To Mansfield with Love from Texas

This is a rewrite of something I wrote last week, then abandoned because it seemed so silly in the midst of worries about the safety of my Parisian friends and the impacts of the attacks. My original focus has changed from shipping characters to what it is now.

To my despair, From Mansfield with Love has finally ended. In September, I wrote about my feelings on my sudden and unwanted literary crush on the scoundrel.  Those were happier fandom days when I knew we would see more of Frankie Price’s dear heart.

Mansfield Park was my favorite Jane Austen novel when I was in high school. I assume that it was hipster Bethany wanting to love a less-known character combined with teenage angst and unrequited “love.” After all, in the end, the guy realizes that he’s always been in love with his childhood friend, who is a much better person than the girl he nearly marries. It’s like the 19th century “You Belong with Me.”

(If you want to know about how I felt in high school about this, here’s a fanvid of the Billie Piper adaptation and a song from the concept album for the musical Dracula. This became a favorite song of mine, as evidenced by my old Youtube comment.)

“Guy realizes he’s in love with his best friend who is literally * an angel” is the summary of several Taylor Swift songs and around a million chick flicks. Honestly, it’s even what Mansfield Park is about. We want to see the kind, honest, hard-working girl to get the guy. We want to see that goodness wins.
*figuratively speaking, as the kids actually mean these days

Of course, goodness does win in From Mansfield with Love, and Frankie is rewarded in the end, but this adaptation gives her a character growth that feels more real and hopeful to the modern viewer.

What I mean is this: we like when good things happen to good people, but it’s much harder to like the good person when we never see them struggle. We like attainable goodness. We like the selflessness of Fanny Price, but we worry that her family takes advantage of her dependability. We like Jane Bennet, but we want her to learn to differentiate between the Wickhams and the Bingleys and the Darcys of the world.

Over the course of From Mansfield With Love, Frankie slowly gained the confidence that I feel she lacked in one of my favorite books. She was shy and introverted, and only her brother knew how she truly felt. Ed started dating Mary, and he started disappearing. Because she was so lonely, it makes sense that she sought friendship with the Crawfords, who forced her out of her shell and encouraged her to consider leaving Mansfield. She considered moving to the Antigua hotel and enrolling at a university.

Thinking back on the series, I wonder if Frankie rejecting Henry was meant to foreshadow the later scenes when she rejected Ed. As in the book, she doubted that Henry was being sincere when he professed his love for her. We viewers watched him tell his sister that he wanted to break Frankie’s heart for her own good. Heartbreak is a pivotal part of a young woman’s existence, and it is his service to humanity to facilitate that personal growth. *cue eye rolls* Of course, he himself ended up being the one with the broken heart.

In the book, Fanny never rejected Edmund. Austen simply wrote that after some amount of time, he got over Mary Crawford and realized who he really loved.

I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.

In the webseries, however, Ed tried to use Frankie as a rebound, and she rightfully rejected him. In the span of about two weeks, Tom was in a car accident, Mary complained about Ed caring more about his brother than her, Rhea’s affair with Henry went public, Mary blamed the affair on Frankie because she rejected Henry, Julia brought her kind-of boyfriend home (the one that her dad hates), and Ed broke up with Mary. Then he turned around and saw that Frankie was always there for him.

This was the moment when I realized how much I liked this adaptation. Both men who confessed their love to Frankie had questionable track records. Henry increased a rift between two sisters, one of whom was engaged, and he moved onto Frankie because there was no one else for him to flirt with. Ed abandoned his best friend for a girl who didn’t respect him publicly said as much on social media while his brother was in the hospital. Henry wanted a girl who would make him into a good person, and Ed wanted a girl who would make him feel better about his breakup. When rejected, Henry had an affair with a married woman and was the reason why  her marriage ended. When rejected, Ed took time to refocus and rebuild his friendships.

This is a post about Frankie’s character progression and the end of a webseries, but it’s also about what the model for a “good girl” seems to be in the 21st century. We expect Ed to realize that Frankie is the perfect girl for him. We expect his family to finally thank her for being a peacekeeper and for helping them communicate better with each other. We expect her to finally get the affirmation that she deserves. That’s what happens in any novel or romantic comedy.

What we don’t expect because we see it less often is for her to tell Ed to come back when he means it. We expect their love for each other to magically heal all wrongs from the past year. The “good girl” in a Lifetime movie knows that it’s the end of the movie, so obviously it’s True Love, never Rebound.

Frankie figured out that it was better to turn down the guy she loved because the timing was wrong. By the end of the series, she knew her worth and she knew that she didn’t have to settle for what Ed was offering her. Her growth gave him space to grow, too, so his second profession of love was indeed sincere.

In short, I appreciated that Frankie knew who she was. She showed us that the “good girl” doesn’t have to be a passive character. She can be kind, forgiving, and confident.

I still ship Frankie and pre-affair Henry, and I still want to see a parallel world where he’s a good person. I still want more videos of Frankie having adventures at Mansfield or at university. I want a spinoff series of  Julia and Yates traveling the world.

From Mansfield with Love ended, and I’m not happy about that, but at least we said goodbye after some satisfying character arcs.

Thanks for sharing your year with us, Frances Price. It was a pleasure.

From Texas with love,
Bethany

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