The Skeptical “Pride and Prejudice”


I’ve been re-watching “Pride and Prejudice” when I eat breakfast (the BBC one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy — mmmmmm). And I’ve decided I want to write the skeptical version of it.

New title: “Overconfidence Effect and Confirmation Bias.”

Revision of the famous first sentence: “It is the provisional but widely-accepted consensus that an unattached male with above-average income and economic stability will be open to the possibility of long-term romantic commitment.”

Thoughts on where we might go with this?

Comments

  1. Cory Albrecht (@Bytor) says

    Do you need a line in there pointing out that this unattached male might not fit heteronormative biases? :-)

  2. sambarge says

    Hold on a second – are we excluding the unattached individuals identifying as female and in possession of above-average income and economic stability who may be open to the possibility of long-term romantic commitment also?

    We don’t want to exclude a statistically significant group in the opening line, unless we establish at the outset that we are only considering the social relationships on offer for (I’m assuming) heterosexual men of a certain class. Can we establish that before we move forward?

  3. sambarge says

    Sorry. I forgot to add:

    1. At this rate, we’ll never get to the ball at Netherfield Hall as I can’t imagine how we’ll deal with the root causes of Jane’s fever and illness.

    2. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is dreamy.

  4. says

    I can understand the sceptic angle in the change re: “truth universally acknowledged”, but the other part doesn’t seem to be any more sceptical, just longer. Isn’t replacing “a single man in possession of a good fortune” with “an unattached male with above-average income and economic stability” just buying into the trope that “sceptic = person who wants to show off how smart they are = person who is uses more words than necessary”?

  5. gillyc says

    I always read that first line as having an unspoken “in the minds of the mothers of young unmarried women” at the end of it – that is, the man himself may not want a wife, but he’s going to get one anyway if they have anything to do with it! I’m not sure that it still has that implication to it after it’s been rephrased, or even if it can be done.

  6. says

    It is both presumptuous and unnecessary to revise Austen’s classic.

    It is also dangerous to label it a “skeptic’s version” unless it can be made certain that it is wholly and entirely improved in the rewrite – something I doubt is possible.

    The fizz of Austen’s words that has fueled heady romantic notions of both men and women since, is apt to turn into a fizzle in the hands of a shouty skeptic.

    We should be skeptical about the practical consequences of bad ideas generated today, not cleansing the literary landscape of notions deemed too quaint or traditional. Therein lies the charm.

  7. Curt Nelson says

    The Cat’s Pajamas and Glad of it

    Everyone knows, a dude with money is going to want a wife.

  8. Orlando says

    I agree with #8 Gilly’s comment. That is the underlying message. And in much of the country the sentiment remains, although it is slowly changing.

  9. says

    This would be the best new satire series in forever.

    This would be so much better than “And Zombies”.

    Could you imagine a secularization of all kinds of classical literature, especially with the flavor of your overly specific and analytical wording? Egads, it’d be amazing. I’d buy every one.

  10. Azkyroth says

    It is also dangerous to label it a “skeptic’s version” unless it can be made certain that it is wholly and entirely improved in the rewrite – something I doubt is possible.

    Why? Unless it loses literally everything in translation to the screen it could be improved substantially merely by being used to prop up a table somewhere.

  11. sambarge says

    “….buying into the trope that ‘sceptic = person who wants to show off how smart they are = person who is uses more words than necessary’?”

    Um. Is that a trope? I thought it was a truth. Damn. I always get those 2 mixed up.

  12. Azkyroth says

    “….buying into the trope that ‘sceptic = person who wants to show off how smart they are = person who is uses more words than necessary’?”

    Well, skepticism is justly associated with intelligence, which is negatively correlated with irrational fear of grown-up vocabulary and positively correlated with the awareness that more words ARE sometimes necessary, insofar as they allow for a level of precision, nuance, and/or emphasis which can only be achieved at the Lowest Conceivable Denominator level of vocabulary by following one’s short, simple sentence with one to three paragraphs of of “by which I mean”s and “to be exact”s.

  13. reinderdijkhuis says

    Don’t waste your time. Pride and Prejudice is already a skeptical novel. Yes, I know that this doesn’t show in the screen adaptations. The adaptations are wrong – every last one of them.

  14. says

    I loved Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy! Colin Firth has a talent for playing standoffish characters and making them likable without toning down their snobbery. Although, I did like Kira Knightly as Elizabeth in the newer movie. I want to mash the two adaptations together for the Perfect Storm of Pride and Prejudice adaptations.

  15. DSimon says

    I’d prefer a skeptical Crime and Punishment, myself. Not quite sure how that would work, though.

  16. axemaiden says

    LOL – I agree with reinderdijkhuis. Austen wrote social satire from a skeptical point of view. There’s no point trying to ‘improve’ on that.

  17. smhlle says

    We need to consider the ingrained assumption (strong in the mind of Austen) that having a lavish estate is >> genteel poverty. Has this been proven?

  18. says

    It is also dangerous to label it a ‘skeptic’s version’ unless it can be made certain that it is wholly and entirely improved in the rewrite – something I doubt is possible.

    Why? Unless it loses literally everything in translation to the screen it could be improved substantially merely by being used to prop up a table somewhere.

    Because it might reinforce the interpretation that too many skeptics want to merely correct, rather than face the responsibility of creating something fresh.

    I don’t want to imply that there aren’t things that need to be corrected, fixed or abolished. But I don’t believe that literature is one of them.

  19. says

    Martin, check your humour-meter, it seems to be malfunctioning.

    I just had it serviced and it’s working perfectly.

    If I lower the sensitivity of the trigger, I’ll get too many false positives.

  20. Eclectic says

    “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” didn’t quite life up to its promise, because it was torn between doing freaky zombie-stuff and sticking closely to the book so it could riff off it.

    You have to decide what aspects you want to mirror, and what you want to change. The “Once Upon a More Enlightened Time” tales show one approach, but a novel is trickier because there are more elements to juggle.

    If you take an existing model and make the protagonists less stupid, you end up completely leaving the rails of the original plot, like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. (A rather nifty fanfic thats still in HP’s first year, but already has a word-count larger than all 7 JKR books. Harry Potter is much much smarter (and, with Hermione, sorted into Ravenclaw!), but so is Quirinus Quirrell, who has made it a point to become very good friends with Harry. Harry, in turn, has cultivated Draco.)

    Or you can have the protagonists still doing their thing, but observed by someeone amazed at their ridiculousness. Perhaps Mr. Bennet? Catherine de Bourgh would be amusing, but you’d have to change her character too, and it would tend to reinforce stereotypes.

    A good first line is good, but much of P&P is driven by Elizabeth’s jumping to unwarranted conclusions. Is that something that you want to change?

  21. Torgo says

    Here’s one idea: Mr. Darcy’s letter to Lizzy is rewritten as a lecture on skepticism, using her misconceptions about Darcy and Wickham as examples. But don’t let him have all the skeptical upperhand; put something in there for Lizzy to correct along skeptical lines, too.

    And perhaps instead of having the Bennets fear that Wickham and Lydia have eloped to Gretna Green, perhaps they dread the prospect of the two running off to a Metaphysical Fair or the like.

    One more idea: the Netherfield Ball is a seance (though I’m not sure those were so common at the time as they were later in the century). Maybe Caroline could be the medium, channeling (pun intended) her meddlesomeness through the alleged proclamations of the spirits she contacts.

  22. Stevarious says

    Now, see, I had always read that line completely differently. I always thought that the term ‘in want’, that is, ‘in want of a wife’, meant that the man needed a wife, not necessarily that he would desire a wife. As in, it was a lack that needed to be filled whether or not he even knew, not a particular thing that he would necessarily be seeking. You would say a person is ‘in want’ of a new set of clothes, or a haircut, whether or not they realize or desire these things. I always perceived the statement in this light – that the man was in dire need of a wife, and must therefore have many attractive young women thrust into his company so that one of them might ‘take’ and fill this need. It justifies the statement as a perception of the women who are looking to make him a husband, rather than any particular desire on the part of Charles Bingley to actually go out and find himself a wife.

    This is reinforced (IMHO) just a few lines later – Mr. Bennet asks his wife if she believes it his design to come there looking for a wife, and she disregards the question as nonsense. “But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them,” she says.

  23. Azkyroth says

    Saying Jane Austen should be rewritten more sceptical is like saying Shakespeare should be rewritten more insightful.

    Given his anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

  24. Timothy (TRiG) says

    That’s a dangerous first sentence to mess with. It has layers of meaning. Jane Austin’s original is an arch look at a piece of wishful thinking. I don’t get that from the rewritten version.

    Wealthy men are essential to the comfort of wealthless women, and to ‘acknowledge’ that a wealthy man must be eager to provide that comfort is to be sufficiently afraid of poverty that one convinces oneself that salvation will arrive somehow.

    TRiG.

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