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Austen pop explosion


Aside from the monster mashup phenomenon pioneered by Jason Rezulak and his Quirk crew, Jane Austen has provided ample inspiration for all sorts of marvellous pop-culture phenomena. Here's a brief round-up of some of the more interesting entries in the Austen pop canon.



Film

Metropolitan (1990)

Whit Stillman's laid-back dramedy about a gaggle of downwardly mobile trust-fund kids orbiting the debutante scene in modern Manhattan was heavily inspired by Austen's Mansfield Park.


Bride and Prejudice (1994)

Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha was behind this Bollywood-inspired riff on Pride and Prejudice, which starred mega-star Aishwarya Rai. Perhaps because of her interest in class and gender relations and propriety, Austen's work seems to lend itself particularly well to the Bollywood ethos. A Tamil Indian adaptation of Sense and Sensibility called Kandukondain Kandukondain, also starring Aishwarya Rai, was released in 2000.

 

Clueless (1995)

In the mid-'90s, filmmaker Amy Heckerling -- known for comedic explorations of teen culture like Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- directed this updated version of Jane Austen's Emma, which was set in status-conscious modern-day Beverly Hills and starred Alicia Silverstone. Clueless is notable for two things: it features a breakout performance by the late actress Brittany Murphy and helped popularize "Whatever!" as a dismissive catchall expression.


Mansfield Park (1999)

Canadian director Patricia Rozema adapted and directed this well-received adaptation of Austen's barbed romantic comedy about class relations, cleverness and moral character.


The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

Based on Karen Joy Fowler's popular novel, this film by Robin Swicord (who's adapted many books for the screen) follows a group of readers who form a club to discuss their beloved Regency author, but soon discover that they're still grappling with many of the issues at the core of Jane Austen's novels in their everyday lives.



TV

Clueless (1996-1997)

This short-lived series based on Amy Heckerling's film is notable for its Canadian connection: Toronto-bred actress Rachel Blanchard (also featured in Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies) starred in the lead role of Cher.


Lost in Austen (2008)

This quirky BBC miniseries focuses on a modern-day woman in Hammersmith, England who is magically whisked away into the world of Pride and Prejudice by way of a portal in the bathroom of her flat. Critics at the London Times voted Lost in Austen one of the Top 50 programs of the 2000s.


Miss Austen Regrets (2008)

Another offering from the fine folks at the BBC, this recent drama explores the final years of Jane Austen's life.



Strange But True

There are probably close to a hundred spin-offs and adaptations and "loosely inspired by" entries in the Pride and Prejudice literary canon. They range from "sequels" to the novel (Trust and Triumph; Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma; Desire and Duty) to celebrations of all things Darcy (The Darcys and the Bingleys; Darcy's Story) to a strange book that appears to involve both P&P and Tarzan (Tarzan Alive!), by Philip José Farmer).

Pride and Prejudice seems to be an endless well of inspiration for cultural producers. There are too many popular film and television adaptations to list here, but if you're interested in further investigating the phenomenon, there's a Wikipedia page dedicated entirely to an index of Pride and Prejudice in popular culture.

In April of 2010, a company called Freeverse unveiled a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies iPhone app. According to the official statement, this curious mashup of a mashup is a game that features "zombie-slaying action and touching romance."

The young adult science-fiction series Remnants, by popular author K. A. Applegate, a dystopian tale about humans who survive the collision between Earth and an asteroid, features a community of individuals called "Janes," who emulate the manners and ideals of the characters in Jane Austen novels."

In the BBC radio sitcom Old Harry's Game, which is set in Hell, Jane Austen appears as a loathsome, violent individual who is allegedly so nefarious that she frightens Satan himself.

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