me start by saying I am not a rabid Jane Austen fan. I’ve read only Persuasion.
Sense and Sensibility is still sitting in my to-be-read
bookrack (yes, I have a three-tier rack, not a pile or a single shelf.)
I have seen Mansfield Park, two versions of Emma,
and two of Pride and Prejudice. In the raging
debate over the Colin Firth version versus Kiera Knightly’s, I have to
say, “Kiera, stick with Elizabeth Swan, not Bennet. Stay with the
My lack of expertise in all
things Jane being stated (and that includes the fictional Becoming
Jane and Miss Austen Regrets on A&E), I will now
proceed to try to analyze this: How do you describe the marriage of a
piece of beloved, classic literature with a B-movie horror plot that
comes out being . . . amusing?
When I first ran across Pride
and Prejudice and Zombies on Amazon, I thought it had to be a
joke. A tasteless joke. Brainless. (Which is ironic, because there’s
nothing a zombie likes better than a fresh brain.)
Can anybody tell me why vampires
and zombies and other assorted creatures of the slimy, rotting,
nightmare-ridden darkness are so popular nowadays? Why do we keep
revisiting these areas in literature and movies? How many times are
they going to remake Halloween and Night
of the Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre
and . . . get the picture?
Why do people find vampires
sexy? Why are they portrayed as heroic and lovable? People, this is a
creature that wants to suck your blood and/or turn you into a demonic
nightmare creature—and not because it wants to give you the “gift” of
eternal pseudo-life. Ever heard the saying Misery loves company?
Someone speculated that we
revisit our nightmares to make ourselves stronger and braver. Kind of
like someone with an inner ear imbalance who keeps getting on the
highest, fastest, twistiest roller coaster he can find, despite the
torture to his body and the unpleasantness he might visit on the people
surrounding him. Can we say stupid, masochistic, and just plain gross?
(Kinda like zombies . . .)
What really bugs me is when
these celebrations of death and destruction and evil become
entertaining, humorous even. Where is the dividing line between
enjoying being frightened and becoming desensitized to it?
people say that art reflects the tastes, mindset, and values of
society. But art also influences the way people think and the
things they want to do, the way they want to be, and how they treat one
another. How many people see something on TV and in the movies and want
to copy it? Watching all that violence as entertainment takes away the
horror and disgust that people should feel toward rape, murder, and
destruction; nuclear warfare and biological weapons; slavery of
children and objectifying of other people—which makes it easier to do
(sorry, I just can’t keep writing that long title over and over)
doesn’t make the zombies attractive or sympathetic. You don’t see some
young woman running out to the leader of the zombies, offering herself
to him as his eternal bride. The zombies are painted exactly as they
are (or would be, if zombies existed): disgusting, dangerous, to be
annihilated rather than coddled, and caused by a plague that strikes
the innocent as well as the stupid and careless. (Kind of like AIDS.)
The Bennet sisters are trained as warriors to fight zombies, with an
Oriental code of honor.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my
chest . . . my favorite bits:
The layering of Oriental
culture: clothing, food, warrior training, architecture, philosophy—on
English society. How come whenever we need warriors, everyone turns
into a Ninja or a Shaolin monk?
When Mr. Darcy first snubs
Elizabeth, her reaction is to reach for her knife (her sword didn’t go
with her ball gown) to challenge him to battle—unfortunately, zombies
attack the party and distract her.
Boot-licking Mr. Collins marries
Charlotte—who is becoming a zombie. Elizabeth is the only one who
realizes what is happening. No one else notices that the bride is pale
and oozing sores and developing disgusting habits. That could be a
comment on a lot of people in our society who only see what they want.
And in the same vein, Mr. Darcy, as a warrior, cripples Mr. Wickham for
running off with Lydia, who is then doomed to spend the rest of her
life tending him. I’m a firm believer that jerks should get what they
deserve. So sue me!
Instead of the battle of words
when Lady Catherine demands Elizabeth to promise not to marry Mr.
Darcy, it’s a battle of swords. And Elizabeth gets the better of the
old bat (who is famous for slaying zombies), sparing her life only
because she knows Mr. Darcy would be upset otherwise.
And when Elizabeth and Darcy
declare their love for each other, they run into a field full of
grazing zombies and share their first battle. How romantic!
If Jane Austen were alive today
. . . would her agent sue Mr. Smith for plagiarism? Or would she have
gleefully collaborated in this amalgam that allows her wit and insight
into the pettiness and blindness of society to shine through, perhaps
even more clearly than the original? I appreciated that the author did
not dwell on the rotting flesh and disgusting actions of the zombies
but on the people who fought to defend the world from them. Maybe what
we need are more Elizabeth Bennets to see the zombies among us and leap
out there with swords—whether in actions or words—and stop them before
they make all of us zombies too.