to whispering cringe-worthy asides on race, gender, and weight.
Prejudice, you will see in modern America, is well and alive! (Agh, I’ll leave Wickham’s crimes a surprise.)
Given the dignity-free zone that is dating in the age of Tinder and reality TV, Lizzie and Darcy hook up before the fateful end, although it’s to engage in some “hate sex” and acknowledge the “ST” (Eligible speak for sexual tension) rife in every scene they meet (including TWO in a Cincinnati chilli restaurant!). Oh my gourds, is all I’ll say.
Jane Austen was obviously very focused on gender, and Sittenfeld does a hilarious job of looking at how—even if women can now live on their own, and have jobs, and get pregnant on their own through artificial insemination—not EVERYTHING has changed. Women are still saddled with the burden of childcare, and biological age, and being branded as “silly.” It’s still unfair that Willie Collins can be so awful and unattractive, and get the funny, smart Charlotte, just because Charlotte happens to be less than svelte. It’s still unfair that someone as witty and lively and assertive as Lizzie can be wanting for an equal, and can come off in second place in her earlier long-term dalliance with Jasper Wick ;).
Darcy has always been a wild fantasy—a guy who is loaded with money, but totally uninterested in the eligible young bachelorettes who come flocking his way, preferring the company of a sarcastic, sharp, difficult heroine. And even if girls don’t have to worry about their dowries anymore, the prevalence of Tinder and Instagram selfies makes it harder than ever to get past the prejudice of people’s appearances. We need a Darcy who can see past the duckfaces and Instafilters now more than ever! And we need a Lizzie who can run her mouth and make fun of everything ridiculous in our world (“Darcy,” she said. “Fitzwilliam Cornelius Darcy the Fifth. I know your middle name because I Googled you. Is that creepy or impressive?”).
And if men have evolved, and several waves of feminism have washed through society (in Sittenfeld’s book, “Kathy De Burgh” is modeled on Gloria Steinem), we still need good sisters. There is still a careful line drawn between the public world of social media and the private realm, where you admit to your friends how you really feel. You will lurve Jane and Lizzie in this adaptation. You’ll reconsider how quick you were to write off Lydia and Kitty as vapid, and Mary as stunted. (I won’t tell you whether or not we get a double wedding at the end.)
If you’re a bit of a Janeite, spend your nights trawling the Republic of Pemberley, or just have a thing for haughty men with hairy chests, you will adore this book. It’s out today! Yasssssss!
Are you dying to get your hands on this scrumptious P&P retelling?! Is Darcy your everything? Did you read Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep?