Culture Chat: Persuasion & My Big Mistake

Photo by Leah Kelley on

I finally gave the Netflix Persuasion a chance.

I was filled with rage. How could they do this to my favourite book?

Instead of writing about it, though, I waited to see what other Jane Austen fans would say.

And that was when I realized my big mistake.

There are so many other Janeites in the world. They have written books on her, love to dress up in Regency era clothing at events, and will defend Jane Austen with every breath. When they gear up for battle against a common foe, they are not unlike the Janeites of Rudolph Kipling’s short story, standing shoulder to shoulder in the trenches of a great war with Jane Austen’s England behind them.

I forgot about them. I forgot about the other Janeites. There was some comfort in realizing that I wasn’t alone. As the weeks went by and more and more people wrote about why they loved Persuasion and disliked the Netflix adaptation (disliked in this instance is a calm, quiet word to express vengeful vitriol), I found myself able to bear it all much more cheerfully.

My predictions and actual reactions were not so different. See for yourself.

1. Yell about the sheer stupidity of casting an American as a Brit.

Ah, yes. I did. And while I hold no ill will towards Dakota Johnson, I do disagree with her casting. She has a very modern look, and I don’t think that it suits the time period. The same could be said for several of her costars.

2. Throw things across the room while declaring, “Anne is soft spoken and nuanced, NOT quirky and blunt! Read the novel!”

There wasn’t anything to throw…because I punched a pillow instead.

3. Bemoan the lack of respect for proper costuming and hair styles and wonder how Anne Elliot managed to get a blow out done in Regency era England.

Indeed. T’was so.

4. Wonder aloud why Anne is worried about Wentworth being “hangry” (see minute 1:47). Maybe give him a scone?

I leaned forward in expectation for this scene, but the editing was slightly different. Alas, no hangriness to be had. Also, there was a shocking lack of scones in this film. But they did have chocolate chip cookies.

5. Feel annoyed about how often people in period dramas speak in half-whispers, as if that somehow makes them more romantic.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much of that this time around. Yay.

6. Wish that someone would take the time to read this novel thoroughly.

I wish this every day. The movie only made me wish it more.

7. Ask the spirit of Jane Austen to forgive me for watching.

I think she did. Probably got a good laugh out of it, too.

8. Read the book again to better remember why I loved it in the first place.

Reading it now. And it is perfection.

If you do nothing else this week, don’t watch this adaptation. It isn’t worth your time. Please read the book. Then watch the 1995 film and the 2007 film. Compare those two beautiful versions. That is worth your time.

And when you’ve done all of that, write a letter to someone you love, or care about, or saw across the street. Fill it with everything you want to say and then deliver it in person, or send it in the mail with fun stickers on the envelope. (in the case of the person you saw across the street, maybe just keep it as a writing exercise)

And then sit and remember the power of words and the beauty of a well written letter. Salute Jane Austen because her book turns on a well written letter and the love it conveys. I am sure she would be proud of us for trying.

And to all the other Janeites….Thank you.


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