Pride And Prejudice 2005 Is Historically Inaccurate… And I Think It’s On Purpose

Naomi wrote this hilarious post on Pride and Prejudice 2005 and aside from making me laugh until I cried, it made me realize something.

Pride and Prejudice 2005 is undeniably inaccurate.

Naomi pointed out things like the dresses, hairstyles, and settings. And she was right. She was right about all of it. I couldn’t help but nod and agree inwardly with every point she brought up – despite the fact that I am a fan of this movie.

I enjoyed the post so much that after finishing, I read the ensuing debate that was held in the comments. This was… illuminating.

This part of Hamlette‘s comment particularly struck a chord with me.

“I think a great deal of this movie’s staging and costuming was done purposely to provoke people, to get them to think about passion and how hard it is to contain it. How close anger and arousal are to each other. How similar people then are to us now. And how unusual Elizabeth and Darcy are, that they were willing to flout convention to be together.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As I read Naomi’s post, I became persuaded that these inaccuracies couldn’t possibly have been accidental. It is preposterous to think that the director simply didn’t have the resources or money to portray the time period correctly. And you can’t say that he was stupid enough to not research the story thoroughly before setting out to make a movie about it.

It was deliberate.

Clothing

This required a bit of research as I am not exactly an expert on Regency clothing.

I found that Pride and Prejudice 2005 stayed mostly true to the styles of that time period, though Mrs. Bennet’s costumes look more like something from the Georgian era. I can only assume that the intention was to portray Mrs. Bennet as hopelessly old-fashioned, perhaps unaware that her clothing has gone out of style.

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But you will notice that – most of the time – there isn’t much difference in the dresses from the 1995 and 2005 versions.

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Personally, I don’t care for the Regency style. Gathering a dress at the ribs that way always gives the impression of being pregnant and therefore needing the extra looseness in the stomach. But I suppose I would need to take up that argument with Jane Austen, not Joe Wright, wouldn’t I?

Settings

The general consensus here seems to be that the settings are all quite grimy.

I don’t know, I kind of like it? It adds detail and texture and realism.

That said, it is true. The Bennets house is cluttered and gross, their yard is muddy and riddled with puddles, and the town looks dusty and its inhabitants rather poor.

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Pemberley and Netherfield I must exclude from this…

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Hair

Oh, dear.

I did a bit of research – I’m not any more of an expert on Regency hair than I am on Regency dresses – and, wow, the 2005 version failed.

Rather fantastically.

The Ugly Sidecurls were, alas, the correct hairstyle.

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And bangs wouldn’t become popular for many more years. Oops.

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I can only say that Ugly Sidecurls are, well, ugly, and Pride and Prejudice 2005 wanted to make an aesthetically pleasing movie – the Sidecurls would have ruined it!

 

Customs

Lizzy’s habit of traveling alone – to Netherfield, or home from church, or to the inn that she is staying at.

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Her habit of walking instead of traveling by carriage.

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Everyone’s terrible table manners.

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Lizzy and Jane’s messy hair.

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The number of times we see Lizzy in her nightgown.

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Lizzy’s… coattails.

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Darcy’s lack of cravat and unbuttoned shirt early in the morning.

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Bingley entering a woman’s bedroom. And walking into the Bennets’ house like he owns it.

Darcy bursting in on Lizzy unannounced at Charlotte’s house.

Darcy’s lack of surprise at seeing Lizzy in her nightgown. Twice.

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Pigs walking through the house.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh bursting in on the Bennets in the middle of the night.

Even I know that these things were not done in Jane Austen’s day. The only explanation is that they knew that if everything was culturally and historically accurate, that no one would be able to relate to it.

Almost like a modern adaptation…thinly masked as a period drama. Emphasis on the thinly.

The Bennets were poor – but poor back then didn’t look like poor does now. The only way to convey the idea that they were poor was to try and translate it in a way that modern audiences could appreciate… pigs in the house, muddy yards, few servants, poor manners, untidy clothing and hair.

Today it is culturally acceptable to be seen in your pajamas in public. Guys are allowed to enter girls’ bedrooms – though knocking would be nice!┬áPeople dress sloppily when they didn’t sleep well the night before. Housekeepers don’t receive visitors; people walk right into houses they feel comfortable in. Women are allowed to travel alone. Walking isn’t usually considered unsafe. We don’t have great table manners. Late-night visits are okay. Girls don’t fix up their hair if they plan on hanging around the house all day.

It seems obvious to me that the intention was to capture the feeling behind Austen’s novel – the urgency with which Darcy enters a room or the drabness of the Lizzy’s home – not the culture that surrounded it.

Keira Knightley

I have heard some complaints about Keira Knightltey. Not her acting or her performance as Lizzy, exactly…

They dislike how modern Knightley is.

But this is perfectly in keeping with the idea that the makers of this movie were trying to appeal to a more modern audience. Knightley looks young – almost teenager-young – in this movie and conveys vivacity and charm.

Can you say the same of Jennifer Ehle?

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The fact of the matter is that Ehle is plump and matronly and looks like the middleaged mother of four – not a witty and captivating young girl.

Please don’t mistake me. Ehle is pretty in her own way – she looks sweet and kind and wise and gentle and good. The problem is that I wouldn’t use any of these words to describe Lizzy!

Personally, I think Knightley captures the heart of Lizzy Bennet far better.

The Angry Rain Proposal

As I like to call it.

The big contention here seems to be the near-miss kiss. Because Lizzy has just turned this man down and attacked him with biting words, so why would she then look more than ready to accept a kiss from him?

It don’t make a whole lotta sense, Bob.

Now when I first watched this movie, this was my favorite scene… and it still is. There was something so fascinating about their anger and attraction and the rain dripping off Darcy’s bangs and the way Lizzy has to crane her neck to look up at him.

At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint exactly why this scene drew me.

Hamlette put it into words for me.

Anger and arousal are just a breath away from each other. It is because they are both so angry that they nearly lose control. Their attraction was, from the beginning, physical. Even though neither one of them wanted to admit it, there was a spark of something between them from the moment Darcy glanced at Elizabeth in the dancing hall that first night. And after that it grows – he instinctively reaches out to grab her hand, even though he doesn’t understand why, their eyes keep meeting across the room, she laughs to hide her embarrassment at feeling attracted to a man she has only just seen for the first time.

So maybe the Angry Rain Proposal makes perfect sense? I think it does.

In conclusion! Pride and Prejudice 2005 was artistic and beautiful… it was not accurate.

There! I have declared my opinion. It’s your turn now. Rage away, my lovelies!

 

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