Event Title

Postcolonial Austen: Reconciling 21st-Century Globalism and the 19th-Century Novel in Bride and Prejudice

Streaming Media

Location

Schuster Hall

Start Date

10-10-2013 3:00 PM

End Date

10-10-2013 4:15 PM

Description

Producer and director Gurinder Chadha’s 2004 film Bride and Prejudice is an oddly seamless postmodern melding of 21st-century globalism and the 19th-century British novel upon which it is loosely based. Its globalism is reflected in the film’s decidedly multinational cast, including Indians, Britons, Americans, a Kenya-born Mr. Kohli (AKA Mr. Collins), and an ostensibly American Mr. Darcy who is actually from New Zealand. In many respects the film marvelously preserves the sensibilities of Jane Austen’s novel, as for example when the feckless Wickham becomes a rootless, wandering backpacker living on a houseboat. But the film also sentimentalizes her work at times. For instance, unlike Mr. Bennet, Mr. Bakshi is no longer culpable for his family’s failings. Darcy is no longer haughty but instead understandably afraid of being caught with his pants down (literally!).

While the film has undeniably 21st-century elements, including email exchanges, visits to Internet dating sites, and Darcy’s career in the resort hotel industry, ultimately I want to argue that the politics of this 21st-century film are more conservative and reactionary than those of the Austen novel that inspired its script. Its 19th-century elements include a nightmare of a wedding scene (complete with morris dancing!) deeply indebted to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and the sexual conservatism of the cultural conventions of the Bollywood film, which roughly parallels (and sometimes even exceeds) that of Austen’s day. For example, the characters in Bride and Prejudice hug but don’t kiss, and in the film version, Darcy and Lalita/Elizabeth successfully preserve the chastity of Lalita’s little sister Lakhi, the counterpart to Austen’s Lydia. While women’s roles are somewhat less restricted than in Austen’s novel, it is troubling that none of the women in the film seem to work outside the home except for Darcy’s mother, and as the film’s version of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, she is easily the least sympathetic character in the movie. Even more troubling, the best catch of the eligible men in the film is an American whose career involves putting pricy resort hotels in Third World countries, charging exorbitant prices to tourists who rarely leave the resort, and sending the profits back to the home country—a form of exploitation that parallels the exploitation of India’s colonial history.


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Oct 10th, 3:00 PM Oct 10th, 4:15 PM

Postcolonial Austen: Reconciling 21st-Century Globalism and the 19th-Century Novel in Bride and Prejudice

Schuster Hall

Producer and director Gurinder Chadha’s 2004 film Bride and Prejudice is an oddly seamless postmodern melding of 21st-century globalism and the 19th-century British novel upon which it is loosely based. Its globalism is reflected in the film’s decidedly multinational cast, including Indians, Britons, Americans, a Kenya-born Mr. Kohli (AKA Mr. Collins), and an ostensibly American Mr. Darcy who is actually from New Zealand. In many respects the film marvelously preserves the sensibilities of Jane Austen’s novel, as for example when the feckless Wickham becomes a rootless, wandering backpacker living on a houseboat. But the film also sentimentalizes her work at times. For instance, unlike Mr. Bennet, Mr. Bakshi is no longer culpable for his family’s failings. Darcy is no longer haughty but instead understandably afraid of being caught with his pants down (literally!).

While the film has undeniably 21st-century elements, including email exchanges, visits to Internet dating sites, and Darcy’s career in the resort hotel industry, ultimately I want to argue that the politics of this 21st-century film are more conservative and reactionary than those of the Austen novel that inspired its script. Its 19th-century elements include a nightmare of a wedding scene (complete with morris dancing!) deeply indebted to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and the sexual conservatism of the cultural conventions of the Bollywood film, which roughly parallels (and sometimes even exceeds) that of Austen’s day. For example, the characters in Bride and Prejudice hug but don’t kiss, and in the film version, Darcy and Lalita/Elizabeth successfully preserve the chastity of Lalita’s little sister Lakhi, the counterpart to Austen’s Lydia. While women’s roles are somewhat less restricted than in Austen’s novel, it is troubling that none of the women in the film seem to work outside the home except for Darcy’s mother, and as the film’s version of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, she is easily the least sympathetic character in the movie. Even more troubling, the best catch of the eligible men in the film is an American whose career involves putting pricy resort hotels in Third World countries, charging exorbitant prices to tourists who rarely leave the resort, and sending the profits back to the home country—a form of exploitation that parallels the exploitation of India’s colonial history.