I recently had a realization: Jane Austen movies (and, especially, TV miniseries) are my comfort object.
Yes, everyone who loves historical costume movies loves Jane Austen, right? But I’m with Trystan — Regency ISN’T an era that I particularly like, fashion-wise! It’s all nightgowns, and while it can be flattering on 16-year-olds who survive on carrot sticks, it’s not so great on substantial women-of-a-certain-age like myself.
So for someone who loves making and wearing historical costume, this is kind of a contradiction. Why do I love these shows so much? Why do I put them on every time I’m bored, or sick, or just want something on in the background while I sew or clean or…? Why do I love them even more (I’m sorry!!) than their original books? Well, let me navel-gaze:
Jane Austen Movies Are Oldey-Timey
The Regency era is an interesting one. It’s right in between the pomp and circumstance of the 18th century (my dream era), but with tinges of the naturalism to come in the 19th century. And, as a baseline, they’re at least historic. I’d much rather get lost binge-watching a show set in any historical era over something contemporary. I don’t have to explain this to you all, do I?
Jane Austen’s Characters Are Relatable
I can better identify with Austen’s middle- and upper-middle-class characters versus the royals and aristocracy that are usually the lead in most other historical costume movies. I’m fascinated by historical people like Elizabeth I or Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, but there isn’t much about their lives that is similar to my own, not having piles of money. I can, however, put myself more readily into Elizabeth Bennet’s or Elinor Dashwood’s relatively modest shoes.
Jane Austen Movies Are Female-Centric
This is a given for me. If a book doesn’t have a main character who is female, I don’t want to read it. Movies and TV are slightly easier for me to get into, but I admit, my life is very much rooted in my own, female-specific view of the world. This doesn’t mean I think women are fundamentally different from men, rather that I’m more interested in the female experience.
Jane Austen Movies Are Complex
Nothing is better than a story that takes its time, and Austen is particularly good for stories that weave in and out. Minor characters are there to amuse and annoy you. Plot lines go in unexpected directions. I will admit to not having read any Austen until after watching the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. Someone lent me the VHS tape, and I put it on “in the background” as I packed to move out of my current apartment. Cut to me spending six hours sitting on a hardwood floor (because the furniture had already been removed) because I was so entranced in the story, and had NO idea how the hell Elizabeth and Darcy could ever get together.
My favorite of these are the longest ones, as they take the time to follow all of the various twists and turns. Yes, I like the main will-they-won’t-they love stories, but I want to spend time sneering along with Caroline Bingley, rolling my eyes at Mrs. Elton’s “caro sposo,” laughing with glee as Fanny Dashwood talks her husband down from sharing his inheritance to occasional gifts of meat, and extolling the virtues of a man who understands muslin with Mrs. Allen.
There are SO MANY GOOD minor characters, including:
Okay Yes, Jane Austen Movies Have Swoon-Worthy Heroes
So, what’s your on-constant-rotation historical costume movies or TV series? Is it Jane Austen, or do you have another go-to category?