Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dear BBC...

My name's * (asterisk), I'm 36, and I've never really been a fan of period drama. Is that a sin?

Even so, for one reason or another, the new BBC TV adaptation of Jane Eyre quite took my fancy, and I sat down to watch the first episode a couple of Sundays ago, not really expecting much. But, you know what? It was really good.

When Wife woke up at the end, she asked whether I was going to watch the next instalment. Yes, I told her, I am. And I did. But it was what happened after viewing the second instalment that I need to write about here.

As the show finished, Mrs Voice-Over Woman announced that on BBC 3 or something there was a show discussing the romantic novel. The show is called Reader, I Married Him. I know the relevance of this line to some old-fashioned girlie book, and I figured it was probably Jane Eyre, so I flicked over to take a wee peek.

All was going fine and dandy as presenter Daisy chatted about the Brontës and Austens and whoever else whose books I've never read. She asked a bunch of women to describe Darcy and Rochester and other romantic heroes I've heard of only in passing, and I was amazed that all these women actually had a clue about this stuff.

And then -- oh, for fuck's sake, Daisy -- she starts banging on about stuff that's going to happen in the rest of Jane Eyre.

Okay, maybe most people know what happens. Maybe. But I'm a man with hitherto little interest in period dramas; a man who grew up in a house where the music played was rock 'n' roll not classical; a man who didn't go to college or university; a man who doesn't read chick-lit, whether two years old or 200 years old. I mean, how many of my male readers here have read Jane Eyre or know what happens in it?

Well I bloody didn't! I had to sit there with my hands over my ears and closing my eyes. Stupid BBC. Why didn't you show this programme after the whole series of Jane Eyre had finished?


Blogger Shep said...

Sixth Sense: He's dead.

Usual Suspects: He's Keyser Soze.

Empire Strikes Back: He's his dad.

Return Of The Jedi: She's his sister. And they snogged, ew!

Murder On The Orient Express: They all did it.

Matrix: He's Jesus.

Diary Of Anne Frank: She's in the attic.

Lost: They're all dea- oh hang on, that's not happened yet...

04 October, 2006 16:17  
Anonymous arty fatbuckle said...

Oh dear. Never heard of the "Madwoman in the Attic"?

Since you ask, I did read Jane Eyre. It is a good read. Well up to the standards of classy and engaging narrative that you get in Dickens.

I am afraid that not knowing what happens to Jane Eyre is a bit like being shocked when, in the Bible, Jesus is given a an IKEA flat-pack Cross and wonders why he has three nails left over at the end.

04 October, 2006 16:19  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Shep: Can't remember Murder on the Orient Express, but other than that I know all those. Except Lost, which I couldn't give a fuck about cos it's shite and boring and lasting about 13 years.

Arty: Yeah, but there's always a mad woman in an attic. But that's fine. That wasn't particularly what I was talking about cos Wife had already spoiled that little surprise for me... Never read any Dickens either except for a kids' version of Oliver Twist when I was a kid.

04 October, 2006 16:48  
Blogger Red said...

I love Jane Austen, and I enjoyed Jane Eyre much more than Wuthering Heights... This is great literature, and it's a shame that you feel you can dismiss it simply as chick lit, which, as you know, I abhor. And what Daisy wrote about the guy in the duffel coat ordering a coffee and needing a woman to tell him what a tall or a venti was is, indeed, lame chick lit. Stick to presenting, Daisy.

And am I the only one thinking that Jane Eyre looks a lot like Glyn from Big Brother with a wig?

04 October, 2006 16:49  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

"Hello, I'm Jane Eyre, and I'm cooking an egg for the very first time..."

04 October, 2006 16:53  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

haha... sorry they almost ruined the story for you, *

i hate when people do that! thankfully i've seen all the movies shep referred to... otherwise i'd be pretty pissed ;)

but i hope you still enjoy the series... and i agree with red. i hate chick-lit, but bronte and austen are fantastic.

04 October, 2006 17:06  
Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

Read it. Liked it. Also very keen on Wuthering Heights. That's me favourite. Read it every other year or so.

04 October, 2006 17:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you NOT know this stuff?
I'm fucking AMERICAN and I know it!..

Cynnie ( smarter than you..neener)

04 October, 2006 17:33  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Red: I didn't quite say it was chick-lit. (I may have thought it, but you can't possibly have heard that... Can you?)

Martha: I hate it too. Really badly. I don't even like knowing who wins Survivor or Rock Star or anything ahead of time. (Shep was mean there, wasn't he?)

4D: Good on you. I had Barchester Towers forced upon me in English Lit at school, and I think that ruined me for period stuff for evermore. Until now. Maybe.

TB: (Ha! How'd'ya like that abbreviation?!) I can not know it because I'm a boy-child and I like modern things. And it was just never - NEVER - on my radar.

Note to self: Sometimes you might write a post that gets you ridiculed. Just remember, though, that ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

04 October, 2006 17:40  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Oh, I want to see this one.

Now see, I wouldn't call this chick lit. I would call all the contemporary stuff like Girls Guide To Hunting and Fishing, Shopoholic series, and Bridget Jones and most of Oprah's list...chick lit.

I would just call Austen and Bronte sisters, literature.

I don't think it is because the main characters are women that Austen and Bronte are called chick lit...because think about it...all the greatest female characters in literature have been written by men. And if Austen and Bronte are chick lit...then surely Madame Bovary, Daisy Miller, MacBeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Tess of the D'rbuvilles, Anna Karena, Great Expectations(Miss Havisham-the original Hannibal?)...just as a beginning...would have to be chick lit too, no?

I have found that the movie versions of Austen are often surprisingly interesting to straight men.

I have found that the characters and socio-political tensions within the plot entice recalctrant male readers.

04 October, 2006 17:44  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

And thats my big word for the day!

04 October, 2006 17:44  
Blogger Red said...

I think you might have said it out loud. Or maybe my hearing is becoming more and more sophisticated... like yours, Captor!

04 October, 2006 18:00  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Candy: Well done on the big word, girl! I was gently kidding with the chick-lit thing, although I think a book written by a woman with love and romance as strong central themes is always going to have that vibe for a man not as well versed in literature as he could be. (Moi?) Of course I can see that we can't honestly compare Austen to Bridget. And yet, through clever use of the same actor as both Darcy and Jones's squeeze, a connection is already a subliminal part of modern culture...

But I digress. The truth is I've never had a time in my life when I've thought about going back to old literature. There was always something "new" and exciting to read. And without the necessity of university studies that probably propels most young people into these books, they just fell by the wayside for me. (That, coupled with a bad English Lit school experience.)

Sure, I can make up for lost time someday maybe, but I guess really the point I was ultimately making in the post was that the BBC surely ought not to assume that everyone watching these two related shows already knows how the story continues past what has aleready been aired?

Red: Looking again at my post, I see it is kind of implied. But it was meant a bit ironically. (A bit.)

04 October, 2006 18:03  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Well, the good news is that most of the great narratives have been made into movies. I love Troy and Alexander, Titus, Moby Dick, so many of Dickens have been made into several versions of films and a couple of Wuthering people who don't feel inclined to read, or reead older literature...well if they have curiousity about the book can probably see the movie.

Yes, the host shouldn't have given aeway the plot, and what happened to the idea of spoilers? Even in tv...but I guess a doc is going to explore the ideas and themes and resolutions in their topics so ouch. What is much worse, is when a movie review spoils the plot.

04 October, 2006 21:58  
Blogger a.c.t said...

I have to admit * I do love a good period drama. I've seen that one with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson (I can't remember the name) loads of times and I always forget what happens at the end - it's like watching it for the first time. So in conclusion, I would say they are pretty entertaining to watch but ultimately forgettable. So, even if you did discover the ending, who cares, by the time the programme come around you won't remember!

04 October, 2006 22:37  
Blogger codazzo said...

hey I used to say jane eyre is my favourite novel in the english language... why, I can't think of a replacement really... so... :D

(not that I've read an awful lot of books)

04 October, 2006 22:53  
Blogger Karen said...

I love Jane Eyre, one of my all time favourites but how many times are they going to make it into a movie/mini series???

Even thought that cow told you the ending of J.E. I still think you should watch it. Definately worth it.

I couldn't get past the first few pages of Wuthering Heights and have yet to find a film version that doesn't make me turn it off after 5 minutes. I would certainly recommend The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. Fabulous! And don't think of it as chick lit - it's holding you back. If they're going to remake these classic novels, they should try to set it in modern times and perhaps it will appeal to more menfolk out there.

05 October, 2006 02:32  
Blogger Gardenia said...

awwwwww, that program may have ruined a wonderful experience had you not stopped reading Jane Eyre.

I knew my husband had made it to a higher spiritual level when we could lay in our big pine bed watching "Lifetime" TV together (if you don't have it there - it is sort of a girlie movie channel - not girls but women stories) and cry together. Oh man, getting old will blow your fuses.

05 October, 2006 03:54  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Candy: It's not so much inclination any more, even: it's just as much a time thing. And t he fact that I read all day long for my job, so I read less as a hobby than perhaps many people do.

ACT: I've seen Remains Of The Day; is that the one you mean? It was okay, I thought. And Sense and Sensibility and a bunch of others. Believe me, I won't forget what Daisy Dunderhead told me; and certainly not within two weeks!

Codazzo: That's cool. I guess all these comments are making me think I ought to find time to read this damn book!

Karen: They'll remake them for every generation, I guess... I will definitely still watch it because I'm enjoying it. I jsut prefer not to know the ending of something before I'm even halfway through. (Even tho' I already knew they ultimately get married, I didn't know the events leading up to that.)

Diana: That's cool about you and your hubby. Y'know, don't tell anyone, but I occasionally shed a tear in a soppy movie.

05 October, 2006 10:55  
Blogger Spangly Princess said...

um... I'm afraid I'm with all the 'you what??' commenters here. The BBC is fairly entitled to assume that most people are familiar with the basic plot of ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS AND IMPORTANT NOVELS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, for christ's sake.

There are books & films I haven't seen on read of which I vaguely know the plot since they are part of what I would loosely if pretentiously term our common cultural patrimony and as such they form some of the shared building blocks of our understanding. Like, I dunno, I've never actually seen a streetcar named desire, but I knwo the story, and having watched both the simpsons and all about my mother I can understand (for the most part) those subsequent references.

still, glad you're enjoying it, and remember it's about the journey not the destination.

05 October, 2006 11:13  
Blogger Aidan said...

Heh, reminds me of the Daily Mirror competition - question: With which band did Midge Ure have the hit "Vienna"?

Send your answers to: Ultravox competition, Daily Mirror Towers, etcetcetc...

Despite an English degree, have managed to not read Jane Eyre yet, nor, even more astonishingly, catch one of the many many screen adaptations...

But I did know the ending. And saw this series' Radio Times preview photoshoots. Thought Jane was meant to be ugly, anyway...? This one's... well, not bad, anyway...
(Yes, sistaz, it's that height of literary criticism that won me said degree...)

06 October, 2006 02:12  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Spangly: Placati, principessa. I understand its fame, but its importance is lost on me. In a literary sense, what was/is its importance?

akr: Funny you think this Jane is not bad looking. I kind of think she's a bit weird, which I guess is what's required. Is being asked to play Jane Eyre every actress's worst nightmare? It's like being told they're ugly. But, like Red said, doesn't she look like BB Glyn in a wig? It's that mouth...

06 October, 2006 10:58  
Blogger mist1 said...

How can you not love the costumes in period pieces?

I love role play.

13 April, 2007 05:17  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Mist: Ah, well there's role play... and there's role play, right?

13 April, 2007 07:36  

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