Adapting Austen: From Valley girls to vloggers, from modern to monstrous
To mark the 200th death anniversary of literary icon and the OG of the romance genre Jane Austen, Super lists down some of the weird, wacky and wonderful retellings of the English author’s famous novels.
Before you ask, no, we’re not getting into that Jennifer Ehle-Colin Firth versus Keira Knightley-Matthew Macfayden “Pride and Prejudice” adaptation debate. Because, trust us, there is no competition.
The BBC miniseries perfectly captured the novel’s romance, humor and trademark Austen banter. We don’t even have to take into account that iconic scene where Firth’s Mr. Darcy—soaked after a swim in the lake, his drenched shirt clinging lovingly to his torso—greets Ehle’s flustered Elizabeth.
So yes, this 1995 miniseries beats a too-angsty Keira Knightley vehicle anytime. And that is a truth we should all universally acknowledge.
Almost a decade before the reign of Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls,” Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless” was the holy grail of teen comedies. The generation-defining coming-of-age film captured the decade’s zeitgeist.
Austen’s nosy, meddlesome Emma was Heckerling’s inspiration for the charmingly shallow but well-intentioned Cher Horowitz—a star-making role played by Alicia Silverstone.
Set in sunny Beverly Hills in the early ’90s, the Americanized version of 19th century small-town English tale was a hit, making “Clueless” a classic in its own right.
‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’
Contrary to popular belief, the must-see modern adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” is not the 2001 rom-com “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Instead, prepare to get sucked in by the addicting “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” an Emmy-winning web series that tells an updated version of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s love story through vlogs, or video blogs.
Also, check out “Emma Approved,” an online series with a modern take on “Emma” by the same production team, Pemberley Digital. The shows are available on YouTube and www.pemberleydigital.com.
‘Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters’
Ben H. Winters puts a horrific twist on the story of the unfortunate Dashwood sisters. “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” is Quirk Books’ follow-up to the zombie mash-up “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
Cast out of their home after their father dies from a hammerhead shark attack, Elinor and Marianne realize that the road to true love and happily-ever-after is paved with all sorts terrors—from giant nautical beasts to treacherous pirates to wicked sea witches.
The Austen Project
It’s not easy to revamp beloved literary gems, just ask the best-selling writers tasked by The Austen Project to rework the Austen’s beloved tales and transport them into the new millennium.
Four books have been published so far: Joanna Trollope’s “Sense and Sensibility,” Val McDermid’s “Northanger Abbey,” Alexander McCall Smith’s “Emma,” and Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice.”
The rewrite challenge has generated mixed reactions —especially among diehard Janeites. It would be interesting, however, to see how these contemporary updates would fare with those who aren’t familiar with Austen’s work.
It’s not an Austen adaptation, but Shannon Hale’s novel set in a regency-themed English resort about Jane Hayes—an obsessive Austen fangirl whose unhealthy fascination for Mr. Darcy torpedoed her love life—is just too fun (and relatable) not to mention.
It has been turned into a film, starring Keri Russell and the ever-funny Jennifer Coolidge.
Bonus: Other Austen retellings to check out— Bollywood musical “Bride and Prejudice,” P.D. James’ murder-mystery novel and its mini series version “Death Comes to Pemberley,” and Jo Baker’s “Longbourn” (the events of “P&P” as told by the Bennet household staff) .
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