By Cera Sylar
Since its first publication in 1813, Pride & Prejudice has remained a timeless love story. The characters we first fell in love with, Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, have lived on in our continual respect for Jane Austen’s early nineteenth-century romance novel. Centered around family, upbringing, society, love, pride, and prejudice: Austen took her readers into a world where female characters dominated.
The P&P fan base has only grow over the years, as mothers passed on the book to their daughters and friends shared with friends. After several TV and film renditions throughout the years, it was no surprise when the 2005 movie, starring Kiera Knightly, became an instant success in the UK and then after in the US.
I am a fan of strong female leads, and Knightly’s superior acting skills made her perfect for the P&P lead of Elizabeth Bennet. She had all the right facial expressions, a great script, and a superb combination of love–in her relationship with her sisters–and strength–as shown by her iconic proposal denial to Mr. Darcy. The film was driven by the cast’s ability to act and portray so much emotion, with so little added effects. This is what made this film great.
With many films, along with the novel, to satisfy all of our P&P needs, it was somewhat of a shock to the P&P community when American author Seth Grahame-Smith dared to write Pride & Prejudice & Zombies in 2009. It was even more of a shock when the book reached #3 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and proceeded to sell over a million copies, according to Wikipedia.
As an avid fan of the original, I did not read the novel–on principle–claiming it was against my P&P devotion to read such an atrocity. How dare someone smash such a critically acclaimed novel? And with something as brutal and modernized as zombies? But, alas, around Christmas of 2015, I found myself sitting in the theater waiting for the movie Krampus to begin, when an action packed, romance included, early 1900’s fashioned film trailer comes on. And, to my great surprise, I realize it is the film version of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.
P&P&Z, which I saw on its opening night of February 4th, 2016, portrayed a very different sort of female lead. For starters, the script was almost identical to the 2005 film. For someone who has seen the original approximately one thousand times, it was a bit uncanny. None-the-less, I loved the original script, and could move past this detail. In P&P&Z, parts of the superior acting found in P&P were replaced with swords, humor, and zombies.
This was not altogether bad, I personally felt like it was a good trade. I will always love my original P&P for all that it is, but I accept and agree with the bit of a twist that was added to the classic tale by director and writer Burr Steers. Apparently, I was not the only one who had these thoughts; the film hit $5.3 million at the box office, double what the 2005 P&P reached.
Lily James, most well known for her portrayal of Cinderella in the recent Disney live action remake, was the new and improved Lizzy. Chinese-ninja-trained, zombie slaying, blooming socialite gave us all the bite we were expecting from a zombie tale. She kicked some zombie ass, and still managed to be a beautiful young lady and fall in love with Mr. Darcy, who is also a zombie slayer.
I think the greatest difference between the two heroines is that Knightly portrayed a lovable 19th-century woman–with real family issues and true inner strength, and James portrayed a corset wearing bad-ass, who is more of a hero out to save the world from the Zombie Apocalypse. If you can accept each as their own, then you have two great, but very unique, female protagonists.
In the nineteenth century novel Austen wrote, a female who said no to a marriage proposal for want of love and who stood up to men, calling them out on their pride and immorality, was a great woman of character and one common women would look up to. In today’s society, these may not seem as heroic. Instead, a female warrior fighting with a pair of swords and cutting her way selflessly to the frontline of the zombie battle, dress on and curls flying, speaks to our generation’s idea of a female role model.
Maybe we are observing the changing of the times, or maybe there is something to say about how today’s culture portrays women. Either way, as separate entities, with or without Zombies, there is definitely something to love in both versions.