Purple haze all in his brain

Mansfield Park is possibly my least favorite Jane Austen novel. I'm actually not sure exactly how I would rank all of her novels - it would be something like:

  1. Persuasion/Pride & Prejudice (tie)
  2. Northanger Abbey/Sense & Sensibility (tie)
  3. Emma/Mansfield Park (tie)

I have a general idea of how much I liked them, but I've also never sat down and read each one in succession and my memories of the books are very much influenced by the movie versions. Mansfield Park, I think, suffers the worst from this, because I've never been satisfied by a movie version. Although I'm not that fond of Emma (the character or the book) I like the Gwyneth Paltrow movie and Clueless and that makes it a little more attractive.

Another problem is that the heroine is not very likable and - unlike Northanger Abbey's silly Catherine Morland - is not interesting enough to make up for it. Nor does she have a fascinating suitor like Mr Tilney. Altogether, Mary Crawford is much more interesting and has all of the clever lines in the book.

There is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will, I see that it is so; and I feel that it must be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves.
What gentleman among you am I to have the pleasure of making love to?
Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.

Mary's a wicked character who doesn't suit Edmund at all, and she uses her wit in meaner and more suggestive ways than - say - Elizabeth Bennet. She's still more likable than Fanny, who doesn't do much of anything other than mope. Fanny doesn't seem to have much of a journey as a character. Henry Crawford tries to seduce her, she doesn't give in and she comes out on the other side of it pretty much the same as she started. I guess it could be argued that it's Edmund - not Fanny - who has the journey in the book. He's tempted by flashy Mary Crawford but then comes to appreciate the loyalty of the stalwart Annabelle Veal Fanny Price.

The Austenpalooza version of Mansfield Park seemed to stick by the idea that it's Fanny's story, but doesn't add much to back it up. Again, like the others that came before it, the movie was weakened by the cuts that had to be made to fit it into the time slot and character development seems to have been the aspect that got the ax. It could have been interesting to see Edmund's fondness slowly develop into love for his cousin. They also could have shown the tension and the idea that Fanny might actually have been tempted by Henry Crawford's apparent kindness to her family, the contrast between his wealth and her family's lower-status life in Portsmouth and her lack of prospects and the hopelessness of her love for Edmund. Instead he seems to have been a temporary annoyance in her life. My friend and I laughed out loud at the way she ignored all of Henry Crawford's advances and occasionally even seemed to be ignorant that he was speaking at all.

Unfortunately that was not the (unintentionally) funniest part of the movie. That was when Edmund, after living under the same roof as Fanny for eight years, heard her say to his mother, "I like the purple" and immediately woke up and fell in love with her. What? It just happened like that? I also liked how his mother schemed to send them on a lavender-hunting expedition just to give them some time alone. "Lavender," said Fanny, just before he kissed her. My theory is that Edmund's ardor could be enflamed only by listing off shades of violet and Fanny finally found the key to unlock this purple passion. Aubergine! Lilac! Indigo! Heliotrope! If we had been treated to a Fanny-Edmund sex scene, that's what it would have sounded like. Ew.

And yet again, this one ended with waltzing around on a lawn. What is with the lawn-dancing scenes? When Mrs Bertram said, "Edmund and Fanny have invented a new dance!" or something, I shouted, "Oh god! That can't be the last line of the movie!" and spent the last few minutes cajoling the characters to say something else. Fortunately someone had some much less memorable line after that, so the movie didn't end on quite as terrible a note as I thought and feared that it would.

(ALRIGHT. I have made it this far without remarking on the physical attributes of the actors, but I can't hold it in anymore. Where did anyone get the idea that Billie Piper could pass as a natural blonde with those eyebrows? The eyebrows! The eyebrows! I might have been able to overlook a lot of these things in the movie if it weren't for those eyebrows! Also, Edmund had this weird stringy emo-hair that made him look like he should be in a terrible band that people on Never Mind the Buzzcocks would make fun of.)

Next week: Srah has to decide between the Superb Owl Commercials Extravaganza and Miss Austen Regrets. Srah is not particularly inspired by either.

srah - Monday, 28 January 2008 - 10:12 PM
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Comments (14)

gravatar alfie - January 29, 2008 - 12:15 AM -

Hehheh. We were talking about Emo Edmund at Austenpalooza North as well. We agreed that he was very close to putting on eyeliner and listening to depressing music. Then we laughed at his whole purple thing.

gravatar tiff - January 29, 2008 - 6:46 AM -

Crap, I missed another one. However, the movie version with Johnny Lee Miller as Edmund? SWOON. You're right though, Fanny doesn't make much progress, but Edmund does.

gravatar srah - January 29, 2008 - 7:08 AM -

I think there's more progress for Fanny in the book, because - if I remember correctly - she is actually under a lot more pressure (internal and external) to accept Henry Crawford, but "sticking by your guns" is a pretty boring character progression.

Yeah, I was really missing Jonny Lee Miller. Sickboy cleans up real nice and plays a good-looking clergyman. :)

gravatar jamelah - January 29, 2008 - 8:22 AM -

I was hoping you'd write about this. I forgot it was on and then only caught the last 30 minutes, and when I switched over, Fanny was bringing Tom Bertram some tea or something and I said "SHE'S FANNY PRICE?!?!?" I don't know, she almost seemed a little lusty and Tess of the d'Urbervilles to me. Maybe it was her boobs that were almost falling out of her bodice. I was also disturbed by her eyebrows. And her teeth. I won't lie.

I actually like Mansfield Park. (And Emma is my favorite Austen novel... I have the hots for Mr. Knightley, and I don't know how much of this is influenced by the fact that his counterpart in Clueless is Paul Rudd, who is one of my longtime movie boyfriends. You and I are like Jane Austen opposites.) I don't like Fanny Price, but I think Austen's prose almost borders on delighted-with-bitchiness in places and it fascinates me.

Anyway, I wish I'd seen the whole thing, but the last 30 minutes were entertaining, if only because of the "I like the purple/Oh my God I love Fanny" moment, which was completely hilarious.

I miss Jonny Lee Miller.

gravatar srah - January 29, 2008 - 9:02 AM -

I love Paul Rudd! And Jeremy Northam for that matter. And Jonny Lee Miller. I think I can't like Emma that much because she's always WRONG and I find it painful.

gravatar Jess - January 29, 2008 - 10:21 AM -

I need to read more Jane Austen books, I think. I loved Pride and Prejudice but I can barely remember the others. I read them all in middle school and haven't touched them since.

gravatar Cherri - January 29, 2008 - 1:58 PM -

I happen to like Billie Piper, but her hair/eyebrows are like that in just about every single thing she's in. This was perfectly acceptable in Doctor Who, as it takes place in modern times. However, it is far less acceptable here and in The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (Victorian period films). I can't remember if Sally Lockhart is a blonde or not, but I'm pretty sure she's not a bottle blonde.

Unrelated: Yes, Firefox, "blonde" is a perfectly acceptable spelling of the word; stop telling me it's wrong!

gravatar Fraulein N - January 29, 2008 - 2:22 PM -

Dude. Mansfield Park is my least favorite Austen novel. I'm not going to lie; I was so annoyed and bored I skipped ahead to the end of the book. This movie was like a really truncated play version some high school kids put on. I know they had to cut a lot out, but it seemed really ... slapped together.

All of the guys in this one had damn hilarious hair, though. I kept being distracted by it. That, and Billie Piper's teeth.

gravatar srah - January 29, 2008 - 3:07 PM -

I've seen clips and photos of Billie Piper elsewhere and she always seems to make the eyebrows work with the hair. It's like they especially darkened them for this role, or colored her hair such a color that it wouldn't work.

I liked Billie Piper's teeth because they made her a little more awkward and unattractive compared to Mary Crawford. I feel like she should be a bit plain.

gravatar Elisabeth - January 29, 2008 - 10:31 PM -

I have to Netflix all of these. I don't have the right PBS channel. :(

gravatar srah - January 29, 2008 - 10:33 PM -



gravatar Anika - January 29, 2008 - 11:29 PM -

Mansfield Park is the only Austen I haven't read - I'm not sure why, but everytime I start, I put it down and don't pick it up again for about a year, wherein the same cycle continues. I agree with you on Emma - I don't like the book or the character, but I do like the movies!

gravatar Fraulein N - January 30, 2008 - 9:20 AM -

Oh I thought her teeth were perfect for the role, but they were a bit distracting as well. Maybe because there wasn't much else going on?

gravatar babs - February 2, 2008 - 8:49 PM -

thank goodness someone else notices those caterpillars on Billie Pipers face!

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