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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gay Mr. Collins’s equivocal blessing?: “You may kiss MY Darcy, Eliza Bennet…but at your own peril!”

Last week, I wrote a post “Pride, Prejudice, Zombies…..& Austen’s alternative sexualities!”    … which I discussed my ambivalence about going to see that buzz-intensive offering. I then had an interesting exchange with my good friend Diane Reynolds in Janeites & Austen-L, after reading Diane’s informative review. Specifically, I asked her whether Matt Smith, who played Mr. Collins, gave any overt signs of a gay attraction to Mr. Darcy, as he had suggested in the interview I quoted in my earlier post:

Diane: "Arnie, Collins and Darcy were on screen less than I had imagined, but the actor who plays Collins did show his attraction to Darcy. In one scene he strokes the sleeve of his coat, garnering a strange stare from Darcy, and at the end, when Collins is marrying the couples (Jane and Bingey, Eliz and Darcy) , he says "you may kiss your Darcy" and then corrects himself to "you can kiss the bride" (or words to that effect). "
I replied as follows:

Diane, at first I didn't get the sly joke, but then I did, and I nearly LOL’ed with delight! That's why I wrote my Subject Line as I did, do you get it now?  Although it would have been an even better joke if Collins had instead said "You may kiss MY Darcy!"  Right? 

So, if you heard and remembered his line correctly, that does seem to be at least one small bit of clever scatological humor (i.e., as Flo famously repeated in Alice: Kiss my grits—how about Kiss my Brits?) rendered in proper English slang pronunciation!

And, now that I think about it a bit further, it might-----it just might----be a joke that Jane Austen herself had in the back(side) of her mind as one of her reasons for choosing that particular name, Darcy, for her most stuck-up hero.

And that also fits nicely with a point Anielka (Briggs) has made on a few occasions over the past few years, in response to my discovery of the Lucy Ferrars == >  Lucifer wordgame that Jane Austen played in Sense & Sensibility. I.e., Anielka has suggested that this word game on “Lucy Ferrars” might better and more completely be "solved" as "Lucifer's arse" (the devil’s rear end being a meme which has a rich literary heritage going back, at least, to Dante)!  What I think is fair to now say is that Jane Austen intended both such bottom jokes!

And, in that reading, Mr. Darcy, if transformed to its Norman source, D'Arcy, would then translate into English as "Of the Arse"--which would be an interesting way of saying he's gay, which brings us right back to Matt Smith’s playing Collins as being in love with Darcy!

Diane also wrote: "As I mentioned, and this is of a piece with the whole film, Collins doesn't camp it up the gay theme enough to make it effective. It's there, but so what? It was unfortunate, because rather than being played as a gag, it could have had some substance ... but there's no corresponding gay Charlotte, no real response from Darcy, just these sort of few random not very funny joke lines."

Diane, you have a sharp eye, so I accept your verdict that randomness seems to have been the order of the day, rather than coherent subtext. Except......eventually I do want to see, at least, the scenes with Mr. Collins, and watch them all very carefully, to see what other sly little touches might be concealed in them in a similar fashion.

So I imagine that sooner or later, I will watch P&P&Z, if only to satisfy my curiosity of Mr. Collins and his equivocal permission for Eliza to kiss his Darcy!

But I gather I won't see the even more interesting possibility that Darcy turns down a proposal from Collins, not because he's straight, but because he prefers Bingley! 

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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