Filming Fan Fiction, Persuasion Edition

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Not one but two modern-set film adaptations/fanfic based on/inspired by Persuasion are in progress. Now, we want to be clear about our opinion of filming fanfic:

This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Clueless is fan fiction, right? As are Bride and Prejudice and The Jane Austen Book Club, both of which we love. (Seriously, how h*cking adorable is Hugh Dancy in TJABC? Really h*cking adorable, that’s how much.)

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They’re not sequels.

But we think Deborah Yaffe has a point about modern-set Persuasion adaptations: it’s not going to be easy to bring the premise into the present day, as it would be difficult to understand Anne Elliot’s decision to break off her engagement to Captain Wentworth in the context of 2018. As Deborah writes,

Lady Russell’s fears about Anne’s early marriage to a man with uncertain prospects make perfect sense for her time. They make virtually no sense in a world in which young women can get jobs of their own, count on reliable birth control, and collect life insurance and Social Security payouts on husbands who die while pursuing risky professions.

In a world like that, an Anne Elliot who caves in to Lady Russell-style persuasion comes across as either a snob or a doormat, and Austen’s Anne is neither of those. You can write the character that way for updating purposes, of course, but then you have to work harder to make her sympathetic and her regrets believable. The Persuasion updates I’ve read – off-hand, I can only think of perhaps half a dozen, compared to groaning shelves of P&P updates — address this issue with mixed success.

Sarah Rose Kearns, herself the author of a Persuasion adaptationengaged in an interesting Twitter discussion about Lady Russell’s motivations as well.

We agree that it might not be super difficult to transfer Lady Russell’s motivations in persuading Anne to break off her engagement to a modern context–we certainly still have snobbish people in 2018–but why would a modern Anne, presumably meant to be a sympathetic heroine, go along with it? There is so much in Persuasion, and really all of Austen’s novels, that is tied up in 18th-century notions of filial duty.

…Lady Russell, whom she had always loved and relied on, could not, with such steadiness of opinion, and such tenderness of manner, be continually advising her in vain. She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing: indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it. – Persuasion, Vol. I Ch. 4

Lady Russell is in the standing of a mother to Anne, and she feels duty-bound to take her reservations, even if engendered by snobbery, to heart. However, Anne’s also convinced by unselfish consideration as well.

But it was not a merely selfish caution, under which she acted, in putting an end to it. Had she not imagined herself consulting his good, even more than her own, she could hardly have given him up. The belief of being prudent, and self-denying, principally for his advantage, was her chief consolation, under the misery of a parting, a final parting; and every consolation was required, for she had to encounter all the additional pain of opinions, on his side, totally unconvinced and unbending, and of his feeling himself ill used by so forced a relinquishment. – Persuasion, Vol. I Ch. 4

The latter, we think, is more important to Anne, though duty is important to her as well.

But with all that said, here’s the information about the adaptations (talk about burying the lede). Deadline Hollywood reports that an indie film called Modern Persuasion starring Alicia Witt as the Anne character is in pre-production (we guess), to be directed by Alex Appel. From the article:

Modern Persuasion centers on Wren Cosgrove (Witt), a happily single and self-confessed workaholic who, after steadfastly rising to the top of the ladder in the NY corporate publicity world, finds herself coming home every night to her cat. But when her firm is hired by the man who got away, Wren finds herself having to interact with her ex-boyfriend every day when she’d rather just curl up in a ball and wail like a teenager. In time, she finds the courage and strength to rebuild not only her company, but her love life as well.

That description bears only the slightest resemblance to Persuasion, but hey, fanfic. We like fanfic, right? Right.

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Also today on Twitter @rationalseries followed us, which upon inspection turned out to be an upcoming web series (we suppose in the style of The Lizzy Bennet Diaries) called Rational Creatures, no doubt from Mrs. Croft’s wonderful quotation:

“But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” – Persuasion, Vol. I Ch. 8

There’s not much information available yet. There’s this tidbit on their Twitter account:

And they also have a Tumblr.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, RATIONAL CREATURES is a romantic dramedy about conquering your fears, falling (back) in love, and charting your own course in life.

It’s the modern, inclusive Austen story you didn’t know you wanted.

These web series (and they are now officially legion, because we say so) can be fun, and like written JAFF, some are better than others, and some people like some of them more than others. *shrug* We’ll have to wait and see! But here are a couple more things to look for–though it seems to us the web series is closer to actual existence than the film.

5 thoughts on “Filming Fan Fiction, Persuasion Edition

  1. JOAN REYNOLDS

    One of the reasons Bride and Prejudice worked was using a context where marriage is more of an arranged affair: rank, class, family connections count – or in this modern day of multi-racial societies, inter-racial/faith marriages are still frowned upon by some more traditional parents/grandparents from the “old country”. I think this would make a very good starting point and make any modern “Persuasion” adaptation more credible. Not quite “Guess who’s coming to dinner” but along the same lines. Class may have disappeared in respect of modern women’s choices, but in many western societies some old social customs still apply.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A. Marie

      I think the LDS version of P&P worked for the same reasons why B&P worked, Joan. ( See also the postings in various media re: “Austenistan” from the JA Society of Pakistan. Something like a traditional culture–or subculture, in the case of the Mormons–seems needed for the old rules to work.)

      And, Mags, I’ve really enjoyed all the recent AustenBlog postings. Seems like old times!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Alicia Witt is a staple of Hallmark Valentine’s rom-coms. Some are cute, but not exactly stellar filmmaking. A lot of high-strung business execs who have to let their hair down and abandon the map of their life-type stories. Hallmark has also done at least one inspired by Pride and Prejudice. I wouldn’t be surprised if Persuasion is along those lines, in which case I’ll set my expectations low. It won’t be anything like the book!

    Rational Creatures sounds more promising. Bernie Su did such a fantastic job adapting P&P for modern America and really zeroing in on the complexities of Elizabeth’s limited worldview in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I agree with other comments that Persuasion might be easier to adapt to a more traditional culture or sub-culture. I love the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” idea! I can see an interracial couple working really well for the story. There are a LOT of Americans who still frown on interracial marriage, and what if there were differences in socioeconomic and cultural background too?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I, for once, with the flood of P&P inspired adaptations, think it is quite refreshing to have not one, but two Persuasion modernizations.

    The plot from the one starring Alicia Witt sounds like from a Hallmark movie (as long as it is not like that impotable Unleashing Mr. Darcy, I will not protest).

    I admit it might be difficult to adapt to modern life some of the circumstances from Persuasion, but not impossible. After all, there has been quite a few P fanfic modernizations; from the DWG I recall for example “Country Persuasion” by Cristi, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” by Annie, and “Beautiful Frienship” by Bernardette (though Kiss and Beautiful are cross-overs between P&P, P and E among others), and in print, Persuading Annie by the late Melissa Nathan, so there are ways to manage the split between Anne and Captain Wentworth and the interference of Lady Russell.

    I am surprisingly optimistic about the P vlog, I though MP is more difficult to adapt to modern life than P, and From Mansfield With Love (the MP inspired vlog) was IMHO more than acceptable as a MP adaptation, in my book it is even better than MP2 and MP3 (for those not familiar with the numbering, the 1999 and 2007 films). I notice they mention the creative team was involved in Merry Maidens (a female Robin Hood), and I wonder if that means that they might have also been involved in the Nortbound Series vlog (the first NA vlog).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sherry Rose-Bond

    “Unleashing Mr. Darcy” was based on a book by the same name. READ THE BOOK!! It’s MUCH better! Hallmark movies give me diabetes!

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