Well there’s another trend in publishing I’m going to avoid

This whole “historical figure or fictional character plus some sort of monster” mashup, so far represented (to my knowledge) by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, is something I had felt kind of “meh” about. I don’t really get those kind of wheels-within-wheels hipster-ironical cultural games. For the vampire one, I don’t know why they picked Lincoln. Why him instead of, I don’t know, Benjamin Franklin, or Chief Seattle, or Amelia Earhart? As for Pride and Prejudice & etc., I enjoyed the actual Austen novel (the one that had no zombies). I don’t like zombies, so I have no interest in reading the new “version.”

And I’ve found something that just made any remnants of interest in these novels that I might have had vanish like a hipster’s reputation when his buddies see him drinking a microbrew instead of Pabst Blue Ribbon:

In Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, we have Wickham being “punished” for his misdeeds by being severely beaten and developing quadriplegia, which is deemed just punishment, and Lydia is punished for her supposed sluttiness by being doomed to a life of caring for Wickham. The book makes sure to dwell on his incontinence to make sure that readers get the message, which is: Lydia is a slut, so she should be shamed and punished, and being a caregiver to a person with disabilities is a punishment and a burden. So, why isn’t this funny? Because this is what people actually think, right now, in the world. That sluts need to be punished, that developing quadriplegia is a tragedy, that caring for someone with quadriplegia is an impossible burden.

But wait! There’s more! Here’s a rundown of some elements of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters:

[the book] aside from featuring some rather horrific racism and colonialism, gives Colonel Brandon a “cruel affliction” in the form of “perverse tentacles” attached to his face. When discussing his unsuitability as a marriage prospect, the girls make sure to stress how “repulsive” he is, and they throw in some ageism when they suggest that a 27 year old unmarried woman might settle for him, but a 17 year old girl certainly shouldn’t. Adding gas to the fire, Elinor suggests that a woman who was “say, visually impaired somehow” would make an ideal match for Brandon.

I’m going to just say here what the actual fuck. You know what, when you show yourself to be more judgmental and prudish and repressive than people obviously were in fucking early nineteenth century England, than you have a fucking problem and I’m not going to give my money or time to your fuckery.

Just to give a rundown of what fate Jane Austen metes out to her — not sluttish, but too trusting, silly, and thoughtless — character Lydia, who runs off with the weak and venial Wickham in the belief that he loves her and they’re going to get married, it is this: Elizabeth enlists the help of Mr. Darcy, who gets together with the girls’ father and uncle — I think, it’s been awhile and my copy of the novel is in paper form and is in a box somewhere — and they basically go fetch the couple, make Wickham marry Lydia properly, and set him up in a job so he can be a good husband. Lydia ends up thinking she’s come well out of the deal because she got married first! And everyone else keeps their mouths shut to keep the peace. Because at that time and place reputation was everything, and people knew that treating a silly girl and a weak man like criminals and whipping them out of town or something would not have done the slightest bit of good and would in fact have made everyone miserable. As for the second book, yes, Colonel Brandon was rather older than the other bachelors, but he was in no way unsuitable as husband material, and in the 1995 movie version he was played by Alan “Voice of a Sex God” Rickman (yes, Professor Snape), so utterly fuck you, author of the Monsters book, in a most uncomfortable and unlikely place.

As for the ableism, the treatment of the handicapped and people with non-standard physical appearances  as less than human and as targets of mockery, I have no words. Since none of that was in either of the original works, I don’t know why the author decided to add them — but I can guess. “We all know they were really like that back in the ‘good old days’ so why not throw it in there? Just for the lulz.” Because obviously, Jane Austen was writing in the full knowledge that people in reading her books two hundred years later would know all about the “real” Eighteenth Century Britain, so she covered it up and wrote all nicey-nice. But no. You can’t take refuge in that sort of mendacity, my babies. This stuff was written in the 21st century, by you. Own it. It says many things, none of them good, about 21st century Western society that the sort of pure hatred of women (and as the blog author notes, of people with disabilities) as displayed in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, is okay enough to put in what are supposed to be light-hearted comedy horror novels.


4 thoughts on “Well there’s another trend in publishing I’m going to avoid

  1. Those responsible for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies & Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters are midgets pissing on the boots of giants.

    And those who like and applaud such desecration it are doing to midgets something I will leave to your imagination.

  2. Austen could write about the weaknesses of her characters with humor and without taking away from their humanity. A lot of her writing is about the tension between personal preferences and the norms and rules of society, and the difficulty in balancing out practical concerns in relationships (will there be enough money to live off of?) with the need for mental, emotional and romantic compatibility. She wouldn’t reduce the flightiness of a silly teenager to a label of “slut,” because she wasn’t a simplistic fool of a writer.

    In Sense and Sensibility I think Colonel Brandon is in his thirties. Older than Willoughby and Marianne, but not old. He’s not handsome but still has a pleasant and dignified appearance (one of the younger bachelors in the book, Edward Ferrars, also isn’t handsome so it’s not just a matter of age). There are interesting discussions you can have about whether he is or isn’t a good match for Marianne Dashwood (and the potential problems with that relationship are brought up in the book), but none of them have to do with him being repulsive.

    When Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out I flipped through it at the bookstore and didn’t buy it because what I read wasn’t funny (not even remotely as funny as Austen is on her own), and it didn’t seem that Seth Grahame-Smith had tried to understand the characters or story he was working with on more than a superficial level. In Austen’s book Elizabeth Bennet has wit; it’s how she survives among the snobs and fools she needs to deal with on a regular basis. In the zombie book she comes across as raging and bloodthirsty towards the other humans, because I guess it’s supposed to be funny when the main character wants to cut out people’s throats all the time. Thanks for the heads up on the rest of the garbage in these books. I guess if you write with a simple-minded contempt for humanity many people these days will think you’re funny.

    • Just one more thing – after reading your post I looked up P&P&Zombies on Amazon. One of the people who gave it a one-star review (I read those first, naturally) pointed out that the book also has embarrassing vocabulary and spelling errors (“coy pond” instead of “koi pond,” “exercise” instead of “exorcise…”) So is that another trend these days – ignorance and poor editing?

      • It’s like people don’t care any more. I mean, I obsessively edit and re-edit my blog posts, even the knock-off ones, and have been known to go back and correct spelling mistakes in old ones. I had the hardest time getting my draft done last year for Nanowrimo because I kept going back and checking the spelling. I guess it’s just the way I was taught. Also I have always been very good at spelling so it’s a matter of pride.

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