Emma Woodhouse: An Unexpected Heroine

Like Cecilia Gray, I really love Emma, and for many of the same reasons (you totally stole my thunder, Cecilia, by saying several things I was planning to say):  Emma is unfailingly kind to her father and never seems to lose patience with him.  She genuinely wants to bring happiness to those she cares about. And to top it all, she is a strong female lead who refuses to be intimidated by anyone.

Now I’m aware that Emma isn’t exactly Miss Popularity when it comes to JA heroines. I suspect that one of the main reasons for this is that she undermines the concept of a conventional heroine, making it quite difficult for us as female readers to identify with her. It’s much easier to empathize with Elizabeth Bennet, for example, who fits very well into the expectations of the quintessential romantic heroine (after all she’s the blueprint). Emma doesn’t. Who could possibly empathize with a female character who says, quite confidently and without irony, “I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other.” There is no vulnerability to Emma.

But why does a romantic heroine have to be vulnerable, you might ask? It’s easier to explain what I mean by looking at it from a different angle; by seeing Emma, not as a person, but as the role she plays in the novel. From this perspective, despite Emma’s role is to challenge the status quo. Through her, stereotypical social roles are probed and questioned.

To start with, Emma is cast in the role of a powerful, wealthy figure. She’s the equivalent of a male hero in a romance plot. She’s rich, she’s powerful and accordingly she tries to control everyone around her. Plus she’s “handsome”.

If you look at that sentence and substitute masculine pronouns, you’ll see what I mean. “He’s rich, powerful and tries to control everyone around him. Plus he’s handsome.” Sounds familiar?

My point isn’t just to say that what we tolerate in men we don’t tolerate in women, even now, two hundred years later (though that is important) but that there is a role reversal here. Emma is in that sense a romantic hero, one prefers to go it solo, who has no reason at all to bow to the conventions or to feel any need for romance in her life.

Unfortunately – and it says a lot about us as female readers – we can’t identify with a heroine who already has it all. We can identify better with a heroine who is in a vulnerable position to start with – in one way or the other (not pretty enough, not rich enough, has a bad dress sense, etc.). We all know how romances work: the arrogant male protagonist who does not have any need for romance in his life is brought to his knees by a woman who may not be as powerful as he is, but because of her (insert qualities here, let’s say, intelligence and charms) teaches the superior/independent/emotionally underdeveloped male a thing or two about life and as a result, he becomes her devoted slave.

In the novel, effectively, we have two “powerful” lead characters, but it is up to the male figure to teach the emotionally underdeveloped lead how to empathize with those around her. A fascinating switch in roles, wouldn’t you say?

The constant tension in the novel between Emma and Knightley is not simply a romantic one – it’s also a refusal on Emma’s part to allow him to imposition of social constructs on her. The novel appears to be about Emma’s education and “socialization,” and by the end Knightley’s proposal appears to give her the nod of approval, particularly since she responds to the proposal as “What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.”

But her response doesn’t end there. The next day she declares that she cannot leave her father. The choice is clear. If Knightley wishes to marry her, he must leave Donwell Abbey and live at Hartfield.

It’s a fanciful interpretation but I feel the names are no accident. Bearing in mind that JA’s father and brothers were Oxford men, the word Oxford Don refers to a tutor or teacher. “Abbey” also implies conventional religious teachings – or at the very least an enclosed space where monks or nuns were expected to give themselves up in the service of a higher power. Northanger Abbey, too, is a place where General Tilney asserts his uncompromising tyranny over his children.

Hartfield, on the other hand, suggests both an open space – a field—and matters of the heart. By implication, Knightley is to abandon his position as educator and join Emma in a more open relationship. Am I going too far by reading into those names Emma’s rejection of social conventions?

There are other ways in which Emma seems to break with social conventions and accepted norms.

Take Harriet Smith, for example, whom she chooses as a protégée. She could have had the pick of any young lady at that seminary, yet she chooses one who is the natural daughter of an unknown father. A truly snobbish person would not wish to be associated with a person who is, after all, according to the conventions of the time, a social outcast. Emma sees herself as Harriet’s champion. Harriet becomes a “project” to her. She refuses to accept that a bastard child such as Harriet cannot expect to make a good marriage. She wants her to have higher aspirations. Since aspirations for well-bred young ladies of the time were almost always focused on contracting good marriages, that is what Emma wants to do for her. Society would say marrying an uneducated farmer and living a life of drudgery is as much as Harriet could hope for, but Emma refuses to put up with that limitation. (Later, Mr. Martin is revealed to be better educated and more suitable than Emma would have expected).

Snobbish? Yes, but what a different life Harriet would lead if she were to marry Mr. Elton!

Of course, the very idea that Emma can think of marrying off the daughter of an unmarried woman to a clergyman is deluded and deliciously ironic. There is something almost slapstick about it, particularly since Mr. Elton is not the type of person who has charitable impulses. However, Mr. Elton is eventually punished for his higher aspirations. He is reduced to being Mr. E., the caro sposo, and to playing second fiddle to Mrs. Elton, who thinks she is the one who is giving him consequence.

And then there is her friend/governess Miss Taylor. Again, Miss Taylor does not fit the stereotype of the conventional marriageable type. She’s been with Emma for many years, so she’s not young and she’s a governess. At the very least she is a mother-figure to Emma. She is certainly a very close companion. Yet Emma is quite happy to facilitate a marriage between her and Mr. Weston, a well-established gentleman with a large property, since she knows Miss Taylor would prefer a house of her own.

I could go on about this – how Mr. Woodhouse is more of a child to Emma than a father, how Emma highlights the snobbery and superficiality of women who assume that being married gives them a certain status in society, but I think I’ve run out of space.

I’d love your thoughts on Emma – is she a rebel in other ways?

*****

Monica Fairview is an ex-literature professor who abandoned teaching criticism about long gone authors who can’t defend themselves in order to write novels of her own. Monica can be described as a wanderer, opening her eyes to life in London and travelling ever since. She spent many years in the USA before coming back full circle to London, thus proving that the world is undeniably round.
Monica’s first novel, An Improper Suitor, a humorous Regency, was short-listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hassayan prize. Since then, she has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins (both published by Sourcebooks) and contributed a short sequel to Emma in Laurel Ann Nattress’s anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine). Originally a lover of everything Regency, Monica has since discovered that the Victorian period can be jolly good fun, too, if seen with retro-vision and rose-colored goggles. She adores Jane Austen, Steampunk, cats, her husband and her impossible child. You can find Monica online at her website and on Facebook.

The Besties Take On Emma Approved – Part Two

Ang: Annnnnnnd we’re back!
Did ya miss us?
Kim: Duh.
Who wouldn’t?
Ang: Fact.
Kim: Anywhoozles,
As you’ll remember,
we besties are reviewing the first forty episodes of Emma Approved
here on Indie Jane during the epic group reading of Emma epicness.
Every Wednesday for four weeks we will review ten episodes.
Last week, we reviewed episodes one through ten.
This week, we will review episodes eleven through twenty.
Cool beans?
Ang: The coolest.
Kim: Then what are we waiting for?!
Ang: Brownies.
Kim: mhmmmm…brownies!

Without further ado,
we proudly present to you
a bestie breakdown of Emma Approved,
episodes eleven through twenty, that is.

11. Underwhelmed
bestie description:
Emma interferes with Harriet’s life…like a boss?

bestie thoughts:
Kim: BMart is my homeboy.
Ang: HOLLA.
Kim: Oh heeeeey! Rare bird spotting in Alaska!
Ang: I wanna be a bird in Alaska.*
Kim: Emma’s judging is not bestie approved.
Ang: TOTES.

Ang: Nope. No cliches here.

12. The Rooster Obstacle
bestie description:
Nervous Harriet and Marin are adorable.

bestie thoughts:
Kim: Martin! You flirty mcFlirtyson!
Ang: The awkward adorbs is TOO MUCH for my soul.
Kim: Dude! Someone tape Emma’s mouth shut.
Ang: Can I get a witness!?

Kim: Not a genius, Emma, just crazy.
Ang: Or to put it in PG terms, a freaking psychopath.
p.s. The Emma Approved theme song makes me miss Lizzie with all the missing.

13. Tweetception
bestie description:
#EmmaIsOutOfControl

bestie thoughts:
Kim: “Harriet is fine just the way she is!” -Alex
Ang: She’s snapping now? can’t.even.
Kim: Manipulation + Twitter = Inevitable Train Wreck
Ang: #ForTheLoveOfGodListenToKnightleyEmma

14. Hashtag Miracle Worker
bestie description:
Alex winked, and there was some plot stuff.

bestie thoughts:
Kim: Alex’s wink is the best!


Handshake = You’re officially THE CUTEST!
Ang: Hashtag Slayed.

15. Ambition and Fruition
bestie description:
Possibly the worst advice ever given.

bestie thoughts:
Kim: Brainwashing much?
Stop being superficial, Emma!
Ang: I am sure and confident that Emma is the worst.


Kim: NO YOU DON’T.

16. Giving Thanks
bestie description:
Thankfully you don’t have a friend keeping nice sweet gentlemen away from you.

bestie thoughts:
Kim: Sad Harriet makes me sad.
Ang: Sad Martin makes me sad.
Kim: Sooooo thoughtful wrist cushion.
Ang: Yeah, so thought… HAWT KNIGHTLEY ALERT.
Kim: EMMA IS A LIFE RUINER.

Ang: I’m sorry.
Was I suppose to feel sorry for you, Emma?
Because I don’t.
I really really don’t.

17. First Impressions
bestie description:
Introducing Senator Douchenozzle.

Ang: BLECH!

Kim & Ang: RUN HARRIET RUN!

18. Practice Date
bestie description:
James is so freaking fake, damn politicians.

bestie thoughts:
Kim: Touching Alex’s face!!!!


Ang: Imagine that, Emma’s come up with another HORRIBLE plan.
Kim: Alex sees what’s happening with Senator Douchenozzle!
Ang: That’s because he’s not blinded by his own greatness.
Kim: Word.

19. The Proof is in the Yogurt
bestie description:
Emma lives in a fantasy land. Blah blah blah James boo.

bestie thoughts:
Kim: Is Emma ever subtle?
Ang: Right?
Kim: Boooooring.
I’m bored now.
Ang: Can Mr. Knightley please come back?

Ang: All this shoulder touching is reminding me of:

Kim: Annnnnnd I’m back!
*pets screen*

20. For a Very Special Lady
bestie description:
Emma, you started the life ruining business like 10 episodes ago.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: “No preference beyond a healthy build and long hair.”
Is the senator looking for a horse or a girlfriend?
Kim: Alex Knightley is my hero.
He sees James’s game!
I want Alex Approved!

Ang: Dear Emma,

p.s. For the love of God, HOW OLD ARE THESE FOOLS?!

And now, some final thoughts with Kim on….
Darcy vs Knightley

One of the best things about Emma Approved is that you don’t have to wait to see Alex. He is there from the very beginning, unlike Darcy in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, whom we see but don’t get a clear picture of till hallway through the story. You can instantly fall for Alex, because you see him for yourself instead of through someones else’s perspective, which sadly for Darcy makes Knightley superior. BOOM.

Questions. Questions.
Who’s got the questions?
WE DO.

Did you like the mystery of Darcy in TLBD?
Was the mystery of Darcy what kept you up night after night awaiting that blessed Darcy Day?
Would you say your heart was dizzie from that moment on?
Or do you prefer the straightforwardness of Knightley in Emma Approved?
How he’s a steady character we can meet and fall in love with without the perspective of other getting in the way.

And what of Knightley’s hawtness?
Does it hold a candle to our beloved Darcy?
Because, let’s be frank, why else are we watching Emma Approved?
Plot-schmot.

*Dear Indie Janers, Kim lives in Alaska, which is a million miles away from Ang and is basically the greatest damn travesty ever, ever, ever. The end.

Need more besties in your life? You can find Kim & Ang on Twitter. And make sure to check out the swoontastic, Emmy award winning Bestie to Bestie for all your Mr. Knightley needs.

Emma Woodhouse: Worst Austen Heroine?

Ok, so, as a Jane Austen fanatic, it is hard to say anything… untoward about one of her heroines. Especially one that Austen seemed to really like: perhaps even liked the most out of all her female leads. There are things I love about every single one of them.
But I have to be honest. I hate, or at least have a strong dislike, for one Miss Emma Woodhouse. As much as it pains me to say it, she just doesn’t sit well with me. But it does make me feel a little better knowing that Austen herself knew Emma was going to be disliked by most people. So I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad.

 

 

 

Granted, none of Austen’s heroines are perfect. Elizabeth Bennett is stubborn beyond reason, and so prideful that she passes judgment on people based on who strokes her ego. Anne Elliot is somewhat weak. Fanny Price is boring at best. Marianne is annoying and a bit absurd (not to mention immature), and her sister Elinor is one of those “little miss perfect” types that everyone hates. And then there’s little Catherine Morland, who is a tad ditzy.

 
So no one can, or should, expect Emma to be perfect either. She’s not, and that’s fine. But her flaws reach far beyond those of the other Austen heroines. Emma is vain (in fact, that’s sort of an understatement), controlling, manipulative, somewhat inconsiderate, and narcissistic to the point of almost being a danger to those around her.

 
Now, let me preface this by saying that I consider myself to be a feminist. It’s part of who I am. But there are those who would argue that not liking Emma, a woman, because she is bossy and confident, is sexist. They would say that these are traits that would be admired in a man. To that I say: False. Sticking to your guns, believing in yourself and what you do: those are all admirable things in any man or woman. Telling others what to do and thinking too highly of yourself are not admirable traits—in anyone. Herein lies the problem with Emma.

 
Emma feels the need to share her opinion on a number of subjects, and is compelled to make everyone else see things the way she does. Truly confident people trust in themselves and what they believe in; because of that trust they don’t need to make others see the way they do; they can relax enough to accept different views of the world. Crossing that line from being confident you are right, to having to force your opinion on others, is when one becomes controlling. This is when confidence becomes a negative thing—regardless of gender. Emma doesn’t listen to Knightley, she won’t even consider his side of things when he tells her to let people live their lives and that she should stay out of it. She is so “confident”, in fact, that she continues to try to put everyone’s lives in the order and social class she deems fit for them. She even convinces herself that Frank Churchill is in love with her (why wouldn’t he be; she’s Emma)—and she takes an immediate disliking to Jane Fairfax for no apparent reason other than that she interests people and takes attention away from the great Emma.

 
When you really care about people, you have to care about them enough to let them make their own choices—even if those choices are mistakes, and you know it—and to support them no matter what. It is made clear that Harriet Smith has strong feelings for Robert Martin (and he returns those feelings), but this is of no concern to Emma in regards to her “friend”. She manipulates Harriet into rejecting Robert Martin and into falling for Mr. Elton. She can’t just have an opinion, express it, and then let the person either follow her advice or not. No, she has to make people behave the way she wants them to. And in the case of Harriet, it wasn’t about friendly concern, or Harriet’s best interest. No, my personal take has always been that Emma wanted Harriet with Elton as opposed to Robert Martin because, in her snobbery, she would not be able to associate with Harriet if she were Robert Martin’s wife, and she didn’t want to lose Harriet. Harriet was someone who fed her ego, confirmed her high opinion of herself; who hung on her every word and did whatever Emma told her to. Emma wasn’t about to lose that.

 
That brings me to the big picture about why Emma is the worst Jane Austen lead. Emma was a snob, plain and simple. Sure, there have been plenty of other snobs in the Austen world (I’m looking at you Lady Catherine, Caroline Bingley, Sir Walter Elliot, and Fanny Dashwood), but never as a lead and never as open about it as her. Emma snubs people (Miss Bates, Robert Martin, Mrs. Elton, and the Coles) in a much more direct and assured way than the other Austen snobs, and she strives for a level of manipulation much higher than even Caroline Bingley. Emma is no matchmaker; she’s a woman who thinks she has the right to assign people to certain social groups, and life partners, just because she is rich. She thinks that not only makes her better than others, but makes her qualified to tell them what to do, and who they are allowed to love. And, sure, by the end of the book she seems to have changed, but people like Emma don’t change for very long. If we’d been able to see her life after she married Knightley, well…let’s just say that position is the driving force for people like her, and she wouldn’t have been able to resist for very long that temptation to use her position at every turn

 

*****

Chassity Merritt is an aspiring writer from Atlanta, GA. She discovered a passion for writing at an early age through her admiration from writers like Ann M. Martin (whose “Baby-Sitter Club” books she still believes are classics), at which point she started writing her own short stories that her elementary school teachers would read aloud to the class weekly. She is a horror film fanatic, a Jane Austen enthusiast, and a lover of gross, frat-boy comedies (The Hangover being at the top of that list). She works in the law field, but hopes to work in film. She has plans to attend graduate school soon (where she hopes to the meet cool artsy people and detached, cynical intellectuals). When she is not writing about film, she is often found at a coffee shop working on her novel, arguing about films with others. Some of her favorites are Glengarry GlenRoss, 12 Angry Men (both versions), The Sandlot, Major League, Fanboys, and The Apartment. Oh, and Jack Lemmon will always be her favorite actor.  You can find Chassity online on her website and on Twitter.

Developing Your Writing Process: Free Association

Here at Indie Jane, we’ve talked a lot about writing process, and usually, the words “planning” and “pantsing” (flying by the seat of your pants) come into the conversation.

But what are we really talking when we use these terms? What does all this signify when it comes to personality and the creative process? And what is the best way to create a novel?

What we are really talking about when we compare planners and pantsers is when the writer feels most comfortable free associating. In the context of novel writing, free association is just thinking whatever thoughts come to mind—without self-censorship or shame—and connecting them to form a plot or develop a character. You could call it brainstorming, letting the story tell itself, letting the characters introduce themselves, or letting the muse speak. Whatever. But it all comes down to this question: Do you prefer to free associate during the planning stages or during the writing of the novel?

Where do you fall on the planning continuum?

On the writing process spectrum, planning and pantsing are the two extremes. Some writers prefer to create a thorough outline before they put the first words on the page. They may also fill out worksheets or use other tools to create characters, themes, symbols, you name it. Maybe they fill out job applications for their characters, do their taxes, collect inspiration photographs, etc. They enjoy worksheets and charts and use them to plan every aspect of the novel, most of the time before they start the actual writing. But what they are really doing is free associating during the planning stage. Once they have completed the free association process, they begin writing with a concrete plan for how the story and characters should develop.

Other writers don’t do any of those things. In fact, pre-writing exercises have the opposite effect on them. Whereas a planner needs to have most of the blanks filled in before writing, creating a thorough outline and having a defined plan can literally stop a pantser in their tracks. These writers feel most comfortable when they begin with the bare necessities and allow ideas to form as they write. Trying to write a defined plan before they being the writing process actually stops the free flow of ideas. Pantsers prefer to free associate as they write.

Both planners and pantsers are actually doing the same thing—free associating—but they do it at different times in the writing process.

Is one better than the other? Will one extreme make a wrtier’s life easier?

There are pros and cons to each. Planners may feel bound to their outlines, even if a better idea comes along in the writing process. They may not want to let go of the hours of hard work in the planning stages in order to jump on a better idea. They may feel as if they have wasted a lot of time and effort if they change the path of the novel later in the game. If they do scrap the old plan for the new one, they may have to stop writing and redo the entire outline and plan from the beginning. Planners may also enjoy planning so much that they never get around to writing or they may have put so much pressure on themselves with an incredible plan that they fear the novel will never live up to their expectations.

Pantsers are always willing to change, and that results in a lot of extra writing and “wasted” text. Because they free associate while writing, they may not have defined their characters fully or fleshed out the plot completely until they have gotten quite far into the book. Pantsers usually do more rewrites for this reason. Pantsers also risk becoming distracted by research in the midst of the writing process, and their plots may meander if they do not have a good understanding of story structure.

Both types of writers are again in the same predicament. As the story develops and new ideas occur, sometimes our efforts seem “wasted.” But in my view, nothing is wasted. You can always use rejected scenes as short stories or move them to other books. Same with outlines and other research. You can use it all in the future. Nothing is wasted.

Many writers naturally fall more toward one end of the spectrum or the other, but the middle is probably where we ought to strive to be. We ought to plan just enough to avoid extensive rewrites, and pants just enough so that we are ALWAYS comfortable making a big change for the improvement of the book.

Next month, we’ll talk about some ways to move to the middle of the spectrum. I think I’ll call that article “Planning While You Pants.”

Ps. If you are following my Southern Fraud Thriller series, Moral Hazard will be out on ebook by Monday, March 24. Or sooner!

After that, I’ll be working on my new Austenesque novella Mary Bennet!

The Besties Take On Emma Approved

Ang: Hey, bestie.
Jess is asking for someone to review
the first forty episodes of Emma Approved for Indie Jane.
Every Wednesday for four weeks,
she’d like someone to review ten episodes
during the Emma group reading extravaganza.
Wanna tag team it with me?

Kim:
Wait.
What about silent protest?

Ang: Damn the man.
Save the Empire.

Kim: Fight the power.
*fist in the air*

Ang: I’ll break silent protest* for love.
But mostly for tie petting.

Kim: YESSSSSS.

Does it matter that I’ve never read the book?
I mean, I have seen the movie… ahem Clueless.

Ang: *shrugs*
I’ve never been able to get passed the first few chapters of the book.
The Paltrow movie is adorbs, but Clueless is my jam.

Kim: Clearly, we are the most qualified people for the job.

Ang: Totes.

Without further ado,
we give you,
a bestie breakdown of Emma Approved.
The first ten episodes that is.

I am Emma Woodhouse: Episode One
bestie description:
Meet Emma Woodhouse.
Fashionable know-it-all who’s here to fix your life
whether you like it or not.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: This series is already win.
DAMN my soul for saying it.
And I’ve got one word for why-
Knightley.
Kim: BOOM KNIGHTLEY.
Ang: I could boom his…
Wait.
Do they have Domino?


Kim: *pets the screen*

Imminent Success: Episode Two
bestie description:
In which Emma gives a little back story, and basically wants to be the next Oprah.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: Why do I believe this is her ultimate goal?


Kim: IMMINENT BEES!!!!

Self Sufficient: Episode Three
bestie description:
In which Snarky Knightley in full force finds Emma the perfect assistant.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: “Is she like your spy? Your Trojan horse?
Is she going to murder me in my sleep?!”
GET OUT OF MY BRAIN.


Kim: Yes, Mr. Knightley,
WE ARE CHECKING OUT YOUR ASS!


Ang: I endorse this.

The Right Decision: Episode Four
bestie description:
In which Emma loses her damn mind and tries to manipulate her best friend’s life.
Also known as, mind your own business, yo.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: Call me crazy,
but maybe Annie should tell Ryan she’s canceling their wedding
before canceling their wedding.


Just.A.Thought.
Kim: Dude, the binder of manipulation is ridiculous.

Do What’s Best: Episode Five
bestie description:
In which Knightley makes us swoon and we really don’t pay attention to plot,
because hawtness and not caring.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: The name thing?
Kim: Angry Alex…


’nuff said.

Let’s Be Frank: Episode Six
bestie description:
In which Harriet needs to wash her hair and Knightly is adorbs.
Oh and more plot stuff?

bestie thoughts:
Ang: I am totally sold on Mr. Knightley.
He just stole my soul.


Kim: I heart Alex’s face!

What Really Matters: Episode Seven
bestie description:
In which Emma tries to drag Alex into her manipulation game
and homie don’t play that.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: OH DAMN.
Mr. Knightley just laid down the law.


Kim: Knightley is THE.BEST.

Being a Great Friend: Episode Eight
bestie description:
In which we swoon hard and crazy eyes reaches a whole new level of epicness.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: Why do I get the impression she’d eat my face if given the chance?


Kim: Let’s talk about more important things like this:


Ang: Yes, more of THIS.
Kim: Seriously though, more of that!

A Worthy Subject: Episode Nine
bestie description:
In which ridiculous shoes are compared to confidence whilst Emma smirks.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: You will never catch me wearing five inch heels.
Like, ever, never, it’s for the greater good.
Buh-bye, confidence.
Hello, comfortable feet.


Kim: Dear sweet baby Darcy, Harriet is going to break an ankle.
ps… I love that Emma calls Alex “Snarky Knightley.”
Ang: Swa-ooooon.

Wind in the Sails: Episode Ten
bestie description:
In which Alex is under appreciated, as per usual.

bestie thoughts:
Ang: Just say no to pinchy shoes, my friends.
Just say HELL NO.
Do say HELL YES to Knightley.


Kim: Being spied on by your boss? That sounds… awesome?
Ang: If that employee were Mr. Knightley, how could you not?
I mean, that’s against the law and people shouldn’t do that sort of thing.

Final Bestie Thoughts
brought to you this week by Ang

Emma vs. Lizzie

I’ve always had a hard time putting my finger on why I don’t particularly like (or even care about) Emma Woodhouse. Watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved has clarified it a lil for me. See, for me, Lizzie is the perfect asshole. She’s stubborn and loyal and says what’s on her mind and she will cut you if you mess with her loved ones. Yet, she’s loving and caring and there’s an underlying sweetness to her. A sweetness that comes from her strong family ties and her humble background. Emma, on the other hand, doesn’t have a humble bone in her body. Her wealth and privilege have given her an inflated ego and she believes wholeheartedly that her way is the superior way. She’s spent most of her life being spoiled by her father and pandered to by her admirers. Thus, Emma has become the queen of manipulation. These manipulations know no boundaries. And while I understand she justifies her meddling as for the greater good (and that maybe I’m a tad harder on her than I should be) I find people who manipulate others for their own good disgusting (yep, harsh word is harsh). I’m excited to see if the cast and crew of Emma Approved can help me put aside my prejudices and learn to adore Emma as much as I did Lizzie in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

So far, it hasn’t happened. However, Joanna Sotomura (the actress who portrays Emma) is beyond adorable and I have faith in her.

TAG.
You’re it!
Did you watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries?
Are you a fan of Lizzie or Emma?
Do you forgive Emma her manipulations in Emma Approved?
Is she sweet and misguided?
Or is she a self-involved, bored little rich girl?

TALK TO US.
You know you wanna.

Need more besties in your life? You can find Kim & Ang on Twitter. And make sure to check out the swoontastic, Emmy award winning Bestie To Bestie for all your Mr. Knightley needs.

*Silent protest was Ang’s attempt to stand her ground and not watch Emma Approved until The Lizzie Bennet Diaries DVDs and other swag she paid for were in her hot lil hands. As you can tell, it was not only extremely effective, but well executed.

Emma Chat Recap #3

This week’s chat brought us through chapter 23.  You can always join in at any time! Next Sunday we will be meeting in the chat room at 6 PST / 9 EST to discuss through chapter 31.  Join us!

 

 

Mr. Elton = Moron

 

Jess: So where do we want to start? With what a moron Mr. Elton is?  We did the proposal last week, but this week it starts with the recovery from it…and on CHRISTMAS EVE!  Way to ruin a holiday, jerk.

Lynne: I really liked that she saw that he wasn’t brokenhearted.

Liz: She misjudged, he’s there proclaiming his love, she rejects him, and then they’re still stuck in the carriage.  I cringed back from the pages.

Jess: So awkward, Liz.  Yeah, Lynne she could tell right away and she was right, he was offended but not brokenhearted

Farida: He was awful and so unpleasant!

Samantha: So funny how certain Elton was that Emma loved him.

Jess: And I think it’s interesting how Emma considers him as much lower than her as he thinks Harriet is lower than him.

Nancy (via Liz): Actually, that does show Emma’s snobbishness towards Harriet– You could have a friend who was lower than you by a few social degrees but not marry a man who is lower than you. That’s an interesting distinction.

Farida: It’s a bit difficult to keep in mind their social standing and what is due to each of them… does anyone else have this problem? I have to remind myself that they are not modern people and there are all these rules..

 

 

Emma = Back in the Saddle Again

 

Lynne: So Emma is just starting to think “maybe I’m not a good matchmaker. But maybe I’m wrong about being wrong.  Maybe I am a good one after all. Next!”

Liz: *facepalm* to Emma.

Jess: Yeah, she certainly rebounds to it fast.  Even with the entrance of Jane Fairfax she thinks “oh, it’s too bad there’s no one to set her up with.”

Nancy (via Liz): Maybe Emma is projecting her need to see romantic love onto other people. [Hence the matchmaking.]   She’s sublimated her own romantic love needs due to having to be with her father all the time.

Jess: Possibly, because she feels like she needs to stay with her father. He’s so upset still by his first daughter leaving – and she’s been gone long enough to have 5 kids

Lynne:  Yeah, if I had to spend time with her father, romance would NOT be on my mind. Quick death would be.

*Brief confusion on how many kids Isabella actually has*

*Jennifer confirms there are 5 but only three named*

Jennifer: They were there, but not there.  But oh how they love visiting Mr. Woodhouse.

 

 

Jane and Those Who Can’t, Write:

 

Samantha: So if Emma is matchmaking because she can’e marry, is Austen writing romance because she can’t get any? Interesting. . .

Jess: That is an interesting thought, Samantha.  Those who can’t ….write.

Lynne: Could Austen resist writing about romance? But I had a similar thought regarding Emma. Was Jane a bit like her, watching romance from a disjointed pov?

Nancy (via Liz): Jane did give strict advice to her nieces– And it wasn’t “Marry the richest” but “Marry the guy you can stand living with.

Jennifer: I agree with Nancy/Liz, whom I will refer to as the Borg for no reason.  She had a message to women who just married morons for money.

Jess: I feel like with Mr. W and Miss Bates Austen just LET LOOSE with all the ridiculous stuff she’s been forced to hear over the years.

Jennifer: I can’t believe how long those food conversations went!

 

When in Doubt, Kill the Parents:

 

Samantha: Anyone else notice how many characters are orphans in this novel?

Jess: YES, EVERYONE IS DEAD. Mr. W is like the only remaining parent.

Samantha: Not necessarily orphans missing both parents, but at least one. Even Mrs. Elton has no parents.

Liz: How common was that, back then?

Lynne: Lots of death in childbirth.

Samantha: Where are Mr. Elton’s parents? Any mention?

Jess: Knightley Brothers – Parents dead, Jane Fairfax – parents dead, the new Mrs. Elton – parents dead, Harriet – Parents UNKNOWN, Emma – Mom Dead, Churchill – Mom dead, The Martins – Dad dead…

Jennifer: Mr. Elton – hatched.

Samantha: But Mr. Woodhouse lives on and on and on. How old it that guy anyway?

Lynne: Mr. Woodhouse is about 103.

Patty: It’s because Mr. Woodhouse takes care of himself

Jess: It’s the gruel, Sam.

Patty: And stays away from snow.

Samantha: Long live gruel! This book could be renamed The Woodhouse Diet.

Jennifer: Gruel for everybody, along with some nice fried pork. No cake.

Jess: Fried pork: with just a little oil…lightly salted.

 

Also discussed:

Why does Knightley fall in love with Emma?

Is his relationship with her too paternal?

Did he keep correcting her all the time once they got married? Or were they a happy, content couple?

Why did Austen spend so much time on a physical description of Jane Fairfax when she usually doesn’t spend much time on them at all?

Emma and Frank – sometimes it’s not a perfect match even if everyone ships it.

Emma is written more like a mystery than a romance.

 

 

Analyzing Unlikable – An Emma Case Study by Cecilia Gray & Giveaway

“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” ~ Jane Austen

Jane Austen wastes no time telling us that Emma Woodhouse is beautiful, smart, rich, and happy. We’re talking blessed enough to be portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow. Despite her young years, Emma is independent, successfully runs her home, and is a trusted member of the community: a woman whose opinion matters.

In other words, for the time, Emma Woodhouse is a woman with power.

 

Suck it, Katniss

 

What’s not to like?

A lot, apparently.

In searching for random descriptions of Emma, often-used phrases included: bossy, opinionated, snobby, clueless (not just from that Heckerling remake), annoying, and downright mean.

There is nothing wrong with these descriptions. There’s nothing even particularly false with these descriptions.

What troubles me is how much they yield the resulting value judgment: I just couldn’t like her.

 

What’s to like about positive female dynamics?

 

This is even after accounting for all of Emma’s good traits. We know Emma lost her mom at a very young age. She is incredibly indulgent of her father, who is far too overprotective. She makes mistakes and feels truly sorry to have made them. She’s aware of how blessed she is and wants to share her good fortune with those around her.

Yet still! Unlikable? Why?

Because she’s blessed? Because she’s honest with herself about her good traits instead of falsely (or worse…cluelessly) modest? Why do we consider her bossy and opinionated instead of confident in her assessments? Snobby instead of having standards for herself and her friend?

Now, far be it for me to tell people how to feel. Feelings are what they are.

I’m not the first author to be concerned with the issue of likability in female leads, both in books and television/movies. Both Buzzfeed and Slate recently argued opposite ends of the same spectrum – from encouraging more unlikable characters as necessary to the fabric of our pop culture to championing more likability, particularly in the loftiest of lofty literary fiction. If you like young-adult fiction with “unlikable” characters I recommend anything by Courtney Summers and thus also recommend reading her intelligently thought-out essays and tweets on the matters.

But really, what I want is that when you read a book and you stumble upon a character who rubs you the wrong way, who you find unlikable, that you ask yourself: so what?

 

The sun is a perpetual halo around my head – I don’t have to care what you think.

 

I had a long, drawn out conversation with a friend who hates Emma. Just despises her. Hates her in writing. On film. As personified by Gwyneth. As modernized by Amy Heckerling. So I asked her why. The first answer was what I expected.

She thinks she knows what’s best just because she’s rich.

Well, so what? I asked.

Ten more minutes of this and we dug deep into my friend’s psyche, particularly her feelings about wealth in general and that people who don’t have to struggle for wealth don’t deserve her respect, regardless of other life struggles. She also realized that this belief, whether misplaced or not, had been playing out her entire life – with her friends, coworkers and acquaintances. She’d held onto people and discarded others under the guise of “liking them” or “getting them” when the underlying cause was an inability to respect people who hadn’t clawed up from nothing like she had. She had an inherent disrespect for those who experienced the random act of being born lucky, even if they had proven themselves in other ways. She walked away from the experience a little dazed and a lot more reflective.

The next time you find yourself getting a bitter taste in your mouth when you read a book, the next time you cringe when a character speaks or acts, the next time you hate a heroine – ask yourself why? Then so what? Then so what again.

What you’ll discover is the unlikability has little to do with the character and everything to do with you.

*****

Cecilia Gray lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she reads, writes and breaks for food. She also pens her biographies in the third person. Like this. As if to trick you into thinking someone else wrote it because she is important. Alas, this is not the case.

She’s rather enamored of being contacted by readers and hopes you’ll oblige.

She’s available everywhere! Otherwise known as  Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram and via email at cecilia@ceciliagray.com.

 

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