Happy birthday, Jane Austen! Everyone’s favorite novelist of manners would be all of…well, a lot of years today, but a lady of a certain era never reveals her age. In celebration, I plan to reread Pride and Prejudice, which has inspired more second looks than an overloaded corset in a crowded ballroom. First, it was a book. Then came the movie and TV adaptations. Then it was modernized into a book AND a movie about a diet-obsessed British singleton. Later it became a time-traveling miniseries, a Bollywood movie, a zombie thriller, a murder mystery, and a web series that will cause you to abandon your life until you’ve watched every episode twice (Team Fitz!). So the question is: in celebration of Austen’s birthday, what should Pride and Prejudice become next? We have a few suggestions:
Amusement park. A (fictional) Austen-inspired theme park is central to the plot of the book Austenland, and we’re not surprised: who wouldn’t want to ride the Darcy Express all the way to Pemberley Town? This is not a metaphor, but, rather, a page from our blueprints for ExXxtreme Pride and Prejudice World (name subject to revision). Can you survive the Collins Voyage (three hours in a sensory deprivation chamber, sound-tracked by Fordyce’s sermons)? Will the Spinning Lydias drive you to distraction? Will you find romance on the Bingley Bobsleds? All I need is one eccentric, Austen-loving billionaire to give me a chance, and you can find out!
Detective series. What would happen if Mary Bennet, the most ignored Bennet sister, decided to use a small inheritance she’s received from a maiden aunt to start her own private investigation firm? And what if she was forced to hire the town drunk to pretend to be the PI, while she, a lowly (and whip-smart) female, actually did all the work? The Mary Bennet Files, that’s what! We’re thinking Regency-era Veronica Mars here. And we’re not discounting the possibility of Mary falling for Mr. Peabody, the roguish constable of Bath!
Postapocalyptic thriller. Mr. Bingley’s just taken Netherfield Hall. Mr. Darcy has just snubbed Elizabeth. And a merciless super-plague has just swept through England. No way would Mr. Bennet survive the loss of his comfortable lifestyle, and no doubt Jane would immediately be sold into marriage to a passing warlord. Lydia’s selfishness and survival instincts would allow her to quickly rise to the level of empress in the new, post-plague government, and Charlotte Lucas would adopt warrior drag in order to survive as a lone traveler. Pemberley would be turned into the headquarters for a small band of mercenaries led by George Wickham, and Lizzie and Darcy would be forced by circumstance to band together in an effort to escape to the Americas, where, rumor has it, the plague hasn’t spread. Oh, and Mr. Collins would be the first to be eaten when the livestock turn out to be tainted.
Musical. We would slightly tweak the book to give it a West Side Story edge (but with a happy ending), pitting Caroline Bingley and her gang of girl snobs against Lizzie Bennet and her scrappy sisters. Jane would be the Maria character, pining for Bingley, and Lizzie would be more of an Anita, tough and unaware that she’s even looking for love. Collins would have a snotty patter song, and Darcy would, of course, perform a sexy underwater number.
What’s your dream Pride and Prejudice adaptation?