I have watched film adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in all its incarnations many, many times, and I recently watched the 2005 film version again. I love the film…no matter what criticisms may be about a portrayal or a performance. I clearly have a profound attraction to this work.
First and foremost, I love the utter regard the men had for women, which is evident from how they addressed them: “Miss…” (and their first names if they were single) or “Mrs….” (and their last names if they were married). Men bowed upon entering and leaving a woman’s presence, and women curtsied, even under unpleasant conditions. Flirting was ever-so-subtle: a look, a light “accidental” touch of a hand. A man romantically yearned for and tried to earn the affections of a woman. The sweetness of the regard for women in this era (particularly in upper and middle classes) was something to be admired, and something we now miss. There was a clear distinction between a “good” woman and an easy, loose woman or whore.
That distinction is gone today. Now, women put down good money for music that represents them as whores without pay. So many young men are casual about women and sex in general, and sex is a casual expectation almost always fulfilled.
Young women scoff at dignity and modesty as just stupid, prudish, sexist notions. They “shack up” with some dude without a marital commitment, yet expect the love and respect, fidelity and loyalty to exist without the spoken vows, only to be disappointed, hurt, and generally confused.
There was a recent film comedy, called “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” in which Matthew McConaughey (in a twist on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”) got to go back into his life to see all his old girlfriends. There was one scene in the television ad for the movie which showed a seemingly endless dining table filled with hundreds of girls. Obviously, this was meant to show how shallow and manipulative he had been. To me, it just showed how many stupid girls there were (and are), “putting out” in a situation where there was clearly no respect, regard, or intent.
Men used to have to ask a woman’s dad for permission to “court” her, even when the woman was an adult! Now, all he has to do is show her a bedroom, back seat of a car, or a motel room, and the date is sealed. When men had to explain and express their intentions, they had to take the whole activity of dating much more seriously, as there were personal and social consequences to misleading a young lady. That reputation would annihilate any chances he might have had of marrying a good woman. He’d have to move states or provinces away. Now? That kind of rakish reputation makes girls/women want to line up to get some from an infamous entity.
The women’s revolution did not raise any consciousness worth elevating. It mostly diminished a woman’s sense of herself as special, minimized her value in the minds of men, put sex on the level of animals, created a nanny/baby-sitter/institutionalized day care financial boom (as women gave up the blessing of nurturing their own children), increased the use of abortion as a birth-control technique when an accidental pregnancy occurred with a guy who did not want fatherhood, created perpetually unhappy, angry, nasty wives, and made it very difficult for “nice girls” to be respected and cherished.
The last scene in Pride and Prejudice between the two now-married lovers has them discussing what she wants to be called by him when he is not using her given name. He suggests one name, and she rejects it sweetly, because it is what her father calls her. She then asks him what he will call her when he is angry. He, not being able to envision that situation, talks to her about always letting her know how lovingly important his happiness in wrapped up in her…forever…and he kisses her gently about her face as he says “Mrs. Darcy” over and over again. He gave her his heart, his life, his vows, and his name. And, in that era, giving a woman your name was the ultimate public and private statement of his total commitment to her, which makes that scene so moving to most of us, and infuriating to feminists who see that scene only as ripping away the woman’s identity.
I always cry at the end of the movie.
I cry also for what women have given up in exchange for wanting to have it all and not be subordinate to a man. I don’t know…I kinda think being on a pedestal is not subordinate. But what do I know? I’m only a recovered feminist.