Just in case you couldn’t tell from the slight homage in my blog’s subtitle (or from the countless references I've made up to this point), I am a HUGE Jane Austen fan. Do you know the girl in the book “Austenland”? It was also made into a movie starring Keri Russell. Well, she is the ultimate Austen fan who spends her life savings to travel to a place called Austenland where you dress and act as though you were in Jane Austen’s England. I’m not quite as fanatic as she is. I don’t make the men I date watch the films with me (Gone With the Wind on the other hand is non-negotiable), I don’t have “Darcy Was Here” in block letters over my bed, and I certainly don’t keep a cardboard cutout of Colin Firth as the man himself (the definitive Darcy performance I must add) in the corner of my studio apartment. But all that said, part of me thinks going to an Austenland type place would be decadently fun. Those empire cut dresses are a great look for me AND it would be a great acting exercise so I could totally write it off on my taxes as a career expense, right? I mean do those places even exist? I may or may not already know the answer to this question, but I’m not sure I’m willing to admit that I’ve actually looked into the possibility of such things. **
I will, however, admit to ardently loving her novels. Geeze just listen to me, even talking about her I start to write like her. But I just love her world so much; it was such a simpler and more grace filled time. I especially love the strong women she writes to inhabit this world… women like Emma Woodhouse, Elinor Dashwood, and, of course, Miss Elizabeth Bennett. They are all heroines of mine. Very much like Miss Austen herself they know their own hearts and speak their minds, and while none of them are perfect, they are perfect examples of women who balance the gracious ladies they were raised to be with the women of significance they know they can become if they dare. A struggle this Displaced Debutante more than understands. They are strong willed yet soft hearted. They are independent yet still dutiful. They are what I strive to be today and I can’t help but think we all would have been great friends. Unfortunately I’m stuck here in the 21st century and they’re back in the 19th Century, but luckily for me I can visit their world any time I want from the comfort of my home. There are the books of course, both the original texts and the countless semi-pornographic “Pride and Prejudice Continues” sequels that my mother would be mortified if I actually admitted to reading so I won’t. But thanks to the good old BBC we have countless film adaptations as well. The definitive Darcy performance that I alluded to earlier is from the original BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice”, but as fantastic as it is, it’s 6 hours long and one doesn’t always have time for that kind of commitment. For a quick Lizzy and Darcy fix, which is exactly what I needed last night, I opt for the 2005 remake.
Watching the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice” film always leaves me with a longing for two very specific things: Keira Knightley's collar bones (I mean COME ON), and, of course, my very own Mr. Darcy. The sweeping shots, the beautiful locations, and Marianelli’s SOARING score… I swear ladies if you don’t feel something stir inside you watching Matthew MacFayden as Mr. Darcy, chest bare both literally and figuratively, bounding through that foggy field toward the love of his life, I’m sorry but either your lady parts are broken or you don’t have a soul.
But who is this Mr. Darcy? There is the seemingly proud but ultimately incredibly kind and generous literary figure that we have all come to know and love, but he’s just on a page. Then of course there are the men who have come to represent the physical embodiment of Darcy because of the films, but ultimately they are just actors playing a part.
So this begs another question: Who is Mr. Darcy in the real world? Who is he now? A girlfriend of mine sent me this meme and after a good chuckle it actually got me to thinking. In 2014’s New York City, a time and place where beautiful language has been replaced, quite literally in this case, by “dat ass”, does a Mr. Darcy even exist anymore and if so, what is he like?
Before we dive into answering those questions, I have some additional translations of my own creation for your reading pleasure:
“A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”
Translation: "Bitches be CRAZY."
"What are men to rocks and mountains?"
Translation: "F%#K men! Let's go get facials and stone massages at a spa in the Berkshires."
"To be fond of dancing was a certain step toward falling in love."
Translation: "Girl, I twerked ALL up on him in the club last night!"
Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the demise of the English language. But lets get down to business. I believe men of the Darcy persuasion absolutely still exist. And as for what they’re like, let us reference the source material shall we?
“Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.”
2014 Darcy is tall dark and handsome with a great head of hair. He is also successful, but this isn’t something he flaunts like most men today do. He has worked for his success and is proud of it, but never discusses it. He has exquisite taste, knows the power of a good suit, and even when dressed down is always dressed well; a Brooks Brothers man. His home is impressive though not necessarily for its size or location, but for the books he keeps, the music he plays, and how well the space is put together. But he isn’t one to show it off. He is cultured, well read, and well spoken. He never makes the your/you’re or there/their/they’re mistake. He is one of the last in a dying breed. He is a gentleman.
“His [Darcy’s] pride”, said Miss Lucas, “does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.”
No one is perfect, and 2014 Darcy is no exception. He can be prideful, but not in a way that offends. It’s little things. He’s the man who I see drop his laundry off at my Laundromat even though he lives in a doorman building that has laundry in the basement. He gets a very expensive haircut bi-weekly, and he is not a stranger to the professional shave. He has a membership at Equinox, which he uses just about as often as his haircuts. He doesn’t go to Brooklyn unless he's taking a car to try the hottest new restaurant, nor will he go above 125th street. And Queens? Where’s Queens? These foibles, silly as they are, are his to have… but they aren’t hurting anyone. He has built a life of which he is proud, and takes immense pride in... and with this pride come honor, dignity, and integrity. He would never hurt anyone on purpose, and if he does he’ll do whatever he can to make it right.
"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."
While his presence is captivating, 2014 Darcy tends to be quiet in social settings. He doesn’t become “fast friends” with everyone he meets. To gain his trust and friendship takes time, but once you do he is a fiercely loyal friend. He is not a ladies man. He can’t walk into a bar and pick up a girl just to hook up with because that would require him to feign interest in her life just as a means to an end which, in his opinion, is time poorly spent. Time spent out at a bar laughing and having real conversation with his friends is time he considers well spent. He would rather care deeply about a certain few than pretend to care about the many, which to the many may seem rude and prideful, but to that certain few who know his true character it is a gift. He is also very good at both pool and darts, and is a willing teacher if you really want to learn.
Elizabeth Bennet: “What a beautiful pianoforte.”
Georgiana Darcy: “My brother gave it to me. He is too good, he shouldn't have.”
Mr. Darcy: “Yes, I should’ve.”
Among 2014 Darcy’s certain few are his family. He calls his mother without her calling him first and leaving 3 voicemails. He respects his father but also considers him a friend. His family is incredibly important to him and he will do anything for them especially his siblings if he has any.
“I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”
2014 Darcy loves that certain few so keenly that when any of them are hurt, he takes it personally and will not forgive the wrongdoer for it. He will defend his loved one with no questions asked, and cut the other out of his life for good. And while on paper this inability to forgive and forget may seem extreme or come as another example of his pride, you have to admit that it would feel amazing to have someone champion for you that way. Who said integrity wasn’t sexy?
"Nothing is more deceitful," said Darcy, "than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast."
2014 Darcy can’t stand people who #humblebrag. He believes that people should want to do good in the world not for recognition or to feel good about themselves, but simply because it needs to be done. And so he does, on whatever scale he can. He sees what is wrong in the world around him and figures out what he can do, big or small, to change it. He is the epitome of “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
“I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled.”
Finally, and most importantly, 2014 Darcy can admit that he is wrong. I won’t go as far as to say that he will change himself FOR love like the original Darcy sets out to do, but he allows himself to be changed BY love, and that takes bravery. If you are in his “certain few” he will allow you to hold him accountable for his behavior and help make him his best possible self. He longs to be his best possible self and that makes you love him all the more, while also making you want to be your best self as well.
Ladies: Are you in love yet? Gents: Has this inspired you to throw out your hipster pants and get your shit together? If the answer to both of those questions is yes then my work here is done.
And sure… it may seem like a tall order. But if there is one thing that Jane Austen stood for it was empowering women, both in her novels and in life, to believe that they were WORTHY. Worthy of love, worthy of a life of their choosing, and above all, worthy of happiness. And I believe that is what still translates in her work today.
We are worthy of being the heroines of our lives, ladies… and we are worthy of our dream man; be he a Mr. Darcy, an Edward Ferrars, a Mr. Knightley, or even a Mr. (50 Shades of) Gray if that's your bag.
As Mrs. Dashwood advises in "Sense and Sensibility",
"Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience - or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope."
And on that note… I think “Sense and Sensibility” might be next up on my viewing docket. One of the perks of living alone… getting to binge watching Jane Austen films and ugly cry with no one around to judge you for it. #blessed
With Grace and Good Humor,
** There are no real “Austenland” like places. I learned this, much to my disappointment, while on a drunken Googling spree one night. Hey… there are MUCH worse things than drunk Googling.