To the Seaside

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So we’re sure most of our Gentle Readers have seen the beginnings of publicity for the upcoming series Sanditon, sort of an adaptation of Jane Austen’s last, unfinished work. So, first things first: the trailer!

We have previously expressed our opinion on this upcoming work: that it is not so much an adaptation of Jane Austen’s work, or even an adaptation of Jane Austen’s work with a fleshed-out ending, one story with a plot with a definite beginning and ending, but ITV/Masterpiece’s new Sunday-night series, using Jane Austen’s settings and characters but otherwise completely made up by Andrew Davies and company, meant to extend over several seasons.

But Editrix! Our Gentle Readers cry. We like P&P95, and Andrew Davies wrote that, so we are excited about this! Hey, we like P&P95, too, and we would by no means suspend any pleasure of our Gentle Readers, truly. We give you joy of it. We just think that Mr. Davies found a little added wink-wink nudge-nudge in the form of Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt and in the bath was well received, and decided that way more of that sort of thing was better. Or at least he likes to make us think so, as in this article in The Telegraph, provocatively titled “Andrew Davies sexes up Sanditon in ‘risqué’ new Jane Austen adaptation.”

At a preview screening of the ITV drama, Davies happily admitted to spicing up Austen’s text.

“I write something that I would like to watch and I suppose the ‘sexing it up’ thing comes in fairly naturally. Because if it’s not there I feel, well, that’s a shame – let’s put some in,” he said.

Some Janeites, unsurprisingly, have expressed their opinions about this article and the commentary by Mr. Davies most decidedly on social media, most of them objecting to the “spicing up” of the original. We think that is playing into the producers’ hands. Davies does this before every one of his adaptations, and it’s meant to upset people and get them talking about it. Mission accomplished. We don’t doubt it’s at least partly true, but we are not going to be manipulated into working ourself into a lather over it so that those involved with the production can whine about the “purists” who ruin everyone’s fun. We’ve accepted long ago that they can call it Jane Austen’s Sanditon, but it won’t be Jane Austen’s Sanditon, and we aren’t going to consider it Jane Austen’s Sanditon.

Austen wrote 11 chapters of Sanditon before her death in 1817, which only took Davies so far. “I used up the material in the first half of the first episode,” he admitted.

See? Not Jane Austen’s Sanditon.

The eight-part drama will be broadcast later this summer and Davies hopes to bring it back for a second series.

As we were saying.

Let’s talk a little more about the trailer. It starts with Charlotte Heywood’s father warning her about these seaside places where ALL SORTS OF THINGS HAPPEN. Charlotte, whose unconventional and carefree nature is conveyed by her loose, untidy hair, seems thrilled about this danger and darkness her parents are nonetheless allowing her to be thrust into. There is walking on the beach and fistfights and snobby Mean Girls who oppress our Manic Pixie Dream Girl main character, and there is apparently an attempt to be woke by having the multiracial character, the West Indian heiress Miss Lambe, talk about not being anyone’s property (slavery, you see). We have long been fascinated by Miss Lambe and wonder where Austen would have taken her storyline, so that interests us more than anything else and we hope it isn’t silly or cringeworthy.

There’s no reason to think this series won’t be perfectly watchable. It just won’t be Jane Austen, so we are finding it hard to be more than mildly interested in it.

Anyway, we still don’t have definite airing dates–for ITV in the UK, the Telegraph article says “later this summer” and the Masterpiece website says 2020, so we’re assuming early in the year.

8 thoughts on “To the Seaside

  1. A. Marie

    Your remarks about the new Sanditon are fairly close to my own ruminations. I estimated the moment I first heard about it that it would be about 5% JA AND 95% AD (I see that the actual proportions will be 1/16 and 15/16, so I wasn’t too far off), and I decided immediately thereafter that there is no point in walking into the “prim and proper purists” trap yet again. I intend to go a bit further by simply not watching the wretched thing. Not having a TV, let alone cable, will make this easier. (I realize that I could always watch it on pbs.org streaming, but I’m voting with my time and energy on this one.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The thing that rankles about the “purists” trap is that it is used as an excuse against any thoughtful criticism. “Oh, they’re just a purist.” When that’s not the case at all. There’s a faithfulness of letter and a faithfulness of spirit and I do find one of those things more objectionable than the other.

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  2. You pretty much summarized my thoughts on this pseudo-adaptation(?). It is a scam, where all the production companies are just capitalizing with the Austen name but serving something else. Many will walk blindly into this trap. From what I gather from the trailer, not only Charlotte’s personality has been changed, also Miss Lambe’s.

    I would not have been so disappointed if the film adaptation (based on the Another Lady sequel) had become a reality. *sigh*

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  3. I love your writing! Especially the part about not working yourself into a lather – very funny!

    I don’t think the blame (for lathering) can be put entirely at the feet of the producers’ manipulation, however. We Janeites are also responsible for our individual reactions. It’s a very typical social media behavior to be reactionary, rather than waiting to see what actually happens.

    I appreciate your refusal to fall into that behavior, and your willingness to wait and see, as you say that it may be watchable.

    I’m sad to say, however, that I’ve seen reactionary behavior from some of my fellow Janeites. Of all people, we who fancy ourselves keen observers “like Jane” should know better than to take things at face value and jump to conclusions. (Beware of “first impressions”!)

    I’m more enthusiastic and optimistic, because I’ve really enjoyed all of Andrew Davies’s Austen adaptations so far.

    I agree that it won’t be “Jane Austen,” but he’s so deft at adapting her characters to the screen that I have high hopes for spending time with “Jane Austen’s characters.”

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    • Well, we already know he has changed Charlotte Heywood’s personality from how Jane Austen wrote her.

      I’m pretty sure I’m not a purist, because I love S&S95 and Persuasion 95 and they have some major changes from the novel and some parts that are cringey and wrong, but they are made with intelligence and wit and style and love and that goes a long way. On the other hand, cynicism and ratings-grubbing and prurient, juvenile “humor” go almost nowhere.

      I think most of the people who will enjoy the Sanditon series have zero intention of reading the original and care less about it, and they will enjoy it perfectly well. That’s what I mean when I say it will be watchable. I would like to think that true Austen aficionados can look at things with a fair but critical eye, but I’ve been wrong before.

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  4. How do we know that he changed the main character? I guess I must have missed that.

    I haven’t read Sanditon yet, but I definitely plan to read it before watching. I also have the Another Lady (Marie Dobbs) completion, and I’m glad to hear that you recommend it. I’m planning to read that as well.

    I completely agree with your distinction between adaptations made with intelligence, wit, style, and love vs. cynical, prurient and/or ratings-grubbing attempts.

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