North and South

I’m so high from the six hour angstfest that has been reading North and South the novel non-stop, and I don’t really know how to come down from it. I thought I’d blow off some steam by relaying a few scenes.

First of all,

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!

Oh my god. This Thornton dude is intense. You know how we never really get to know what Darcy is thinking except for those few precious, blinding moments where he says things like Elizabeth’s eyes are bright, and her face is pleasing though not particularly symmetrical? North and South has all the pithy lovers-discord that P&P has, but you get to hear exactly what they are thinking. Imagine P&P if Darcy had an inner monologue of:

"Oh my GOD, I hate that Wickham bitch. She likes him better than me, I hate his face. It’s probably because he’s more open than me, oh my god, what is wrong with me? I have to be so fucking droll all the time. She’s so lively and I don’t deserve her, but neither does he. I hate her, I hate him, I LOVE her, oh man, I hate that guy so freaking much."

Thornton is a big rough man, who plays rough, works rough and thinks rough. You get to see every flaw, every petty turn of emotion, and yet his pride is just massive, and takes a huge hit when he finds he has faults. Nothing is worse than him thinking that she prefers another, because you watch it go round and round in his head, and he feels so violently that you feel it, too. "Violent" is the correct phrase for his passion for her. He hates her one minute and tenderly loves her the next; he wills himself to face her, and bitterly throws past grievances in her face. Also real violence is often alluded to, like in this part: 

So, he tries really hard to be a gentleman, cuz he’s all insecure about his shop-boy background, but after they have their big disagreement, and they are both bitter and loving each other from afar, he says this one "OH SNAP" thing to her in front of other people, and he feels SOOO BAD for outing her in a very ungentlmenly way. He wants her to look at him, so he can at least say sorry, but she won’t. Before he leaves he thinks:

"He could have struck her before he left, in order that by some strange overt act of rudeness, he might earn the priviledge of tell her the remorse that gnawed at his heart." (328)

I like that:

"Hey, you!"
*SMACK!* Huge backhand.
"I am sooooo sorry."

Though I suppose for Thornton it would be more *Smack!* "Gnar! Embittered, inadequate unloading of my soul to make you seem the blame."

GAH! It kills!

So Margaret disgraces herself by lying, and Thornton knows it, and they spend at least twenty pages each worrying about what the other thinks of them. They say, "If I could just talk to them, just look at them — who knows what they’ll say or I’ll say or if anything will come of it — but it will be better than waiting, not knowing what they think of me." They both pray for a meeting. And then they meet in almost pleasant circumstances— Thornton gives their mutual friend a job that Margaret suggested in the first place — and Thornton races up to meet up with her, and triumphantly says something to the gist of:

Thornton: Um, hi.
Margaret: Hi.
T: So, um, you don’t mean anything to me.
M: Right.
T: And I don’t mean anything to you.
M: Yes…?
T: Oh. Well, then, I don’t really know why we are standing here. *Abruptly leaves*
M: *Blinks.* Everything there went WRONG!!!

It kills it kills it kills. There is many a time where he storms off to his window yelling, "I DO NOT CARE FOR HER!", and thinking, I soooooooo carrreeeee…. in a deep gravelly voice. But that’s not the worst of it. The worst is that he knows he cares, and, evidently, SHE cares for another. Yowch. Cold, hard let down. Blinding defeat. And jealousy, oh so much jealousy. It’s delicious to read, but let me tell you, I don’t think I took a full breath the entire six hours I was reading.

Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend

I can’t believe the entire movie was about stalking. Everyone stalked. In fact, it seems that the only form of love before marriage is stalking.

I never really figured out why it was called "our mutual friend" other than the serendipitous relations between all of the characters, which makes every Dickens novel "our mutual friend" and, in fact, Heroes, and every Guy Ritchie movie about stealing.

Our Mutual Friend follows a handful of couples that have to deal with stalking, deceit, and the social divide. There is a large fortune, a will in question, poor people rising up to take on riches poorly, and rich people who fall to poverty. Pretty much Dickens 101. The main character is John Roaksmith (played by the eelish Steven Mackintosh), who is heir to a large fortune on condition that he marries someone he never met. He unfortunately loses his identity when a man looking much like him is declared dead. He decides to use this opportunity to spy on his future wife, and bides his time as a clerk while deciding when to take back his fortune.

You know that part in Romantic Comedies where the guy tricks the girl as some form of test, or he lies or he continues some deception. In the end she loves him and he does some sweeping gesture, and you end up going, "aww….. Wait, wasn’t that a dick thing to do?" Like in You Got Mail, Tom Hanks all "suprise! I knew all along!" And Meg Ryan tearfully replies "I wished it was you. I wished it was you." I would probably react with hitting him over the head again and again, yelling "WHY DIDN’T YOU FUCKING TELL ME?!?!" I can’t really watch rom coms like that anymore, because endings like those always have an adverse affect on me. Sure they are together now because of the act, but doesn’t it show him to be a less deserving person, ultimately cowardly and deceptive?

Cowardly. Cowardly was on my mind the entire way through because Roaksmith’s deception was so much worse than a Rom Com. From the beginning, he should of owned up to his identity. Hiding to spy on a girl is sneaky. And then he lives with the poor people who are becoming accustomed to his wealth that was left to them. Sneaky, again. Then he falls in love with the girl, and still he wavers. People will be hurt by this decision to prolong it, John. You should own up to it now. It’s the honorable thing to do. But it goes way farther than that. Does he tell her when he wins her heart? No. When they get married? No. Now you are just being cruel. The poor people have shown that they are affected by their new wealth, so letting them keep it any longer would be a crime against them. Still no. The only reason he tells the truth is because he gets involuntarily "outed" by another guy. Bad form. When it’s all revealed, we find out that the poor people were pretending to be affected, in on this game to win over the girl’s heart to John. When I got to that part, I was surprised. I went:

*blink blink* "So, ALL of you are bitches."

She takes the information that she has been connived and deceived into a love for the man she is bound to forever by everyone she holds dear considerably calmly. I find his conduct incredibly dishonorable. Lying was a big thing back then, and he lies big time, lies to everyone’s disadvantage, lies far past the point he needs to, and we all just calmly accept it? After so long, there’s no moral reason why you would keep a secret so extensively. After a while it just becomes cowardice.

I don’t find that main guy attractive at all. He’s small and smarmy, and he doesn’t seem to have any emotion. He was funny in Lock Stock, and okay in the Underworld movies. But in this one, he’s so serious and reserved, I don’t believe anything that he says. And then when he shows emotion, I don’t believe that. I was hoping for a Dexter-like pay off (emotions are so good because he shows them so rarely) but I ended up just wondering if it was another game.

And then there was the love triangle. Clearly, this situation is saying that it’s only stalking when you are poor and you do it badly. I have never been attracted to David "Kicked Puppy" Morrissey, but I never knew how not attracted to him I could be. At first glance he’s all pale and chubby, which sets off his ugly nose in an unattractive light. And then he starts coughing and shaking, and screaming, and he’s pretty much gone. I will never think of him as "Poor man’s Liam Neeson" again, though I don’t find Neeson particularly attractive either.

The other suitor, Paul McGann, is related to an interesting coincidence I had a little while ago. I was watching The Grand (fanTASTic show) and the main guy Bad Brother looked so freaking familiar. I couldn’t figure it out; as cool as he was on The Grand, I kept on mentally seeing him scream in a high pitched voice with ugly, long red hair. It took me so long to figure it out: turns out he’s the older brother of Paul McGann, both of them looking so similar that I mistook the older brother for the younger one. And Paul was in Three Musketeers. You remember that weird guy D’ Artangnan fought at the beginning who screams "D’ArtanGNAN!" in a very unattractive way? That’s him. Yeesh. I was so amazed. Smooth, quiet, small Eugene Wrayburn with the silky voice is that guy? These McGann brothers, who make me think I’m not attracted to them, and then seduce me to the point where I kind of am. Paul has a mustache just this side of ridiculous, but it brings out his eyes, which are a startling blue. He also has windswept, Edward Cullen-like hair, strange for the time. I spent a lot of time going, "maybe… but altogether too much hair."

Paul and David are both infatuated with the same girl who is dirt poor and way below both of them. If you didn’t think stalking was part of the story before, David proves it by being so crazy and so unlikeable and so follow-y that you can only label him as stalker. I don’t sympathize with either man (I don’t sympathize with any man in this show), but I like how Eugene Wrayburn goades David’s character. Eugene is a rich gentlemen eternally bored, and Bradley Headstone is a poor tudor, obsessed with the idea that Eugene is reason the girl they both like rejected him. Bradley follows Eugene everywhere, and Eugene decides to make a game of it because he’s bored. He takes Bradley all over town, makes him think he’s lost him, drives him nuts, then passes him without saying a word as if he didn’t even notice him there. Fantastic. Also, good idea of goading a crazy person.

I’ve been watching too many books written by women. With North and South, and Austen always in the back of my mind, I can’t help but look at the men in this show and be disgusted by them. They don’t do anything.  They don’t prove their love, show themselves to be good people, do anything other than watch, expostulate their love, and then get angry when the woman does the completely sensible "WTF?" There is clear disfunction in the way that love is handled in this era. Apparently, love is some one-sided fever closely related to lust, that is supposed to be kept silent till it builds and builds and then just has to be let out. Of course the woman doesn’t love him then, because when was she supposed to find out? Why does a woman’s first inkling of love have to be when the man proposes marriage?

I’m a true Janeite when I say that love is all very good, but what bothers me most is that no one proves themselves to be "good people." There’s no communication of that kind, and, in fact, I don’t think they are. Not men, at least, in Dickens’ world. The movie ended and I wasn’t sure if anyone showed themself to be other than a truely selfish being. I wouldn’t settle for marriage until I saw something of compassion in the other person. I resent the fact that a man has to be hit over the head and almost drowned in the river before he can come anywhere near good.

That’s why Austen and North and South are so refreshing. They show truely able men, who are trying to be good, and doing somethiing about it. They aren’t saints, sure, but they show some semblence of compassion and seem to want to show more. They are also physically able, they do stuff. Yay for actually doing other things than sitting on your ass. The nerve of these men, who spend a month looking at you strangely and then drop this bombshell of "oh by the way I love you" on you, then rage when you refuse them. What have you done to show me I could like you any way? Am I supposed to just accept the proposal, not knowing what kind of man you are or even if I like you? Talking to me every once in a while would be a good start, though I also wouldn’t turn down a sweeping gesture of a concrete act that accurately portrays your ability to be compassionate and your devotion to me. Those are nice. I’ve got a sister who’s a hussy….

North and South

North and South

I am sad to say I had absolutely no idea of the existence of this mini series and book before a few weeks ago. Imagine my surprise, when tooling around Netflix, to find a movie manifestation of the logical equation Pride and Prejudice + Bronteesque North Country + Cotton Mills and Industrial Age = everything that I love wrapped into one.

What an awesome show. Middle Class girl from sunny, Austenesque Southern England, leaves with her family to go to Milton, a Northern Industrialized town whose main profit is factory work. She meets John Thornton, an mill owner, who is a hard working, no frills, self-made man. Their difference of opinion creates an electric atmosphere, and is fuel for many drawing room debates. Of course, he loves her.

This guy Thornton, though, is a little intense. The first moment we see him, he is running full speed to catch an employee who was breaking the rule of not smoking. He beats up the employee right in front of sweet, sheltered female love interest. Hilarious! Meet your love interest, sir! She will never love you for this. You are an asshole!

It doesn’t help that the guy who plays Thornton later goes on to play someone not only quiet, sullen, and emoingly loving from a far, but actually evil. It’s Guy of Gisbourne from Robin Hood. Oh, Guy! I’m so surprised to see you here, or anywhere, and you are so severe looking. Sneering is definitely a professional sport to this guy. And yet he is the main guy. Here he is sneering and loving.

I have become very admiring of his nose. It is just so interesting from so many angles: straight profile, bumpy forward, long and thin, and a great sneering droop at the end. Thems British gots good noses. I will add him to my list of favorite noses, which include Mark Strong, and Julian Sands from Room with a View.
This is Mark Strong from Stardust and RocknRolla. The second one is not that flattering, but I love the nose/bridge/eyebrow combination.

There’s also Julian Sands, whose nose is better than the creepy people he plays.

  Oh, the sneering that man Thornton is capable of! The story is textbook P&P. We have our pride, our prejudice, our misunderstandings. Every time I say things like, "this is the part they go to the Lakes" they do! Poor bitch proposes at the end of episode two, with two episodes to spare. They have a heated tet e tet, and he storms out, very much like tape one of P&P A&E. We even have the motley crew of side characters, mostly living with Thornton instead of the girl. We have our silly Miss Bingley, our Lady Catherine De Bourgh and Mrs. Bennet wrapped into one. The mom, Mrs. Thornton, is the best: she’s this singleminded, old-world Northern woman; Mrs. Bennet if she were made of wrought iron and eats small children for breakfast. She has this one track mind of making her son into a tradesman, and judges everyone else accordingly. She’s clinging, and unfeeling, and scary as hell, but also she cares deeply for her son, and expresses true emotion when she possibly can spare it. You learn to love their relationship.

A typical cheery mother-son talk. I would be really scared to, but I extra want to be her friend.

Even though the stories so similar, I laugh to think of Elizabeth looking out of the Thornton household, which sits right in the middle of the bustling, ugly, loud cotton mill, and thinking "and of all this, I could be mistress!" Surely, the expression would take a different meaning.

Thornton does all the typical Darcy things, but with a degree of marked disdain. He looks out windows, rests on mantles, judges wrongly, and also helps her selflessly from social ridicule. But you learn that the sneer he always has is strangely without pretention like Darcy’s is. You get the idea that is just how his face is made. Out of everyone in the show, he is the easiest to read. Just imagine his sneer as an expression of ever-enduring love, and you’ve pretty much got it. At one point someone asks, "have you heard what they are saying about Margeret?" and he says pointedly, "I don’t care, and neither should you." Then he walks upstairs, looks out the window and goes:

"Grrrrrr. I sooo care……"

He so cares a lot.

And his squishiness abounds! Not only is it a story about strikes, but it is the most congenial strike story ever told. The strike ends badly, and people are hurt, but when do you hear about the boss ever later making friends with the strike ringleader, teaching the man’s son to read, and building a helpful stew house together? Hilarious! Pretty soon, he’s sitting down with his workers in a lets-all-hold-hands communist way. Oh, the things men do for women. Like grow hearts and make friends with poor people.

I have to put the Thornton/Margaret relationship side by side with Darcy/Elizabeth. Though I feel great allegiance to the second, I find this version refreshing. When Thornton proposes, he is not blinded by his own self-conceit; he doesn’t put forth his feelings in that horrible, demeaning way that Darcy does. And Margaret is not quite so mean as Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Darcy are both masters of the drawing room debate, they are incredibly intelligent and witty, and it’s fantastic to watch them spar. But they are also consumed with themselves, and unaware of outside circumstances to a fault. It’s nice to see two people who actually see a bit of the other side, no matter how little. It feels more… real.

I’ve decided to buy the book first chance I get. I’m excited about it most of all because the one thing I couldn’t understand in this movie is what Margaret is thinking. Isn’t that strange? She’s only the protagonist. But the woman who plays her has this damn blank expression, so when she looks at Thornton, I think "she must like him. No, wait, that can’t be right. Is she angry? Sad? Sleepy?" until I finally give up and settle on nothing.

And why is Thornton always in a state of undress? He’s always undoing his bowtie, rolling up his sleeves, even in the prescence of ladies. He’s the only one walking around outside hatless. One time he picks his hat up, and then puts it back down. They probably think he looks stupid in his hat, which is a top hat, and sadly, I have to concur. Not that I’m complaining. Mmm, glimpses of arms and throat are possibly the closest to sex we’ll get in a period drama. Here he is emoing it out while Mr. Bell tries to tell him not to be a dick about Margaret. The stance he is in is either "I don’t want to speak to you" or "I shall dance away my troubles in a box similar to a go-go cage."

You know that part in P&P where they are getting married, and Darcy smiles big for the first time, and it kind of ruins the whole movie for you? That doesn’t happen here. Severe Thornton has at most small sheepish smile throughout the movie, and at the end his smile progresses to a little bigger and a little sleepy with contentedness. At the end she’s all "I am trying to keep face and be civil," and he’s all "shut up already." It is so cute.

This movie makes me love it, and also makes me consider rewatching Robin Hood with more reverance. He’s incredibly sexy here, not bogged down with too much leather, long hair, and eye liner as he is in the British series. Though I’m not used to the Victorian garb. Every once in a while I look at his bowtie and remember that quote I heard first from a Woody Allen film.

"It’s the truth that you should never trust anybody who wears a bow tie. Cravat’s supposed to point down to accentuate the genitals. Why’d you wanna trust somebody whose tie points out to accentuate his ears?"