Two weeks ago, one of the accounts I follow on Tumblr seemingly spent an entire evening reblogging posts about Mr. Darcy. “I LOVE DARCY.” “Darcy is the perfect man!!!” “In a world of Wickhams, wait for your Darcy.” “Hopelessly waiting for my Mr. Darcy.” None of this was new, but there was a point when I started to think that maybe we have an unhealthy obsession with the hot brooding guy from Pride and Prejudice.
Let me be clear: I have absolutely nothing against literary crushes. We all get them. My problem is when we start comparing people in real life to an idealized version or headcanon of a fictional person whose major flaws are ignored.
Mr. Darcy is great, and his character journey in Pride and Prejudice is valuable, but if we “keep waiting for our Mr. Darcy,” we’re going to be heartbroken.
Darcy is that hot guy from high school who was higher in the social hierarchy and therefore wouldn’t even consider dating you. Like Lizzy Bennet, you might have been in that middle popularity status, where you sometimes talked to him, but you were not friends and you were not social equals.
Darcy is also that hot guy from [insert name of place you frequent]. You don’t know him very well, but you do know that he’s very cool and very out of your league.
Darcy is “proof” that the attractive person will deign to fall in love with us. They have some adjective that we don’t have, yet they will fall in love with us because we’re so quirky and brilliant. We’re special snowflakes, and they see that.
But here’s the thing: Darcy is not the Perfect Man, and claiming that no man will live up to his (idealized) standard is not healthy.
My main issue with Mr. Darcy is that he’s rude. He disrespects Elizabeth’s family in the middle of his proposal, and then expects her to want to marry him. Look, we all know that her family is annoying, and we’re all tired of Lydia and Mrs. Bennet at this point in the book, but insulting the people that a girl loves most isn’t the best way to say you love her. She’s right to reject him because he doesn’t respect her.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries characterized him as an agoraphobic lobster: a super awkward guy who simply doesn’t know how to talk to a girl. I think it’s the most plausible and gracious interpretation, because it explains his character growth. He’s a misunderstood introvert who comes out of his shell and takes responsibility for his own actions. He does start to understand Elizabeth’s family, so he eventually respects them by the time the two get together. He learns and he becomes a great guy, but it takes time.
Maybe I’m misunderstanding the Darcy fangirls online, but I think his flaws get forgotten. Darcy, or Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen, is remembered as the guy who’s out of Elizabeth’s league, falls in love with her, waits for her to have her character journey, and is still waiting to make a grand romantic gesture when she finally comes around. He’s the quarterback who reveals at the high school reunion that he was always in love with her. There’s a faint memory that maybe one time he was rude, but it was all for love! He was just pulling her pigtails! Because he’s a fantasy, he becomes this man whose love can heal all wounds, who never forgets your birthday or anniversary, and who will never ever argue or fight with you.
If we wait for Perfect Mr. Darcy to come along in real life, we do one of two things: 1) we date the guys who don’t respect us nor our families, in hopes that they’ll one day come around; or 2) we spend so much time waiting for big romantic gestures that we ignore the normal kind of love that is around us.
Sometimes love has lines like “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you,” but that’s creepy on a first date. Maybe we should look for traits like kindness, generosity, and humility instead of “looks like Colin Firth” and “buys a company so my little sister doesn’t ruin my reputation.” Standards are a very good thing, but there’s a point when they become extreme.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is out today, and I’m excited to see a Mr. Darcy who kills zombies. What I’m not excited for are the Valentine’s Day posts online about waiting for an idealized version of a guy who thinks it’s okay to insult his crush’s family. The guy who thinks he’s better than everyone doesn’t always change, so why not date the guy who is kind from the beginning?
At the very least, pick a literary crush who would make a better boyfriend.