To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee taken off Mississippi school reading list

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee taken off Mississippi school reading list.

Article from the weekend:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee taken off Mississippi school reading list

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic novel about racism and the American south, has been removed from a junior-high reading list in a Mississippi school district because the language in the book “makes people uncomfortable”.

The Sun Herald reported that school board Superintendent Arthur McMillan did not answer any questions about the withdrawal. The book has been withdrawn from schools before, in 2016 in Virginia.

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Pride and Prejudice Anniversary

Tomorrow is the twenty-second anniversary of the premiere of the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice (otherwise known as “the one people love because Mr Darcy jumps in a murky pond”).

This is the Jane Austen adaptation that changed everything.

It’s not my favourite, but it’s a gazillion times better than Pride and Prejudice and Pigs – I still enjoy it a lot. And it is definitely the favourite version of most true Jane Austen fans.

Music-Less Historical Romances

Having recently gone on a bit of a period drama-rewatching spree, something has occurred to me: there’s almost never any music in historical romance books.

In fact, the new fad is for female characters in historical romances to reject ALL things that might be considered even slightly feminine. (ALL the cool kids hate sewing – and can’t sew. ALL the cool kids hate dancing – and can’t dance.). Of course they’re crap musicians – ALL the cool kids are!

What I consider to be the most emotionally powerful scene in the 1995 adapatation of Pride and Prejudice is the one that begins with Elizabeth Bennet playing and singing for the Bingleys and Darcys. Then Mr Darcy’s sister takes over, while the clueless Miss Bingley makes a cruel comment and upsets everyone.

The whole scene, while telling you a bunch of other things about the characters and the plot, is about the music. Imagine what a dull – and quiet – evening it would have been without any women with some musical ability!

Watch it below:

In both Pride and Prejudice the book, and every television and film adaptation, Elizabeth and Miss Darcy bond over music, and the snobs use music as a chance to show off.

Then there’s Anne Elliot from another Jane Austen book: Persuasion. There’s that scene where she sheds a quiet tear while playing the piano so the others can dance. There’s no crying in the 1995 movie version, but the scene below at 37:20 shows you exactly how crucial music was for an evening in the Regency era:

Also, in Poldark, Demelza’s triumph over the society ladies comes when she sings at the Christmas party. (As an aside, TV Demelza, Eleanor Tomlinson, did such a good job with her singing in the show that she’s releasing an album!).

Sure, there are some book heroines who enjoy their music. Faith Merridew and Helen Ravenel come to mind. However, we are very much in an era of publishing (and life in general, actually) where authors think that it’s somehow antifeminist for women to anything remotely artistic or creative.

Music isn’t just an art form; it’s to people of two-hundred years ago what television and the internet and evenings out are to us today. It was an essential part of a person’s social life, as it was one of the only ways to break the silence over long, pre-electricity evenings, and to entertain in an era before today’s technology existed.

I do think some authors avoid heroines who play and sing because they – ridiculously – think it’s demeaning to their gender.

However, I also think it simply never occurs to some authors that this was a major aspect of a Georgian/Regency/Victorian person’s day-to-day experience. It’s a little odd.

 

New Pride and Prejudice

It was only yesterday I was thinking that it was time for a new, less “pop culture” version of Pride and Prejudice to be made – I’ve been on a re-watch spree of the 1980 and 1995 versions. So it was pretty funny to see this news about a new adaptation only a few hours later. However, this upcoming version is is not what I wanted.

That the producers are bragging it will be “less bonnet-y”, and that it will be “dark” seems patronising. No silly historical stuff for you. That’s SO 1995!

Why do we need another hair-down, pigs-and-mud version? I’m assuming “less bonnet-y” means something along the lines of Keira Knightley’s 2005 movie. As for “dark”? The last version was about zombies!

Pride_and_Prejudice_2005 Keira Knightley Pigs Mud Barefoot Anachronistic

Georgian lady barefoot and covered in mud where visitors to the house can see her? No.

Pride_and_Prejudice_2005 Keira Knightley Hair Down Anachronistic Elizabeth Bennet

Georgian lady goes visiting her “betters” with her hair down and dressed like she just rolled out of bed? NO!!

Revisiting Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley Mr Darcy Elizabeth Chatsworth House SOnya Heaney

The ABC has been showing the adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley again, and I’ve been watching late at night.

Essentially a fancy fanfiction of Pride and Prejudice, it is more a murder mystery than anything resembling Jane Austen.

I wrote about the show in 2014.

Since I last watched it I’ve changed my mind about a few things, and think I enjoyed it more this time round. It’s FAR from perfect, but still worth watching.

Set a few years after Pride and Prejudice ends, the Darcys are now happily married with a son (the scene of him running through the property at the start is like a tourism advertisement for Chatsworth House!).

deathcomestopemberley Sonya Heaney Chatsworth House

And then someone is murdered.

As before, I have issues with the producers making Chatsworth – one of the greatest estates in all of the British Isles – the home of plain old “Mister” Darcy, but it makes for gorgeous scenery from start to finish.

uktv-death-comes-to-pemberley-8 Mr Darcy Elizabeth Matthew Rhys Anna Maxwell Martin Chatsworth House

There was a lot of outrage of the (many think) bad miscasting of Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Bennet. Apart from being too old for the role, her posture bothers me throughout. She slouches, walks around with her wrists propped on her hips, never wears gloves or anything on her head. I loved her in North & South, and she is a great actress, but mistress of Chatsworth House/Pemberley she certainly is not.

uktv-death-comes-to-pemberley-9 Matthew Rhys Mr Darcy

I still love Matthew Rhys as Mr Darcy, even though he was an unlikely candidate for the role. It says everything about his talent as an actor that he can pull off Darcy as well as he does his other roles, such as a Russian agent.

Eleanor Tomlinson Death Comes to Pemberley Georgiana Darcy.

Eleanor Tomlinson Death Comes to Pemberley Georgiana Darcy

Eleanor Tomlinson is a wonderful Georgiana Darcy. Since then she has gone on to find considerable fame as Demelza in Poldark – another role I love her in (but then I’ve thought she was great since she played Young Sophie in The Illusionist).

death-comes-to-pemberley-mrs-bennet-lydia-pride-and-prejudice-sonya-heaney

And I still think current British actress-of-the-moment Jenna Coleman as Lydia Wickham overacts to the point she’d over-the-top in a pantomime! She is much a caricature as the shrieking Mrs Bennet of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.

Those are the actors who – for better or for worse – stand out for me.

This is an imperfect but GORGEOUS production that is worth a watch if it’s on repeat where you are.