Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why I Don't Like the Darcy Fandom: A Rant

Some of you, I think, may raise your eyebrows at that post title.  "Wait a minute.  Melody IS a Darcy fan... isn't she?  Or has she changed drastically lately?"

No, my dears.  I don't believe in doing that.  Changing drastically, that is.  Yes, I am a fan of Mr. Darcy.  He ties for top spot in my list of favorite heroes.  So why do I dislike the Darcy fandom?  Wouldn't I enjoy fellow admirers of Mr. Darcy?

Indeed, I do love finding people who agree with me.  But so many who have similar opinions as I do on Jane Austen subjects hold Mr. Knightley to be their definite top-favorite Jane Austen Hero.  Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with that; I quite understand it.  Mr. Knightley is very admirable.  Yet, I honestly think that many people flock to Mr. Knightley while ignoring Mr. Darcy because he is... ha, too mainstream.  Mr. Knightley seems like a real character, the perfect gentleman, but Mr. Darcy is... a Janeite stereotype.

Mr. Darcy, in short, has been changed-- how we think of him has been changed-- by The Fandom.  I'm currently reading Among the Janeites, and some bits in remind me of this thing that has always disgusted me... the notoriety that Mr. Darcy has become.  The people who basically started all this are the Wet Shirt fans.

Let me make one thing clear to you.  Colin Firth is NOT Mr. Darcy.  Colin Firth is an actor.  If you're a fan of Mr. Darcy because he's played by Colin Firth, or if your admiration for Mr. Darcy is increased because of the actor... you're not a true fan in my book.

Um.  What.
Unfortunately, you're the majority.  In the last two decades, Darcy has become some sort of odd fantasy object of a certain brand of women's imaginations, most of this sparked from the Colin Firth Wet Shirt Thing, which is not a subject I care to go into.  (Eww. People. Don't be disgusting.)  Even before Colin Firth, the name Darcy was thrown about as the Perfect Romantic Hero, his name becoming more well-known and different than his real character, which started being forgotten.  The reputation attached itself to Fitzwilliam Darcy like a leech.  It's like a phony tourist trap-- the true meaning and worth is hidden by the grasping commercialism.  Also yuckiness.

And then there are the people who think that Matthew MacFadyen was the perfect Mr. Darcy, and... y'know what, I'm not even going to go there.
(I was thinking about inserting this picture here, but I simply couldn't bring myself to do it.  No.  It shall not appear on my blog. :P)

It's gotten so that I feel I can't even be part of the Darcy fandom. I don't want to be associated with the nonsense.  In fact, I hereby proclaim myself to be an Independent & Separated Darcy Fan.  I'm not part of Their Group.  I like Mr. Darcy for the way that Jane Austen actually wrote him.
But the way it makes me feel is almost like, when people ask me who my favorite hero is, I SHOULD say Mr. Knightley instead of Mr. Darcy so that they won't brand me as part of that Darcy Fandom, or so they won't think I'm unoriginal and can't actually think for myself, merely choosing whatever is the most popular.

And that isn't fair.

From Lost in Austen.  (ugh.)

It would be a lovely thing if the head of every Janeite in the world could suddenly be wiped of any image they have of Mr. Darcy that was picked up from anywhere but the book itself, and we could begin fresh.  Now, I think that Colin Firth is the best film Mr. Darcy to date.  But that's because he's the closest portrayal to the book.  I wish people would stop taking any representation to be the beginning and end of the characters themselves.  There is so much more to Mr. Darcy, and it's even harder to see his point of view in the movies than it is in the book, where, except for a few hints at the beginning, we don't really know what he was thinking until the end when he and Lizzy have their long, heart-to-heart discussions.  But reading the book you just get a better feel of his character, and there are little things that you might miss if you don't look out for them.  Such as the fact that he has a sense of humor.  (But all THAT is the subject for another post.  One, in fact, that's half-written in my drafts somewhere and has been for a long time. Cough.)

And then if the same thing could be done for Mr. Knightley, and everyone could actually compare Jane Austen's real characters... well, it would be so much easier to separate fact from fiction.  (Fact being the book and movies being the fiction, you know.  Uhh... separate fiction from further fictionalized fiction? :P)  I, for one, would love to be able to do that, because it's awfully hard to NOT be influenced by the facial expressions and new-in-the-script quips of Mr. Knightley-as-portrayed-by-the-2009-miniseries. ;)

Are you ready for a secret?  I think Jonny Lee Miller's Mr. Knightley is a better representation of the character than Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy was.  I think some things were actually added a bit, even though it wasn't inaccurate to Mr. Knightley at all.  And I wish for a similar representation of Mr. Darcy. (That's a more realistic wish than the brain-wiping, I suppose.)

One that could refresh people's ideas and remind them of how the book goes, as well as bringing out some of Mr. Darcy's qualities that none of the adaptations have captured.

With no wet shirts involved.

P.S. This is my 200th post. ;)


Maddie Rose said...

You deserve applause! This is so true. I get sad when people say they love Mr. Darcy, or that they love Pride and Prejudice, then go off about the 2005 movie, Lizzie Bennet Diaries, even the 1995 miniseries makes me a tad sad. Because I love Mr. Darcy. Jane's Mr. Darcy. He is so much more than I think any actor could portray. His character development is very subtle throughout most of the book.
But I must confess. Knightley is my favorite. But I have a special lplace in my heart for Darcy..... so I loved this post. :)

Also, congratulations on your 200th post!

Miss Dashwood said...

M'dear, you have hit the nail on the head. This is BRILLIAAAAAAAAANCE.

I hereby nominate it for this month's I'd Like to Share. For... hmmm... Miscellaneous, I luppose. Because it's information AND inspirational AND humorous AND just plain interesting.

I would go into more detail, but duty--er, Sherlock-- calls. Suffice for the present to say that this was a swellissimus defence. :D

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Me loves it. Muchly.
When I first became a Janeite, I must confess that I loved Darcy. And Colin Firth's performance only reinforced that (the Lake Scene is always eagerly awaited at our house because it makes us howl with laughter. :D). Buuut then I discovered how many people were just like OH DARCY HOW I WUV YOU and completely ignoring everyone else.
Soooo I changed my mind. Though as I said before, Darcy was never my absolute favorite because I am not Elizabeth. I should prefer Bingley. ;)
This post expressed all the frustration I've been feeling about it for awhile. (And that picture. UGH. The Lake Scene is Fanny Price-ish compared to it. :P)
BUT. Have I ever positively stated who my favorite Austen hero is? Because it happens to be Tilney.
For some reason, he doesn't seem to be very popular, but I fell in love with him from the moment he introduced himself and talked about muslin. ;)
Annnnd I should end this rambling comment now. Congratulations on your 200th post! :)

Naomi Bennet said...

Three cheers for Melody! What a good post! I felt as if it was me speaking! I wholly agree with everything you said (although I must say I love the wet shirt scene- you do to don't you? Come on.) Ohyesocourse.
Well done! If I hadn't nominated someone or if Nathalie hadn't nominated you, I'd have done it!
Wow 200 posts! I'm only on my 30th or something.

Evie Scott said...

Exactly my sentiments Melody! :) *wild applause* if only my classmates would listen to me when I was discussing this topic, but oh no they didn't! this post is very well written! :D I myself feel the same way.
I would love it if you happend to check out my blog and perhaps leave a commment :)
Thanks so much and congrats on the 200 posts!

Caroline L. said...

Most firstly of all: HAPPY 200!!!! Cupcakes all around! =]

This is a very interesting viewpoint on part of the Janeite fandom--something I hadn't really thought about, maybe since I don't know that many people who claim love Austen (and those whom I do know are purists and book-lovers). I think what it all comes back to are the types of fans -- those who call themselves fans and like the story superficially because of a movie or miniseries, and those who are fans first and foremost because they adore and study and analyse the novel (and their appreciation for movies or show flow out from that).

I also think that this type of gripe can be made against most fandom. There are always hardcore fans who hold the book or original whatever close to their hearts, and there are the less-invested people who aren't purists and usually are those watch-the-movie-without-reading-the-book folks (which leads to skewed perceptions of what the fandom is really about).

I, for one, veeery much enjoy several onscreen portrayals of Darcy, including Colin Firth's. But that's what they are to me: portrayals. It is so fascinating how different actors can focus on and bring to light different facets of Darcy's character. Some of them are EXCELLENT, but I love reading through P+P and discovering traits and aspects of Darcy's character that I missed before. And the most beautiful thing about Darcy is not how "hot" he is in the movies or how stereotypically "romantic" he is seen as being, the most beautiful thing is how his pride changes to humility through love, and how he is willing to give so much, expecting nothing in return, so that Elizabeth can be happy.

Whew! Long comment!

Heidi Spargur said...

Wonderful post and very well written!
I completely agree with you. The random has ruined Mr. Darcy. He was my favorite of the male characters, but I read the book before I saw any of the movies. I do like Colin Firth as Darcy but there have certainly been some other amazing portrayals. I feel like so often a character is in a movie, played by someone gorgeous, and girls are like "Oh my gosh he's my favorite, he's so perfect." Ask them why they like him... "Well, he's pretty...and yeah, that's about it". All they know is the movie...not the book. So sad. They're missing out on so much.

Congratulations on your 200th post!

Kiri Liz said...


Seriously, how can people look at Mr. Darcy and think ONLY of Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen?? It drives me nuts to see girls fangirl him because of his wet shirt or because of his dark eyes or whatever. GO BACK TO THE BOOK, PEOPLE! I'm almost hesitant to call myself a "Darcy fan" because the meaning of those words has been so tangled in modern minds. Yes, I admire his character, and I love how he changes for the better, but all the hoop-la surrounding the gushy Darcy disgusts me.

Anywho, Amen. Amen. Amen. Period. I'm going to leave now before I start a rant in your comment box. :D

Wonderful post!!!!

Oh, yes, and congratulations on your 200th post!! *blasts confetti all around* Uh, sorry. Yeah... I'll pick that up later. :D

Marie said...

Wow, I'm always the last to comment aren't I? :)

I can't say I know much about the *real* Mr. Darcy as I still have not read all of the book *horrified gasps* but I completely agree about the fandom. I was never the type to gush about heroes anyway, but making Mr. Darcy into a cliche (very good word you used there I thought) is silly and frivolous and all the things about hero-gushing I like the least. Not to mention the more important fact that it changes people's perceptions of him into someone different than Jane's original hero, of course.

And if that last sentence didn't make a molecule of sense (as I suspect it didn't), just ignore it. :)

Raelyn said...

Great post! I didn't even like Jane's Darcy that much. The hype just scared me away, and he's not really my type anyway. I hate it when the "fans" acts like Mr. Darcy is everyone's perfect hero. That's not true because we are not all Elizabeth. Personally, I have found that I would much prefer a Mr. Bingley/Mr. John Knightley over Mr. Darcy/Mr. Knightley any day!

Elizabethany said...

Happy 200th post! That was interesting. I agree that the 'Darcy fandom' is not really about the Darcy of the book, who I love by the way. Mr. Knightley is still my favourite Austen hero though!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I make no apologies for having seen the A&E P & P production starring Firth before I read P & P. I am equal fan of the production as I am the book. The mini-series led me to read Jane Austen's work. I also took a class entirely on her work. Out of all the Emma variations I have seen Jonny Lee's Miller's portrayal of Mr. Knightly is my favorite. And I love Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility as much as I love the book. To be frank the Emma production and my class on Jane Austen's works gave me a better appreciation of Emma - which honestly was not one of my favorites, but I like it a lot now.

Carmen said...

Happy 200th post. I agree totally! While I enjoy the portrayals of P&P and Mr. Darcy in the media, all they are are somebody's interpretation of who Mr. Darcy could be. He's really proud, and arrogant, and shy, but also witty and playful and devoted. I don't see that side in the movies.

Emily said...

Happy 200th!

Melody said...

Okay, comment-answering time... goodness, did I really leave it for a whole month?

Maddie Rose,
Thanks! :) And I'm glad you still appreciate Mr. Darcy even if Mr. Knightley is still your favorite, haha.

Thank youuuu! Your approval pleases me as always. ;)
And I'm very flattered that you were going to nominate me, haha. Despite my being your best friend and the possibility of people thinking you're breaking your own rules. :P
Well, should you chuse to elaborate at any time, you may feel free to do so. ;)

My Harriet,
You're welcome! :D Although I can by no means understand how on earth you could like Bingley better. :P He has his own set of faults, you know, and I should think they're at least as numerous as Edward Ferrars'. ;D
Well, at this point we've discussed Henry, heehee. And I'm always happy to find somebody who owns him as her favorite... he deserves admirers! :)

I love whatever of the book is in the wet shirt scene-- but the only good thing about the wet shirt was the awkwardness that made more sense for him to just be like, "excuse me" and leave. But I wish they hadn't done that because of how people seem to view it-- which is what was, apparently, intended. Bleh.
Anyways, thanks!

Thanks! I love seeing that I have people on 'my side', haha.

Caroline L.,
Thanks for your comments & thoughts! :)

Exactly! :) Thanks.

Kiri Liz,
You're welcome! Thanks for agreeing! ;)
I know-- it's so unfair to hesitate to put your real opinion into simple words because people will think something else than what you mean-- just saying you like Mr. Darcy. Haha.
And I liked the confetti, since you're going to pick it up. ;)

Well, other people commented after you! ;)
That is indeed horrifying! Haha, well that's a little strong, but you should read the book! :D
Thanks for stopping by... :)

Well, I can't agree with you there-- I definitely like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley better than Charles or John! The latter can be funny but I'd never want to live with him.

Thanks! :)

I saw P&P95 before ever reading the book too, but I do like the book better now. However, the miniseries is counted as my favorite movie. :) And a lot of people have felt that way about Emma... she takes some getting used to and the BBC version helps!

Carmen & Emily,
Thanks! :)

Livia Rachelle said...

Yes. Yes. Yes. The Darcy fandom can get a bit creepy (I just finished reading Austenland, which I don't recommend)and rather sensual. And they totally ignore that Darcy, for most of the book is hardly charming and most women would be infuriated by him and his insults. The point of the book is to show his and Elizabeth's reform (hello, the title). That is why I don't think period drama should have fandoms, serious readers just don't react so shallowly (I fangirl but over silly stuff; I don't think fangirling is allowable over serious literature; I am mean there is a difference between freaking out and seriously liking a novel, which in Austenland it really wasn't about the real Mr. Darcy but Colin Firth, whom I don't find that handsome anyway). I don't know about the accuracy of Mr. Knightly (Mark Strong is my fav, and I know I am in the minority) versus this. I think Mr. Darcy's complexities as described in the book are better understood in book form while Mr. Knightly is more easily portrayed perhaps? Neither one is really my top hero. That goes to Captain Wentworth and Henry Tilney and Edmund Betram and Bingley and John Knightly and yeah every other guy. Just kidding. Oh, and another aspect of a Darcy fandom is the "shy" Darcy. Really people. Did you not here the "because I didn't take the trouble to practice scene". He is not EVER described as being shy, unlike Edward Ferrars. Again, the title Pride, hello. That is a huge problem with MacFayden's Darcy. Have you done a post on this issue? It seems like someone might've.

Would you rather hear the story...

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