It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single author in possession of a good following must be in want of a zeitgeist. Or something. Look, what I’m saying is, that bitch Jane Austen just will not die.
All of her completed works have been adapted at least twice - four of them in just the last two years! She only wrote six of the damn things! Only Emma has enjoyed any period of dormancy of late, having not been touched since the mid ’90s, when it was adapted three times - as a movie, as a TV series, and as Clueless. Now even the unfinished novel Lady Susan is getting a BBC Four series.
And then there’s Pride & Prejudice. Adapted six times for television; three times for cinema; at least six times for stage, frequently as a musical. (I’m still haunted by the terrible lyrics to the title song of the dreadful Pardon My Prejudice, which my sister appeared in many years ago. ”Pardon my prejudice, pardon my prejudice, if you can; I’ll pardon you, if you pardon me, you proud, proud man”.)
All of that is without counting Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Jane Austen Book Club, Bride and Prejudice, or the recent TV series Lost in Austen. And now things are getting really strange. Having seemingly exhausted Austen proper (at least for now), and having apparently also exhausted the modernisation angle, those seeking to further plunder the Austen franchise for gold are now looking to cross-breed the Hampshire hussy’s work with other concepts.
Lost in Austen was an attempt to put a girly twist on Life on Mars (Life on Venus, if you will), with a modern day gal finding herself magically transported into the book. Such is the appeal of the concept that it’s being remade as a movie by Sam Mendes.
Then there’s this thing:
Two tired slices of zeitgeist wheezily leaning against each other for support as they stagger ever onwards. And now comes news that Elton John’s production company is making a movie called Pride and Predator - in which, yes, an alien crash lands in 19th century England and tears a bloody swathe through genteel country society. It is probably not a witty and well-observed study of social manners and mores.
Worryingly, even the new TV spot for this summer’s Wolverine movie shows Young Wolverine discovering his powers in a quaint period setting with puffy sleeves and waistcoats (taking a misguided cue from the dreadful Wolverine: Origins comic, which saw the rough and tough action hero starting out life as Little Lord Fauntleclaws). Admittedly it looks more Bronté than Austen, but the fact that I’m even using those words to describe a Wolverine trailer is a bad sign.
With any luck we’re now coming to the end of the Austen Translation period, and eventually the Godzilla of English literature will return to her dormant state. However, just in case there’s cash in the old girl yet, here are some ideas you might want to adopt and adapt for your own Bastard Austen project.
Pirates & Prejudice: The Bennet household is all atwitter when Netherfield Park is boarded and raided by pirates and dashing Cap’n Jack Darcy comes raping and pillaging in Pemberley.
Sense & The City: The Dashwood girls come to modern New York and experience the pitfalls of internet dating, ‘bad boys’, and not knowing how soon is too soon to call. Alternative title: He’s Just Not That In Want Of A Wife.
Dark Persuasion: Anne Elliott’s former fiancé comes back into her life, only now he’s a sexy brooding vampire with pale skin and attractively messy hair. Yearning. achingly tender sexual awakening ensues.
Emma Mia: Just like regular Emma, but with the songs of Abba.
Mansfield Planet: Fanny is a human raised in a family of aliens on a strange foreign planet. Can poor Fanny fit in and find love in a world where she knows she does not belong and everyone looks down on her as an inferior race? And is handsome and reprehensible Henry Crawford secretly a treacherous Cylon? (Yes.)
Harry Potter and the Abbey of Northanger: The money pretty much prints itself. As does the cease-and-desist order.
For the record, if you successfully adapt any of these ideas, I want half.