Thursday, April 26, 2012

Defending Mr. Darcy

I've decided that instead of writing an ongoing series for my top ten literary/period drama heroes the way I did for my top ten heroines (eep, I need to actually finish that thing), I'm just going to write hero posts when I feel like it.  I've also decided that the posts are probably all going to follow the same general format: that of "defending such-and-such".  Because a lot of my favorite heroes get a bad rap, and I want to set about correcting that.  I am only one, but I am one, and though I cannot convince everyone, I may be able to convince someone.

Since this week happens to be Hero Week, it seems a perfect time to write my post in defense of *drumroll please*...

...Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Hero of Pride and Prejudice, owner of that gorgeous estate known as Pemberley, brother to Georgiana, nephew to Lady Catherine, enemy to George Wickham (boooo), husband to Elizabeth Bennet, Prince-Charming-alternate to many, yawn-inducer to others.

"Something I've noticed about [Mr. Darcy]," my dear friend Melody said recently, "is that you either 'get it' or you don't."  There are, in my humble opinion, three kinds of people where Mr. Darcy is concerned.  There are the staunch Mr. Darcy fans (of which I am one-- but not of the most rabid sort), there are those who honestly don't care about Jane Austen (they don't know what they're missing) and finally there is the apathetic, eh-Mr.-Darcy's-kinda-boring-but-I-don't-hate-him crowd.  (And if you're a member of the crowd that only likes Pride and Prejudice because of Colin Firth in a wet shirt, please take your business elsewhere.  Not to be rude, but... um... that's not what this is about.)  I congratulate the first group on their excellent taste, pity the second group and am aiming this post right at the third group.  Listen up, Third Group.

In the course of my extensive blog reading (I have to improve my mind, you know), I have come across several major misconceptions concerning one Fitzwilliam Darcy, and with your kind permission (or without it) I will now refute each one to the best of my ability in my best higgledy-piggledy fashion (i.e., with neither rhyme nor reason, and in no real order whatsoever).

First of all, Mr. Darcy is not some idle rich guy who does nothing but sit around in his fancy house and go swimming in his fancy lake and give orders to the servants and go to balls to glare at people.  He's one of the most responsible gentleman to be found in literature.  He's not the type to twiddle his thumbs and let everyone else do what needs to be done, nor is he afraid to do unpleasant business.  He obeys his father's posthumous instructions pertaining to Mr. Wickham, even though he can't stand the sight of Not-Gorgeous George.  And when Wickham the Wicked tries to elope with his little sister Georgiana, he steps in and takes things in hand... and then does the same thing all over again for Elizabeth's wayward sister Lydia, putting his own reputation on the line for the sake of the woman he loves.

Second, Mr. Darcy is not incapable of smiling.  Now, I am as much of a fan of the A&E Pride and Prejudice miniseries as anyone (P&P95Forever!) but though that adaptation was practically perfect in every way, Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr. Darcy was lacking in just one teeny respect: his smile.  In the book, Mr. Darcy smiles.  Repeatedly.  See chapter eleven:
"And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody," [said Elizabeth.]
"And yours," he replied, with a smile, "is wilfully to misunderstand them." 
Colin Firth doesn't smile until the end-- that's the movie's fault. The book has no such defect.

That reminds me of another misconception.  It seems to me that there is a wild idea flying around the blogosphere, something about a fellow by the name of Matthew Macfadyen?  Has anybody heard of this?  He's an extremely talented actor and did a fabulous portrayal of Arthur Clennam in Little Dorrit, but he is not Mr. Darcy.  If you want to see an accurate representation of the character Jane Austen created (not the character created by Focus Features), bearing in mind that no actor can do a perfectly perfect job of interpreting such an iconic character, then by all means watch P&P 1995.  I'm no drooling Colin Firth fan, but I do think he does a fantastic job.

Moving on to the all-important sense of humor.  Sadly, Mr. Darcy does not possess as much of this quality as some other Jane Austen heroes (think Henry Tilney or Mr. Knightley) but he does have a sense of humor.  Really.  You just have to look for it.  He's not, perhaps, as hilarious as Mr. Tilney, but he has a dry wit that jumps off the page at you at the most unexpected moments.  "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment."  (True? True.)  Mr. Darcy also knows how to put Miss Bingley in her place (with all of us cheering him on, naturally.  Boo to Caroline Binglebop.)  "Yes, but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance."  And really, nothing can match the amazing-ness of his "WHAT?!" in P&P95.  'Nuff said.

I also really love Darcy's interaction with his sister Georgiana.  Their relationship inspired two principal characters in the novel I'm writing right now, but of course that's not the only reason I like them.  It's evident that Georgiana adores her big brother-- and she has good reason.  He may be cold and unfriendly to people he has never met before (after all, he has not that talent of conversing easily with strangers) but with his sister, he's gentle, caring, affectionate and generous.  

I abhor awkward moments in real life, but I get a fiendish delight out of awkward moments in books or movies (the poor characters in my novel... how they do suffer...).  I'm not always a fan of superfluous movie scenes (generally being the first one to squawk, "THAT WASN'T IN THE BOOK!") but I have to applaud Andrew Davies for his wonderful addition to Elizabeth's Pemberley visit, commonly known as The Famous Lake Scene.  I'm not talking about the swimming sequence here--don't quite understand all the hype about that--but instead I'm referring to Darcy and Elizabeth's unexpected meeting after Darcy's impromptu bath.  (My comments are italicized, in brackets.)

"Mr. Darcy!"
"Miss Bennet! Uh..." [My brother loves to quote those lines]
"I did not expect to see you, sir. We understood all the family were from home, or we should never have presumed..."
"Er, I returned a day early. Excuse me; your parents are in good health?"
"Er, yes. They are very well. I thank you, sir."
"I'm, um, glad to hear it... how long have you been in this part of the country?"

"But two days, sir."
"And where are you staying?"
"At the inn at Lambton."
"Ohyesocourse. [This is spoken as one word, haha.] Um, well, I've just arrived myself. [You said that before...] Um... and your parents are in good health? And... and ALL your sisters?" [You said THAT before too...]

This is the part of the movie where you really begin to like Mr. Darcy, I think. You can't help liking someone you feel sorry for, and I definitely feel sorry for him in that scene.  (I feel sorry for Lizzy, too, but I liked her from the beginning.)

Lest you begin to think that this guy is some angelic being who never does anything wrong, let me enlighten you.  Mr. Darcy is proud.  (See title of novel.)  He's arrogant.  He's prejudiced (see title again) against people he believes are beneath him.  He's also socially awkward and often misunderstood, but let's not make him out to be some poor pitiful version of Bashful.  Mr. Darcy has issues. He's not perfect.  But in all honesty, who wants a perfect hero?  Not this far-from-perfect girl, that's for sure.  

What I really love about Mr. Darcy is his character transformation.  The theme song from Beauty and the Beast comes to mind when I think of his relationship with Elizabeth.  "Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong..."  Mr. Darcy may have begun as a selfish being who rudely snubbed young women without dancing partners (she is tolerable, I suppose...) but he changes drastically... and we get to know him a little better.

Now, for all those of you who say that Darcy's first proposal was unromantic-- well, I agree with you.  "In vain I have struggled, it will not do, my feelings will not be repressed, you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you" sounds quite nice, but not when it's followed up by, "In declaring myself thus, I am fully aware that I will be going expressly against the wishes of my family, my friends, and, I hardly need add, my own better judgment."  Um, yes.  That's the way to any girl's heart: tell her that you know you're making a mistake by proposing to her.  Indubitably.

But for all those of you who say that the second proposal was also unromantic... well, there I have to disagree.  Strongly.  "Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! … You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."

Perhaps I've convinced you by now, perhaps I haven't.  In the end, it really doesn't matter to me, because writing this post has served its purpose for me-- reminding me all over again how much I like and admire Mr. Darcy, and that Pride and Prejudice is the best book ever.

Oh, and also?  His name is not Fitzwilliam.  Okay, the book might say his name is Fitzwilliam, but we do not call him that.  Nor do we call him Fitzy or Will.  The name is Darcy, gals.  With or without the Mr., whatever floats your boat, but not Fitzwilliam.  Actually, now that I think about it, I have a better idea-- who's in favor of changing his name to Cordelius? It's so much more romantical, you know.


Stephanie said...

My dear Amy, I MUST have my say out! I think you (Oh, blast! What is the oppisite of exaggerate?) Under-counted maybe? Anyway, Darcy as portrayed by Colin Firth smiles a great deal. However unpleasant this may be (just kidding) I challenge you to go watch the movie with a pen and paper and count!
Mathew M's portrayal? Now he doesn't smile but ONCE the whole time. (However, I read some of his comments about his own performance before and I can excuse him, at least partially...But that's just me)
Though, all in all I agree that neither if them smile enough. And THAT good people is why girls/women across the globe love the real Darcy, because he was written as a smiley-happy-in-spite-of-the-bad-maybe-a-little-proud-but-a-lot-shy man. La! That went on forever...

Anonymous said...

Oh, ho, ho, m'dear. You just opened up a can of worms! Well, Matthew MacFadyen may not be YOUR Mr. Darcy, but he most certainly is MINE. At least he actually smiles and shows some semblance of emotion instead of just standing there like a rigid pole and... okay, okay, I'll stop.

(You knew that rant was coming, right? C'mon, be honest, when you wrote that paragraph on MM, you were just thinking, "Ooooh, I can't wait to see how Petie responds to this!", weren't you?) =)

I really do love Colin Firth's portrayal of Darcy, but his stiffness really does bug me to some degree. MM just seems so much more natural.

One thing I totally loved about MM's portrayal of Darcy is that his whole demeanor changed when he was with Georgiana. You could really tell he loved her! Colin Firth changed ever so slightly, but he was still way too stiff. While MM smiled hugely and danced around with his sister like any affectionate brother would.

I never have understood why so many people don't really like Darcy (unlike Mr. Knightley, I feel totally fine with omitting the "Mr"). Personally, I love the guy (for reasons you already stated!), and I have been his fan since the beginning of time.

And another thing I've never really understood is all the hype about the lake scene!! I mean, I'm a girl, and I don't bat an eye when Darcy comes striding out of the lake in a wet shirt. But the whole world seems to think that's a swoon-worthy sequence. I know what they're trying to say, but I really don't see anything killer about that scene. Now if Darcy had come out of the lake with no shirt at all, I could understand (though I wouldn't agree!) a little more where they were coming from. But by the time Darcy meets up with Elizabeth, his shirt's almost dry anyway.

So, thank you, m'dear, for defending one of my favorite heroes. =)

Oh, and Amy?

Do not mention the name Cordelius to me at this time.

Melody said...

*This is the part where Melody goes down and clicks on the comment box and then scrolls back up*

GASP, I'm hyperventilating.

You Just Spelled Pemberley Wrong.

I can't believe this! Amy actually spelled Pemberley wrong!! *tries not to burst out laughing*
Ahem. Sorry. I'm so mean...
I'm also taking a screenshot right now, so you can't change it and say "I did not!" Muwahahaha. Me likes me my proof.
It's so nice that you make mistakes too. Hahaha.

Ooh, you're quoting me! I love it when you quote me. It makes me feel like an Important Person. :D

You may be aiming this post at the third group, but the first group will take a deal of pleasure in cheering you on meanwhile.

Wickham the Wicked... hahahaha, is that anything like Oskar the Odacious? :D

P&P95Forever... heh, heh, heh. Indubitably. ;D
And THANK YOU for putting that Mr. Darcy smiles. QUITE. SO. Heehee, during my re-read I am counting the number of times he smiles to put in *my* Mr. Darcy post, if I can ever write one that doesn't look like plagiarism...

Ahhh. Thank you. You do believe Mr. Darcy has a sense of humor. Are you planning to bestow this realization upon Miss Market*, I hope?
*(I did that on purpose. Just so you know.)

Hahahaha, squawking "that wasn't in the book" is SO me. :D When I've read the book before, that is. Hey, if you ever read more of the LCS series I should get one of the most far-from-the-book movies and watch it with you, just so I can watch you squawking. :D You know, in that Elusive Future Day. :)

"You said that before... You said THAT before too..."
"Hush up, will you? Dearly beloved, we are gathered today in this nice place..."
Heehee. =)

Eh... well now I don't know. I wouldn't actually call Mr. Darcy arrogant. He is proud, yes... and admits it freely... :P and he might have some tendencies towards arrogancy (yes, I do know that's not a word) but I wouldn't just call him arrogant PER SE. Hahaha. Wow, now I'm defending Mr. Darcy in your defending Mr. Darcy post... this is very singular. o.O

What I really love about Mr. Darcy is his character transformation.
Yes. Indeed.

Haha, it is my personal opinion that Mr. Darcy was in a bad mood at the first ball. ;-)

Noo! You agree with the people who say his first proposal was unromantic? Errm. It wasn't quite the thing, but it wasn't UNromantic... it can't be unromantic when it DOES have romantic bits.

...reminding me all over again how much I like and admire Mr. Darcy, and that Pride and Prejudice is the best book ever.
Heehee... that MMFHI.
I'm so nonsensical. :P

Hahahaha, Cordelius... WOW.
Soary though, I'm not in favour of that... Jane Austen named him Fitzwilliam, his name is Fitzwilliam. Sad but true. But it's okay, because nobody calls him that. It's just for making his letters look fancy when he signs them.

This is rather random, but have you ever thought about the strange fact that everyone, even us Yankees, pronounces 'Ferrars' with what's proberly a British accent? I mean, otherwise we would be saying "Fair-ares." Yet most of us don't say "Dahhcy." :P

Anyhoo. Enjoyed the post. Of course. :D

~Your Rose
(Not a thistle or a skunk-cabbage.)

Rachel Heffington said...

Ah yes! I love Mr. Darcy. The only reason he didn't appear on my top 10 list was because I wanted to be more original than that. Ever since I've felt guilty over deserting poor Darcy. ;)
You have to admit though, that the rarity of his smiles makes them all the more lovely when he does finally smile. :D
Thanks for this In-Defense-Of post!
"ohyesocourse." HA! We always quote that. :D

Rhoswen Faerie Wrose said...

I have no idea how anyone could possibly not admire Mr. Darcy!
And I have to agree that the awkward scene is one of my favorite scenes, too! ^.^
But I have to argue you comment about the smiling. Mr. Darcy (as played by Colin Firth) does, in fact, smile at various points throughout the movie. It is just that they are small subtle smiles, not big ones like at the end of the movie. Perhaps I notice them more because that is how I tend to smile, as well, but one only has to look to see them. In fact, just take a good look at some of the pictures you posted, and you'll see it. ;-)

Kiri Liz said...

As I read this post, my thought process was as follows: yes... yes... my sentiments exactly... yes... hmm... hilarious, but true... yes... yes... well, maybe... yes... etc.
Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy. Period. I guess some could call me biased because that was the first Jane Austen film I ever watched and I took it all as real truth and not an adaption. Nothing against Matthew Macfadyen, of course. He was superb in Little Dorrit, but to quote you, he is not Mr. Darcy.
And yes, the conversation at the lake is epic! Though, let me dare your disapproval and say that is not where I begin to like Mr. Darcy. My opinion of him rose after his first proposal when he wrote Elizabeth the letter and told her the truth about the infamous Wickham (how could anyone like Wickham after that faithful narrative of the relationship between the two?). That's almost when you begin to understand the real Darcy: the brother, the nephew, the friend, etc. And then, when he can't forget about Elizabeth, he tries to throw himself into other things (specifically fencing), making people really understand that he isn't just some idle rich man who mopes around when he can't have what he wants (referring to his line: "I shall conquer this! I shall!"). Even though you see that he truly does love Elizabeth, you want him to keep learning and proving to her that he is worthy to be loved.
The only criticism I would offer about P&P95 is the fact that they did not do the scene after the second proposal where Mrs. Bennet gives a dinner party. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, now very much in love, want to spend the evening together, but get stuck at two different tables playing cards and must content themselves with small glances across the room. And if I recall correctly, neither of them did very well in the card games for obvious reasons. Loved that scene! :)

GreenMedallion said...

Brilliant! I remember the first time I saw the '95 mini-series... I instantly fell in love with Mr. Darcy, and he's been one of my favorite literary heroes ever since. I sincerely cannot understand how anyone could dislike him. I love his transformation; that even after his proposal is pointedly (and rightly) refused, he still loves Elizabeth, and chooses to change for her. Now that's a true hero!

- GreenMedallion

Anonymous said...

Colin Firth is a wonderful Darcy.

Jessica said...

Your Cordelius suggestion made me laugh. Haha

Melody, I actually do pronounce Ferrars the way it is spelled. I am a Yankee through and through, you see. ;-)

Maria Elisabeth said...

I would not presume to disagree with you, because that would be denying the facts and I NEVER deny the facts. :P

I wish I had such a long-and-comprehensive-and-convincing list of reasons in my Darcy-is-the-best-bar-none days.

(That makes me feel so old...)

But you have convinced me that Mr. Darcy is likeable and quite worthy of the name of hero. Perhaps not as worthy as some others, but I'm not talking about them, am I?

Cordelius! Spare me, please. No one with that name could be also called a hero. No, Fitzwilliam is a mouthful, but it's a million times better than that.

Molly said...

Oooh! I can't imagine how you can like to watch awkward scenes! They make me squirm. And in some of the pictures, isn't Colin Firth smiling just a little?

Miss Woodhouse said...

Bravo Payton! At last I have found someone who prefers MM over pompous, stiff necked Mr What's-his-name.

While I agreed with most of what you said, Miss Dashwood, there is one statement you maybe that I shrieked 'No, no, no!' at (well, maybe not literally)

"That reminds me of another misconception. It seems to me that there is a wild idea flying around the blogosphere, something about a fellow by the name of Matthew Macfadyen? Has anybody heard of this? He's an extremely talented actor and did a fabulous portrayal of Arthur Clennam in Little Dorrit, but he is not Mr. Darcy. If you want to see an accurate representation of the character Jane Austen created (not the character created by Focus Features), bearing in mind that no actor can do a perfectly perfect job of interpreting such an iconic character, then by all means watch P&P 1995. I'm no drooling Colin Firth fan, but I do think he does a fantastic job."

MM did do a great job playing Arthur Clennam, but he was also great playing Mr Darcy. If Jane Austen created a Mr Darcy that was stiff necked, scowled all the time, and spoke his words as though they meant nothing, Colin Firth would play a perfect Darcy. HOWEVER, she did not. Mr Darcy is a feeling human being who uses Elizabeth's constructive criticism to change himself for the better (btw, I don't think any of the adaptions really showed Darcy's change right). MM plays a Darcy that feels what he says.

Please forgive my rants. I get carried away sometime. :)

Alexandra said...

Hello, dearie.

As I just commented, you know that I am in Heights of A Certain Hero Worshipping at the moment, having just seen the film.

Sooooz I'm not in a mood to go admiring Darcy. :-P

He is nice. He is honorable. I like him. I'd never marry him (unlike other heroes I could name, cough, cough...ok, clones of other heroes. Because He's all ready very happy with Marguerite. Guys with his personality and character. Yes, that's it). But I can admire him.

And Colin Firth IS Mr. Darcy.

There, that good enough for you? :-P

Off to go drown myself in vids and prison scenes once again ...

Hayden said...

Oh, And I did think Darcy in the '95 version didn't smile enough...until I saw the 80s miniseries. Oh, the horror! Mr Darcy did not smile the Entire time!!! Dreadful version...

lottie said...

Oh, I love that movie!!! x)

Abilaine said...

YIKES! I did not comment! Well, just to let you know, I LOVED it. You hit the nail on the head in defending him.

Thank you SO much, dear. :)


Lise said...

"That reminds me of another misconception. It seems to me that there is a wild idea flying around the blogosphere, something about a fellow by the name of Matthew Macfadyen? Has anybody heard of this? He's an extremely talented actor and did a fabulous portrayal of Arthur Clennam in Little Dorrit, but he is not Mr. Darcy."

I smiled while reading the above paragraph, because finally, someone gets it!! Matthew MacFadyen is amazing. He is also not Darcy.

I've always rooted for Mr. Darcy. I mean, who wouldn't? He's a pretty amazing character. But in my mind he always lacked one thing - a sense of humour. After reading your comments on this, I stand corrected.

Mal said...

Haha I know this comment is 5 months after the post, but I just found your blog :) I love it so much - I didn't know there so many people as obsessed with this stuff as I am! (I can quote you all of LIzzie's refusal from the book :)

The MM version is the first and only version of P&P I have ever seen, so MM is the only Mr. Darcy I have ever known :) I really need to go see the other version, although I think I'll be biased since the MM version is my favorite movie ever :)

In the book, Darcy tells Elizabeth that he took her reproach to heart and changed because of it....I didn't like how they didn't show that in the MM version - It's just like he was misunderstood and a wonderful guy all along. He wasn't - he had problems, but he changed because of Elizabeth. Dunno if they show that in the 95 version, but that was my biggest bone to pick with the MM version. (Oh and that the 1st proposal was outside in the movie, but it was inside in the book :)

Loved this post!

Hedy said...

I loved this post. This is my first time here and you stole my heart. You are right about everything! Well... maybe not the namechange, I prefer Fitzwilliam to ialreadyforgotwhatyousuggested. And are there really fans of P&P the book, who prefer MM to CF? Really? Because he's not mr. Darcy! Not even close. I don't blame him as much as the writers / director, I'm sure he acted what the script told him to act like.

The only characters which might be better in the 2005 version are Jane (because in '05 she's actually pretty) and mrs. Bennet (because in '05 she's a little less out there). But I'll always love 1995, seen it about 100 times and will watch it again!

Thank you for writing this post, it made my day.

Bella said...

This great I am a good at loving the right actors through there acting.I have watched Mr Darcy (Collin Firth) In more than a movie and he does resemble the act well so let us hope to find our Darcy ne day :)

Mairik said...

Nice post ;o) I stumbled over it today having just watched the 1995 version again as a Christmas treat and although you posted it ages ago I was inspired to comment! I remember a lovely interview with Colin Firth back in 1995 about the first proposal scene. He said that the way he thought of it was to remember that, in Darcy's head, what he's saying is incredibly romantic. What he's trying to tell Lizzie is that he loves her SO MUCH that he will overcome all of these terrible obstacles to be with her. Of course, he is arrogant and lacking in lightness and the 'problems' are at least half due to his snobbery, and so it comes out all wrong. But still the intention is there.
Re the smiling or lack thereof, I think a UK idea of smiling may differ from an American one - Darcy only grins at the end, but he certainly smiles on a lot of occasions. And the book makes it clear that Darcy is very solemn when he comes back to Longbourn with Bingley. After he has proposed and things begin to get back to normal, Lizzie teases him and asks why he did not smile and encourage her. His response is to say that a man who felt less than he did might have smiled and laughed.
The thing about Darcy is that he is always written from Lizzie's perspective - it's what makes him so interesting.
And on a light note, in his 'defence' he has the most beautiful house in the world. The 1995 Pemberley was Heaven on Earth.
Happy 2013 when it comes
Mairik x

Emily said...

I love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. The rarity of his smiles definitely make them more valuable. And he shows a lot of emotion through his eyes. He played the part perfectly!