In times of fanatics like armies – with followers of starwars harassing actresses if a character is not to the liking of the canon or Marvel fans torpedoing any criticism of any of the films in that universe- the reading world passionate about Jane Austen has achieved a position in the category of those who should not be disturbed . Each new adaptation is analyzed with a magnifying glass, discussed and compared with its original, awakening enormous fevers and passions. Something particular considering that the author was born just over two hundred years ago, and her six published novels portray a bygone era of ballrooms, gloves and the English countryside.
If his fame began after his death in 1817 – when they were published posthumously Persuasion Y Northanger Abbey for the first time using the name of the author and not how anonymous-, the television and film adaptations with slow and longing love were what made the author a pop icon.
The possibilities of internet connection turned their followers into a community, with theme parties that include empire-cut dressescookbooks inspired by her work and even with the writer’s face stamping on the ten-pound note since her bicentennial (which began as a petition from readers on Change.org).
There are contemporary versions of Austen’s novels –No ideafrom 1995, perhaps the pinnacle of that profession, or even Bridget Jones from 2001-, to horror versions – Pride and Prejudice versus Zombies It was among the best-selling books of 2009 and has its own film, in addition to those that try to revive the England of the early nineteenth century in a more faithful way.
Since the announcement of Persuasion Netflix, released a few weeks ago, that the Austen-fan cried out in heaven. First for the casting of the very beautiful Dakota Johnson for the lead role, Anne Elliott. And then critics and audiences seemed taken aback by the format: Anne breaks the “fourth wall”, speaking directly to the viewer, with a comedic tone (the series fleabagwhich uses the same narrative technique became a Trending Topic on Twitter).
But is it another Austenlovers tantrum? maybe the new Persuasion it feels like a small betrayal of everything that makes Jane Austen sacred.
As Virginia Woolf well describes in her text on Austen from 1925, all we know about the author is from her books, a couple of letters and a lot of “copucheo”; Her sister Cassandra de Ella, faced with the early death of the writer and seeing the success of her books, burned most of her letters -only about 60 survived, where Austen did not “peel” the rest of the family or neighbors.
We know that she was the seventh of eight children of a shepherd and that the family had a comfortable social position; that she did not get married and as for every woman of that time the only escape from home was marriage, she ended up living with her mother and her sister, supported by her brother, her only legal heir. She died at the age of 41, having published her first four novels under the pseudonym “a lady.” All these constrictions for the women of the time, especially for those with intellectual concerns and that she herself lived, Austen captured in her books. The rest of her, from her politics, to loves, to thought, have been the subject of reconstruction and debate between historians and fans.
Why does a writer like that survive time? “She masterfully writes romances with a happy ending: they offer pleasure to our adolescent spirit and our literary palate at the same time,” explains Francisca Folch, UC Faculty of Letters Academician, about the enduring charm of the British actress.
Needless to say, then, that reading Austen is a guilty pleasure. The sparkling irony and satirical social observations are a real treat for fine humor. In addition, she has a refreshing feminist imprint for the time, with determined and three-dimensional female characters”.
Francisca Mancilla, creator of the Read as a Girl community, with more than nine thousand followers on Instagram, says: “His themes are timeless, and that is why each reissue of the books is successful.. Classic literature, very romantic, which can be successful in different generations. But also today you can look at him from another perspective, in all his books he has a pseudo-feminist paragraph. Phrases that remain contemporary today”.
Virginia Woolf, a self-confessed Austen-lover, highlighted her predecessor’s depth in English letters, capable of generating profound emotion beneath apparent superficiality. He also highlights it as one of the “most consistent satires of English Literature”. Of Persuasion itself, Woolf wrote that it shows a change in contrast to the previous five novels and perhaps a weariness. The last novel completed by Austen is an autumnal and not a spring one, and where the protagonist is a 27-year-old woman – spinster for the time – who “unhappy herself, has a special empathy for the happiness and unhappiness of others, which which, until the end, she is forced to comment on silently,” explains Woolf.
Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliott, the middle sister of an elegant family who has fallen into disrepair due to the extravagance of a vain father obsessed with high society. Anne had a great love seven years ago, a penniless naval officer named Wentworth, but she refused to marry him “persuaded” by the advice of her family friend. When Wentworth returns, with a distinguished career and the pocketbook to go with it, Anne not only gasps every time they meet in salons, she reframes her view of what she did right and wrong, what could have been and what surrounding society.
Some of the versions of Persuasion on British television include the one from 1971, the one from 1995 -much applauded, with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds-, or the one from 2007, with Sally Hawkins in the leading role.
And perhaps there comes the first problem with Netflix: from Kate Winslet to Emma Thompson, from Keira Knightley to Hawkins herself, Austen’s heroines in adaptations pride themselves on a close and country beauty. It is part of the author’s appeal: that extraordinary feelings are experienced in “normal” characters. In the books, the heroines are jewels to be discovered by the few in English society who prize intellect over class, or kindness over submission.
Anne Elliot is invisible to her father and older sister in the book, and to the world she lives in her attractiveness has passed with age, which is hard to project on a star like Dakota Johnson.
For Mancilla, yes, the problem is not so much the actress as the ambition to reach young women: “I wouldn’t say that Dakota Johnson is wrong, but she radically steals from the book. She sees herself as a woman suffering for love, but in the book the most important thing is that she is very wary of the other’s pain. The millennial winks can be to bring Austen closer to another generation, but for her fans they can be an insult since she is washed away. I understand that her intention here is to conquer another audience”.
this new Persuasion It seems to suggest that the character is still stuck in the past, but he does so by ridiculing the heroine like pop products from Bridget Jones onwards, with a bottle of wine in hand. By transforming the book’s intense internal monologues – riddled with regret and attentive to any casual gesture that reveals a Wentworth humanity only she can see – to sharp dialogue on camera, she misses some of the apprenticeship of the literary Anne, the defeated one.
“Persuasion it is a novel about second chances, in which the inevitable passage of time is always present”, says Folch. “The internal monologue that Anne develops makes her a more accessible heroine to the reader, and it is something that the series has tried to use, although in a tone that is too frank for my taste, since it reduces the satirical tension.”
It is a novel of introspection. The grand finale of course is in the recovered love and marriage between Anne and hers Captainbut more interestingly, it is an entire chapter about forgiving oneself, the past me who was “persuaded”, which is lost in the transfer to streaming.
The foregoing is essential when working with an author who, if not a feminist, has been claimed by the many generations of women who have succeeded her. Not only for giving a voice to those of her own time, but for capturing feminine feelings around romance and family, sister relationships, friendships and her self-love. It is not a story “for women”, as is often the case with books or movies that equate gender with insignificance, but about women, or a woman, and her maturity. The Netflix adaptation, between centennial phrases made up when talking about the time, finally betrays her in that center: that of never underestimating the women she portrays.