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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pride, Prejudice, Zombies…..and alternative sexualities!

In Janeites and Austen-L, the topic of the impending film release of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies was discussed by Diane Reynolds and Ellen Moody:

Diane wrote: “...My students (again!) this semester are telling me what a great book it is as we read P&P (the real one). I simply CANNOT bring myself to read the zombies version. I wish I could "get" it."

Ellen replied: “…What bothers me most about P&P[&Z] is it is a deliberate travesty of P&P, it's meant to be a crude mock of heterosexual sex as presented in the book. When I've said that to people privately, they acknowledge it's a gay attack mode as mash-up. The same was done to Anna Karenina. But I don't see this in print. So we are left to wonder if the students realize what they are enjoying or laughing at.  Popular culture is so hard to fathom because so little is articulated.”

To start with, I have not read P&P&Z—I browsed it once online, was not impressed, and never revisited it. But….

….after reading Ellen’s comment, above, and given that I’ve believed/blogged for some time that there is substantial lesbian and gay subtext in JA’s novels (e.g., Charlotte in love with Eliza, and Mary in love with Fanny), a gay subtext in P&P&Z would actually make P&P&Z very interesting to me. I’d want to see whether Grahame-Smith was picking up on JA’s actual subtextual hints at alternative sexualities, or if he was just shooting wildly in the dark on a lucky, uninformed guess.

In light of all of the above, the following recent online interview of Matt Smith, who plays Mr. Collins in P&P&Z, is therefore VERY interesting, as Smith tells of his own decision to play Mr. Collins as being secretly in love with Mr. Darcy—I had always thought of Bingley, Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam as Darcy’s possible gay paramours, but never saw Mr. Collins as gay. Rather I saw him as a neuter, who would therefore not have a problem with a largely sexless marriage with a lesbian like Charlotte. But Matt Smith got my attention with the following:

…When Matt Smith walked out on stage for the P&P&Z panel at San Diego Comic-Con, it was like the audience was cheering for a rock star. That’s a fair comparison for the former “Doctor Who” star, who after his four years on the show is a fan-favorite among SDCC’s nerdy attendees. Like “Who,” P&P&Z is a special project for Smith. In it he stars alongside many of his real-life friends — Douglas Booth, Sam Riley and Jack Huston — as well as his  girlfriend Lily James. Smith plays Mr. Collins in the zombie-filled reimagining of “Pride and Prejudice,” but with a twist: His version of the character is a not-so-secret admirer of Riley’s Mr. Darcy.

QUESTION: In the  P&P&Z footage shown at the panel, your Mr. Collins brings in a lot of humor. Is that your main function in the movie?:
ANSWER: I think that’s probably what I ended up doing, because it’s just the way I enjoyed doing it. When I looked at the character, I just thought it would be really interesting if what if actually he’s secretly in love with Darcy.

QUESTION: Is that really something you added to the role?:
ANSWER: I don’t know if it’s actually in the movie, but it’s what I played throughout the movie is that actually he’s in love with Darcy. [laughs] He doesn’t want to marry any of them; he just wants to be around Darcy.

QUESTION: Did you know Sam Riley beforehand? Is that coming out of a bromance between you two?:
ANSWER: I did know Sam, and also Sam is an incredibly attractive, lovely man. It’s not hard. I think with anything, especially a story like this — for me, as an actor — you’ve got to find an interesting way into it. It’s a genuine thing. I said, “Look, I’m up for it if we can sort of play it like this.” And he was like [in a deeper voice] “Cool, man. That sounds real cool. I like that.” Maybe no one will even know, but there’s a few little glimpses where you go, “Should he be getting married to a woman?” I think he just wants someone to love him….” 

So, taking Matt Smith at his word, did he come up with this gay subtext for Mr. Collins on his own?; or did he pick up on subtext n P&P and/or in P&P&Z, or a little bit of all of those possibilities? No matter which, I am now officially intrigued!

And… that I think about it a bit more, Matt Smith’s reading of Mr. Collins would create an amazing symmetry and synergy with my longstanding belief that Charlotte’s in love with Eliza. It would mean that Charlotte and Mr. Collins BOTH knowingly entered into a sham marriage with each other –--either on terms of total mutual transparency, or (even greater irony) with neither being aware that the other was also pretending!

And, similarly, it would mean that Charlotte and Mr. Collins would have cooperated (again, either knowingly or unwittingly) in generating the false rumor about Darcy and Elizabeth being engaged, so as to trigger the climactic cascade of events which ends up with Mr. & Mrs. Collins living very close to Pemberley—where they BOTH would then be in close proximity to their respective “true loves”---Darcy and Eliza---I really love all of this!

So… it appears I will be reading P&P&Z after all, and also seeing it in the theater, to satisfy my curiosity on all these points!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This idea raises an interesting question mark over Mr Collins 'introducing himself' to Mr Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, as well as his excitement Darcy's arrival in Kent.