Friday, May 8, 2015

In which I begin my quest to watch as many adaptions of Jane Eyre as possible

A few afternoons ago I decided to watch Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of Jane Eyre.  I have read the novel many times, I've done a little bit of academic scholarship on it, and I've even taught the novel a few times, so I feel like I can say that I know the novel pretty well.  I thought I would feel a communion with this adaptation because it was released in 1996, the same year I read the novel for the first time.  And Roger Ebert has high praise for this version, giving it 3.5 out of 4 stars. These were all good signs, so I pressed play and was soon knee deep in Gothic intrigue and romance.
                Jane Eyre is quite a long novel, but this film is not. It's a little less than two hours long. The film begins with her aunt Mrs. Reed locking Jane into the ominous Red Room, where, in true Gothic fashion, her Uncle Reed died.  After a short but absolutely beautiful opening score, Jane is visited by Mr. Brocklehurst and sent off to Lowood where she befriends the consumptive Helen Burns, experiences loss when Helen dies, grows up and makes her way to Thornfield, all in about 25 minutes. And the pacing issues continue throughout the entire film; the whole thing feels very rushed. It is, in my opinion, the film's biggest fault.
                However, the rushing gets us to the juicy parts with Jane and Rochester, which are always my favorite bits, so it's not all bad. And whoever did the casting for this movie really nailed it.  I can be a purist when it comes to film adaptations of novels, so I always appreciate when an adaption of Jane Eyre sticks to the spirit of the book. Charlotte Gainsbourg's Jane is styled as appropriately young and plain (in the novel Jane is only eighteen years old and she describes herself as plain and decidedly not pretty). And I can appreciate a young, handsome, and sexy Rochester as much as the next person (Michael Fassbender's Rochester: rawr!) but Rochester is supposed to be twenty years older than Jane, and William Hurt's Rochester delivers. Gainsbourg's Jane and Hurt's Rochester meet and have delightfully pithy conversations with one another. But then, Jane saves Rochester's life and the smoldering, brooding glances at one another and passionate hand holding begins, and I turn into an eighteen year old girl again and sail off into a cloud of romance.
The first of several passionate hand holding incidents
So temporarily eighteen year old Barbi ignores the fact the Rochester is actually really manipulative and revels in their passionate, torrid romance until secret mad wife Bertha's inevitable appearance ruins everything. And temporarily eighteen year old Barbi kind of wants Jane to stay with Rochester and continue their passionate love affair, but adult Barbi realizes that Jane is really awesome for leaving because she is staying true to herself, her ethics, and her desire for independence and equality even though she's desperately in love with Rochester and it kills her to leave him. And then there's Jane pining away for Rochester and the bit with the Rivers, which is never my favorite part because there's no romance.  And just like Rochester, Sinjun Rivers tries to impose his will on Jane, which is no good because clearly Jane belongs with Rochester. But my girl Jane is made of stronger stuff and after she miraculously inherits a fortune from her dead uncle, she leaves the Rivers and goes back to Rochester who has, luckily for Jane, been widowed during their time apart after Bertha burns down Thornfield and commits suicide by jumping from the roof. Rochester has also been injured, but he's still sexy looking because he's movie injured. Movie injured Rochester is blind (movie Rochesters, like the Rochester of the novel, are always blind by the end of the novel) but he only has some slight scarring on his face. Book injured Mr. Rochester has lost his sight in the fire and is pretty seriously maimed. But both movie Rochester and book Rochester are grumpy and bitter because they're waiting for Jane to come so that they can continue with all of the romance.
                But even though the casting is excellent, and there's passionate, smoldering romance, the rushed pacing of the film drove me nuts. Maybe people who haven't read Jane Eyre like this version. It is very beautifully made.  I'm sure I didn't like this film because I've read the book so many times. This adaptation pales in comparison to its source material. After I finished watching the film, I went to rate it and saw that I had already given it two stars. So at some point I must have seen this film, disliked it enough to rate it poorly, and blotted the experience out the memory.
However, I won't forget it this time because
a.  I felt the need to watch other versions of Jane Eyre to negate the effect of this one.
b. I wrote this blog.

c. I decided that I watch as many versions of Jane Eyre as possible, and upon watching other versions realized that some of them are actually straight up terrible. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I love Jane Austen, but I Didn't Love Death at Pemberly.

Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

And I wanted to love Death at Pemberly. It's Jane Austen! And a mystery! What's not to love? But I put off reading this novel because even though this is written by PD James, I've been absolutely horrified at the other P and P sequels I've read before. But thus far I've been pleasantly surprised. I found myself effortlessly slipping back into that world and even though I knew it was coming,  the introduction of the murder came as an abrupt surprise because I found myself so engrossed in the day to day life of the Darcys. Props to James because conveying that kind of surprise in a genre with such established conventions is not easy.

And then I read more of the book, and the more I read, the more disappointed I became. While James actually does a decent job at capturing the spirit of Austen's prose, the mystery itself, which started off with such promise, just falls flat. I won't say what happened in case you might actually want to read Death Comes to Pemberly, but I will say that the ending was a huge anti-climatic let down. In fact, it was so anti-climatic that I initially thought that it couldn't possibly be the ending, but sadly, it had an air of terribly written P and P fan fic.

Honestly, just go read Pride and Prejudice again. Or some of PD James's other novels. Just don't read Death at Pemberly.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Things I Have Done Tonight Instead of Grading

I have 10 million things that need grading like yesterday so of course I did everything I could to avoid grading this evening, like:

Reading this book:

Mr.Darcy. Rawr

Perusing the Sock Dreams website (so. many. plus size socks) and developing a burning desire to own these beauties:
You WILL be mine. As soon as I get paid. 

Playing Candy Crush. 

Who's on level 290? This gal!

Cuddling with this cat

Pepper loves to snuggle, and he doesn't take no for an answer

Watching Teen Titans
Cyborg is kicking butt in the year 3000 BC

Eating ice cream for dinner


I am a productive procrastinator. Who has SO MUCH GRADING to do tomorrow.

I'm going to have the same manic look in my eyes this time tomorrow evening.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Embrace My Inner Fan Girl.

So today today was geek Christmas, at least for this girl. The premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (which I totally missed because I overslept) and the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special, which was magical and special and 1000% perfect even absolutely nothing happened like I thought it would.

When I was a kid Doctor Who was that weird show with the funny special effects that PBS showed when they weren't showing the things that young Barbi wanted to watch, like Reading Rainbow, The Electric Company, and Sesame Street. And at that young age, I hadn't yet learned that I could have more than one fandom, so Star Trek was it. And for years, nothing actually could compare to Star Trek. Until March 14, 2006 (yeah, I had to look that up). That was the day Sci Fi first aired the first episode of the new Doctor Who. One hour later, I was a Whovian. I tuned in eagerly every Friday night. I didn't have dvr back then. Or many friends. But I had Doctor Who (and my Deep Space Nine dvds of course). 

I loved Nine. I loved Rose. I loved their adventures. It was serious sci fi, but it was fun. The Doctor was sad and kind and goofy and happy. Although I always thought he was a bit mean to Mickey. That was a touch problematic. But he had depth. He had Deep Space Nine like depth, and coming from me that is a high complement. (My love for DS9 is everlasting). Rose was fun and enthusiastic and never ever seemed to do what the Doctor told her to do. And Captain Jack. Captain Jack was...Captain Jack. He was super duper extra full of amazingness, and dude could rock the hell out of trench coat. And suspenders.

Image comes from here:

My love for Doctor Who grew exponentially when David Tennant became the 10th doctor. I loved Ten. And I'll be honest. My love grew exponentially the first time I saw 10 put on his glasses in "The Girl in the Fireplace." That was the day I discovered that the Doctor was a sexy sexy Time Lord. That was the day I became a super Whovian.


But as much as I loved Ten (especially when he wore his glasses), I loved Ten and Rose together even more. I have watched the second series of Doctor Who umpteen million times because I love them so much. I cried hard when Rose was sucked off into the alternate universe. In fact, I've only ever been able to watch that particular episode a few times. It still hurts me to see them part ways.

And the day I got Netflix streaming was the day I discovered classic Who. Seriously, young Barbi was stupid not to watch Doctor Who back in the day because my discovery of Three was an amazing amazing day. I can't hate a man who rocks frilly shirts and opera capes and drives a jaunty yellow car with its own jaunty little theme song.

                                    Seriously, Three OWNS that cape. And the jaunty car.

And Five! He was just SO NICE. And kind hearted. And you can't hate a man who rocks celery as part of his ensemble. The more I watched, the more I realized that, though Ten is still my favorite, I love all of the Doctors. I love their adventures and the fact that even though the Doctor is a  nearly immortal Time Lord he always comes back to save Earth and take a few lucky humans (and a few aliens too) along with him on his adventures. And after I watched these earlier episodes, which take place before The Last Great Time War, I came to understand the magnitude of the loneliness that the Doctor experiences after all of his people have perished at his hands. I understood why Ten was so eager to save the Master even though he was a total asshole. And I understood why it was so hard for Ten to let Rose go. It wasn't just because he loved her, although that was definitely a huge part of it. It was because he had lost so many people throughout his 900 years of life. Five, for example, was so haunted by Adric's death that he sacrifices his own life to save Peri. Adric is the last word he says before he regenerates.

And because I myself was so lonely and so sad at that time, I began to identify with him even more because I understood what it was like to be lonely and friendless. And although I was very sad to see Ten go, I was glad that Eleven seemed to have finally found a small measure of peace because in the fifth series he seemed to take joy in life again.

But when the BBC announced that David Tennant and Billie Piper were coming back for the 50th anniversary special, there was a lot of nerd joy in my heart that day. I couldn't wait to see them together in the special. November 23rd could not get here soon enough.

                                                        Serious nerd excitement
                                                        Also: Ten. Rawr.
Image from:

And today, the day finally came. When it started, I had the beginnings of a migraine, but I took some headache remedy and told my head to cooperate, which it did (mostly). Absolutely nothing was going to stop me from watching the 50th anniversary special, not even a migraine. I won't post any spoilers because I wouldn't want to spoil the joy of seeing the special for the first time for anyone. All I'll say is that is was absolutely nothing like I expected, but that's fine because the special was perfect. By the end I was smiling (there's an extra special bit at the end btw!). And I'm glad I have dvr now because I have recorded the special so I can watch it again tomorrow.

And here comes the part where I reflect on how much I've changed since I discovered the glory that is Doctor Who:

So over the years, my interest in Doctor Who shifted from a really cool sci fi show to something that's become a part of me. And because life is always in a state of flux, I changed along with the Doctor. I'm no longer that lonely girl sitting at home on Friday (and Saturday) nights watching Doctor Who with her cat(s). I still watch Doctor Who alone on Saturday nights with my cats, but now that's because it's my choice and not my only option. I met people who helped me realize that I don't need to be ashamed or embarrassed by my love all things sci fi. Because of these people, I learned to be a proud nerdy fan girl because that's who I am, and I don't need to be ashamed of who I am.

And when I realized that, I came to love Doctor Who even more because I was able to be open and enthusiastic about my love and talk about it with other people who love it too. And that began to extend to other parts of my life. Among my friends, I've become known as the person who will insist that Deep Space Nine is not only the best Star Trek show, it's one of the best shows period. I do this frequently. I own my love of Ten and his glasses. I have absolutely no problem wearing my giant Rarity necklace when I teach. I am the proud human caretaker of three cats (yes. three!). I went to a Roxette concert alone last September in San Francisco, and it was a dream come true. I felt no shame or embarrassment in going by myself. I was thrilled to see a group I have loved since I was ten years old live in concert. I didn't need anyone's approval or support. I sport my Pride and Prejudice phone cover with pride, and I will be happy to tell you all about the glory that is Victorian sensation fiction of the mid-nineteenth century. And this Halloween, for the very first time, I cosplayed, dressing up as Fionna from Adventure Time. And living my life this way is freeing.

I'm not perfect by any means and neither is my life. It took time to learn these things and to own them. I still struggle with depression and anxiety a lot. I'm STILL in grad school. I'm not overly fond of the way I look. And even though I have no desire to be in a relationship, I'm way too concerned with being single and unmarried. But I'm learning (albeit very slowly) that these things aren't important because I've learned that it's okay to be a nerdy, geeky fan girl.

Thank you for reading. Now go watch some Doctor Who!

Friday, October 12, 2012

My 15 Year Old Self Was Petulant and Grumpy

So it's the first International Day of the Girl, and I just read this article about fifteen year old selves.  I was fifteen twenty years ago. As my title indicates, my fifteen year old self was petulant, grumpy. It was a momentous year: that was the year I discovered trashy romance novels and Cosmopolitan magazine, so I learned lots and lots about sex. Star Trek: The Next Generation was in its fifth season, and I was home to watch it every single Saturday night because I really didn't have many friends. I developed an insatiable desire to watch Little House on the Prairie reruns on TBS. I read every Victoria Holt book the public library had multiple times and I listened to Mariah Carey. A lot.

Yeah, I hated being fifteen. I hated it at the time, and every year on my birthday (still!) I am glad I am not fifteen any more. If I could go back in time and talk to fifteen year old Barbi, I would tell her that in twenty years being a geek is going to be really cool. I would encourage her to own her Trekkie love and to read something besides Victoria Holt novels. I would give myself a pat on the back for not wearing terrible early nineties hairstyles. I would ardently BEG fifteen year old Barbi to not drink that hot Dr Pepper folk remedy my parents gave me when I got really really really sick and my parents were too broke for to take me to the doctor. (Seriously, to this day I can't even smell Dr Pepper without getting sick to my stomach). I would give my parents the thumbs up for letting me adopt my very first cat. I would confirm that geometry still sucks balls and that in twenty years she will still think it was pretty cool of her English teacher to let her read Jurassic Park and Roots for class.

 Most importantly, I would tell her that she's not fat and ugly; she's so so beautiful. I would emphasize that fifteen year old boys are supremely stupid shits. I would tell fifteen year old Barbi to be proud of the person she is because she is is pretty damn spectacular.

Fifteen year old Barbi wouldn't have any of this though. Fifteen year old Barbi was petulant, grumpy , stubborn, and angry at her parents for making her move halfway across the country the year before. Fifteen year old Barbi only wanted to read things about sex and Victorian England, watch Star Trek, and ride her bike down to the Dairy Queen for Reese's Pieces blizzards. She didn't want to listen to anyone, although I know she would have made an exception for Captain Jean-Luc Picard. TNG was straight up awesome when I was fifteen.

She wanted desperately to fit in with the other kids, and she didn't understand why she didn't. What I didn't realize is that I just hadn't found my people yet. I didn't understand that I spent pretty much all of my teens and twenties depressed. Because of this I am continually grateful that I'm not a teenager any more. Hell, I'm continually grateful to not be in twenties any more.

The thing is, life does get better. My life has turned out to be absolutely nothing like I thought it was going to be. I'm not married. I don't have kids. (Can fifty-five year old Barbi travel back in time to tell me not to have a complex about this? Because that would be super helpful). My life is far from perfect, but I'm happier and more accepting of myself than I've ever been. I am a big ol' geeky fan girl, and I love that about myself. I gained a sense of acceptance when I finally found my geeky people. I have three cats and I own my cat lady-ness. I teach college English and it's the best job in the world. Today, there's so much about myself that I love, and sadly, I couldn't have said that about myself at fifteen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

That Jane Austen, she could write

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than women, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant."

Sigh.......This is from The Annotated Persuasion (page 452), edited by David M. Shapard

Since I'm currently lacking in real life romance I read this passage from Persuasion when I feel the need for a little romance. I pull this book off the shelf, turn to page 452 and read Frederick Wentworth's letter to Anne Elliot and I float away in a cloud of romance. 

(Also, I can't recommend David M. Shapard's annotated editions of Jane Austen enough. I've read Austen over and over again since I was in college, but these annotated editions enriched my reading experience of Austen a hundred fold. Seriously people--go buy them! Buy them all! They are more than worth the money.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Treading Water

You know what? Depression sucks balls. There are days (a lot of days lately) that I feel like depression is what’s running my life, not me.

When I visualize depression, I picture myself treading water. If I stop, I’ll sink below the water and drown. So I keep on treading, trying to keep my head above water. Depression is like that to me, a daily struggle to keep my head above water. There are moments, hours, even whole days or weeks, where it’s easy. But then there are the days when it just seems easier to stop treading and let myself sink below the water.

Those are the days when I can’t even be motivated to feed myself, even if I’m hungry. I’ve been having a lot of those days lately. I look at other people, and they seem to take care of the basics so effortlessly. They can keep their homes clean, get their work done, eat regular meals. Why is it so hard for me? Sometimes it almost feels like there’s something physical holding me down, preventing me from taking care of myself adequately.

Today has been one of those days. I desperately need to clean, and there’s a ginormous stack of grading on my desk that absolutely must be finished by Tuesday. I have a headache because I went too long without eating.

These kinds of days suck, and I’ve been having far too many of them lately. But I’ll keep on treading water. It’s the only thing I can do. Because there are always going to be bad days, that’s life. But there are always going to be good days too, and I keep on treading, hoping that soon there will be more good days than bad. And who knows, maybe today will turn out to be a good day after all. The day’s not over yet. 

UPDATE: It's amazing how little things can turn one's day around. I cleaned my bathroom counter (which really really needed it). A friend called and reminded me that I've had a big week (I finished the first chapter of my dissertation and presented it at a conference on Friday) and perhaps I needed a little time to decompress. And that it's not the end of the world if my students don't get their papers back on Tuesday. Today, depression didn't win.