It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mr. Darcy is the epitome of our romantic fantasies. Okay, not all of you may agree with this. That is alright. We will make you disappear in the night for your ignorance.

Now, I’m not sure if I’m ready to tackle Mr. Darcy. Thankfully, we are in an era of Pride and Prejudices sequels, remakes, spin-offs etc. So I present to you the DARCY BOMB where we do quick little summaries of other authors’ versions of Darcy.

Film versions included.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Gentleman Trilogy by Pamela Aidan

I adore this trilogy. It was the first Pride and Prejudice spin-off I read and it was published a little before the Austen industry exploded. These three books An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire and These Three Remain tell the Pride and Prejudice story through Darcy’s eyes. Aidan blended the original dialogue with her own original text in a believable way. The middle book is the largest departure as it sends Darcy on a little Gothic adventure in between the Netherfield Ball and his encounter with Elizabeth at Rosings. I knew it was good when I liked the original characters Aidan put in rather than think of them as horrid Mary Sues. Possibly because one of the characters was a Sir Percy figure.

Darcy himself is a somewhat tortured lover, dealing with his passion for Elizabeth and how it conflicts with his duty and station in life. He’s shown as a devoted brother, a devoted friend, everything we knew Darcy was in the original novel but never really got to see. I think that’s the appeal of Austen’s Mr. Darcy. We know he changes and since we don’t see him throughout the entire novel we never have to see a questionable moment that he does not later redeem.

Especially good: Darcy’s interactions with his valet who for one ball, dresses him with such new and intriguing cravat knot that Beau Brummel himself is jealous.

Man Grade: A

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

This has received all sorts of reactions: from disgust, to love to lukewarm. Personally I think it’s a clever idea. If you haven’t read it or checked it out, Austen’s text has modified and added with references to how the Shaolin-trained Bennet sisters must fight zombies (called “unmentionables” in this version) while trying to find love and marriage. It’s a fun idea. The execution is better in some places than others. I enjoyed how Lady Catherine tested Elizabeth with her ninjas. Also, during Darcy’s first proposal Elizabeth high-kicks him into the mantle. Exciting stuff.

Darcy is…well he’s Darcy. He was in Kyoto (another reason Elizabeth is “unfit” for him, as Shaolin training is inferior) and is an expert killer of unmentionables. Added to his character are little dirty thoughts about Elizabeth and some muttered curse words about Caroline Bingley. (I don’t blame him.)

Man Grade: I’m going to grade this Darcy down because the point of this book is the gimmick rather than the exploration of character. So B-

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds has written several variations on the Pride and Prejudice tale, exploring the story possibilities if a plot point had gone a different way. In this version, when Darcy first proposes to Elizabeth he doesn’t wait for a reply and kisses her. They are discovered in the act and her reputation is compromised. Elizabeth has no choice but to go through with the match. (For those of you who are confused, if your reputation was ruined, even by a kiss, you better hope the man who ruined you married you because no one else would.)

My main issue with this tale was the plethora of BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS. First Elizabeth goes through with the marriage, not letting Darcy know that she never would have agreed because he dotes on her. Then he finds out, there’s a big estrangement. She misinterprets a lot of his actions as he hates her, he hates her family. She falls for him and tries to put the moves on him, he assumes she is just trying to please him and doesn’t want that kind of sacrifice. She thinks she hates him, gets suicidal. And on. On the one hand, it made for a great page turner because I wanted to see them get their crap together. But so argh!

I could see the original characters in this, but not Austen’s true Darcy and Elizabeth. It was entertaining but it was also frustrating and the Darcy annoyed me several times

Man Grade: C

Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy

Despite what the title may tell you this isn’t “Mormon Pride and Prejudice.” It’s set in Utah, the characters are Mormon and Elizabeth attends a Mormon college but you’re not going to run into anything that will make you uncomfortable if that’s what you’re afraid of.

The movie is cute and fun. Elizabeth Bennet lives with her four housemates (instead of four sisters) and is an aspiring novelist. Darcy is a British businessman (mmm suits) and comes off as a jerk in the beginning, as Darcy usually does. He works for a publishing company she submits her novel to, things come to a head when he has to reject it.  Things turn around when she stumbles upon his cabin in the woods and they connect over a fondue pot and stories about life and how beautiful the lights on London look on the water.

It’s pretty darn cute.And then friggin Caroline Bingley ruins it. like she does everything. But don’t worry, it works out.

Man Grade: This Darcy is adorable, slightly dorky and sweet. And he’s a businessman involved in books. That’s like a sexy step away from being a writer himself. A-

Bride and Prejudice

I had been trying to find this movie ever since it came out. You will not believe the ecstasy that came when I found it in my local library this summer. Which only multiplied when I realised Sayid was in it.

You know, Sayid.

Unfortunately, he plays the Bingley character.

The driving force of Bride and Prejudice is the culture clash: a young indian woman named Lalita finds American businessman Mr. Darcy arrogant and conceited. Like all the Darcy’s he’s not so cool at the beginning. He has the typical American incorrectness that makes you cringe but you never cringe super much. As the plot develops he begins to understand and appreciate both Lalita and the culture she comes from, especially when she tells him off for only knowing the tourist part of India.

Aishwarya Rai as Lalita is the star of the show. Her mother, her sister Lakhi (the Lydia) and Kholi (the Collins) are fantastically comedic. Darcy is handsome and is Darcy-like but he sort of fades out of memory. If you’re curious about Bollywood movies, then check this one out.

Man Grade: B-

Bridget Jones’ Diary

And here’s the biggie.

Just in case you didn’t see the similarities between Pride and Prejudice and this film, they cast Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. And he’s a pretty good Darcy. He’s standoffish, he doesn’t have the immediate charm that Daniel Cleaver, the Wickham character has. Before you start to think him unlikable, he starts to grow on you and soften up.( Apparently, in the column/novel this was based on it ended with Bridget having Daniel’s baby though mark Darcy isn’t totally out of the picture. Why would you have anything more to do with Daniel, Bridget? Why?)

Some might find Firth’s Darcy (in this and in the Pride and Prejudice miniseries) a little abrasive but I think he’s an authentic Darcy. And the Mark Darcy character alone is good mancandy. He’s not perfect but I like that.

Man Grade: A

What’s next for the Austen industry? Or do you think it’s going to die out soon? We’ve seen vampire Darcy, zombie-killer Darcy, even versions where Darcy is a bad, bad man. My guess is Georgiana or Kitty are going to get the limelight. Mary has already gotten her own book. Jane is sweet but she doesn’t captivate the imagination. Caroline Bingley…is Caroline Bingley. Lydia could get some interest.

Kitty however had an open ending in the original novel’s epilogue. we know she became less silly and was helped into society by her older sisters. Georgiana comes with a history of love betrayed. Pamela Aidan said she might continue a subplot in her trilogy about her and Aidan’s original Character Lord Brougham which I would read. (Though I can’t find much recent activity from the author so I don’t know if that will happen).

In a way, I’m ready for the spin-offs and all the original fiction series that get  branded and franchised to die down a little because I feel like we’re not fostering enough creativity in the way the publishing industry is run. Even the esteemed literary fiction seems to follow certain paths and patterns. Young Adult fiction at least, despite the vampire fad, remains a place for fun, creative and fantastic stories that push the boundaries. So maybe there is some hope. But that is a different rant.

If the Austen industry keeps chugging, and it probably has another year at least to go, that’s what I’d like to see. And of course, more Mr. Darcy.

Because he’s Mr. Darcy.


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