In my time at Jezebel, I am proud to have established myself as the site’s adaptation-hater at large, writing thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of words devoted to castigating the bad readers who so often ruin my favorite books through film and television adaptations. So it probably comes as a surprise to those who texted, tagged on social, DMed, sent carrier pigeons, and posted in order to alert me that I am soon to add the CW to my shit list for making a bunch of horny new Jane Austen adaptations. Allow me to shock and dismay my tens of concerned readers and friends all at once—I’m fine with it.
The CW’s approach to repackaging classic Austen is to modernize the stories in a wildly creatively titled series called Modern Austen and add some boning in a “contemporary reimagining” of one novel per season, with the first season focusing on Pride and Prejudice. The series will be written and produced by Eleanor Burgess, who does the new Perry Mason on HBO, starring the attractive man from another great bit of Austen fanfic, Death Comes to Pemberly. Even to my quickly indignant eyes, this all appears perfectly acceptable.
The reason for my want of predicted rage is this—we already have all the great and faithful adaptations of Jane Austen’s perfect novels we need and therefore may now play with the form. By way of example: Because we have the faithful Much Ado About Nothing starring the love of my life, Emma Thompson, it was fine for Joss Whedon to add some unnecessary, bizarre finger banging to his version that came across as both sexist and gross because, you know what, I can just watch the old one and never think about what a bad job that man did with wonderful source material again. Furthermore, Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary are proof that Austen modernizes at least as well as Shakespeare when handled competently, so sure, get Lydia out there disgracing the Bennet family by having the nudes she exchanged with a Trump kid leaked to the Daily Mail. All I require is one good adaptation by someone who both read and understood the original text—still waiting on The Haunting of Hill House and Rebecca—then every working man director and/or woman writer in the entire world is allowed to try their hand at ruining it, and I won’t say boo to a goose. Please forget you saw that last sentence come Modern Austen premiere time when I keep my lights on by producing 3,000 words on everything that is wrong with it.