Monday, February 8, 2010

Stephanie Meyer is the New Jane Austen?

That's what one of my friends defended passionately the other day.

"Twilight is a classic! Stephanie Meyer is the new Jane Austen!"

I will allow my friend some liberties. Today, Edward and Bella's relationship in Twilight is the kind most girls dream of.

But, as my mom and I were watching the new Masterpiece Classics version of Jane Austen's Emma, I realized that Jane Austen is ten times the romance writer that Stephanie Meyer will ever be. Stephanie Meyer creates relationships that don't happen in real life, where the character's only argue about who loves the other more, and their only problems are people getting in the way of their love. In Jane Austen's novels, characters have very deep concerns about their relationships that are not all motivated selfishly. For instance, Emma would have refused to marry the man she loved because she knew her father could not bear it if she left home. Jane Austen's characters have a depth about them and their relationships that Stephanie Meyer's don't (I mean a vampire trying to drink your fiancé's blood in real life? I don't think so.)

Stephanie Meyer's books also encourage infatuation other than real sacrificial love. Bella is not in love with Edward - she is completely OBSESSED. That was not healthy two hundred years ago in Jane Austen's time, it's not healthy now. But in Jane Austen's novels, the heroine's examine their feelings and do not "fall in love" on a whim. They take time to understand their true feelings and separate them from selfish desire. And the characters' who do become infatuated are heartbroken, and realize that obsession does not equal love.

And, finally to my favorite point of all. Jane Austen's men are wonderful. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, Mr. Bingley, all of them. They are truly chivalrous, considering a lady's honor above anything else and treating women of all rank with the utmost respect. They open doors, they bow, they court a woman and get to know her before completely throwing themselves into a relationship they will regret. And they stick with their decisions. The ones that don't are shown in a bad light. I wish there were more men like them today. Guys today think they're being all cool when they talk about how many girls they've dated and slept around with and, to me, it's just outright disgusting. My defending line when friends ask me why I just won't try dating right now - "I want a husband, not a boyfriend." Jane Austen's men didn't take advantage of a woman's feelings and time and attentions and then drag their feet when it came to marriage. No. If they wanted a relationship, they committed. You boys want a real role model? First of all, try reading the Bible. Second, read some Jane Austen.

Girls, try watching Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley one is my favorite), Emma (the Masterpiece Classics version is best), or Sense and Sensibility (the one with Kate Winslet). It's unexplainable how much more worth your time they are than Twilight.

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