Three fictional characters

If you’re wondering where I have been for the last month, I’ve been working, writing cover letters, and creating new career goals. I had jury duty, but did not get picked, and I’ve started reading my third classic Russian novel (Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev). I’m also studying for an exam that I’m taking in a few weeks. What I mean is, “Hello, I’m alive, and it’s nice to meet those of you who just discovered me.”

I haven’t finished my new short Russian novel, and I’m still reading Richard III and Henry VI Part 2. Obviously, I have a really bad problem with reading four books at a time, and never finishing any of them. Let’s talk about something more familiar instead!

You might have seen that meme Describe Yourself in 3 Characters meme this week. I saw it twice on Facebook before I decided to submerge myself in Tumblr gifs for an hour to find my best characterization. If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have seen that my characters were kind of awkward. A transitional phase of life leads to many awkward feelings, and I think that’s why certain characters speak to me.

Alice Rackham from Classic Alice

I loved Classic Alice because the project seemed like something I’d do. This perfectionist is told that she doesn’t measure up (she gets a B- on a paper, and her professor says she doesn’t understand the material), so she picks random books and characters to be life models. She makes mistakes, and she learns that real people deviate from their fictional counterparts (ie the Macbeth storyline). She’s awkward and intense; and while I think her project is a terrible idea because classic characters are known for their flaws and poor decisions, I’d be a liar if I said I never based a decision on something I read in a book.

Jane Hayes from Austenland

austenland darcy collectible.gif

I saw and loved this movie. Then I read the book, and I cringed so much that I never wanted to read a “Girl enters Jane Austen’s world” book ever again. The third step was reading a post on Tumblr about Jane and realizing that I loved the movie and hated the book because Jane is my MBTI. In the book, Jane is a 30 year old woman who starts planning a wedding after going on one date with a guy. She’s intense, and not in a good way. I hope I’m not like her when I’m 30, but I’m okay with being the less intense movie Jane. Sure, she needs to throw out her creepy Darcy collectibles, but her apartment (sans Pemberley dollhouse) is cute. And she goes to a resort where she gets to step back in time and learn that she actually prefers the 21st to the 19th century.

Darcy!Jane from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

lbd-super-important

Am I comparing myself to a costume theatre version of a male character famously played by Colin Firth? Yes, though Darcy was played by Daniel Vincent Gordh in The LBD. Everyone always wants to say that they’re Elizabeth Bennet because she’s so spunky and intelligent and beautiful, but I’m definitely more introverted than her. The LBD interpreted Darcy as someone who’s shy, hates large parties, and gets nervous around someone he finds attractive. He fake texts so he doesn’t have to word vomit in front of Lizzie. That interpretation focuses less on his pride and more on his awkwardness.

 

Maybe books, webseries, and movies always have awkward characters because that’s how the audiences feel about themselves. I love The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy because the characters are making mistakes as they figure out what they want to be when they grow up. I love Mansfield Park (and From Mansfield with Love) because Fanny is the calm protagonist in a sea of insanity. I love Northanger Abbey (and The Cate Morland Chronicles) because Catherine has an untrue sense of reality. These characters learn about themselves and their worlds through saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. They make mistakes so I don’t have to.

I can live vicariously through my favorite awkward characters, and I’m thankful for that.

Slytherin Susan Pevensie and a crossover love

You might be wondering where I’ve been and why I haven’t written as much recently. Truth is, I’m burned out. I’ve been working more hours at work, which means that my introverted brain is tired of talking and writing on my days off. I have a couple of drafts of posts that I got halfway through…. and then I realized that they didn’t meet my standards for myself, so I decided not to post them. I’ll get back to them eventually, but they’re abandoned for now.

I was going to leave it there, but then I realized that I actually did want to discuss an interesting post from Tumblr.

A few months ago, a strange crossover started appearing on my dash. A Narnia fan named digorykirke started blogging and reblogging posts about a Susan Pevensie / Tom Riddle Jr. pairing. I was confused and a bit disturbed, because I didn’t want to think about this ray of sunshine dating a dark lord. This week, I finally saw the explanation and origin story for the [relation]ship, and I realized how much it made sense.

Apparently, digorykirke realized around Christmas of 2015 that Susan Pevensie was born around the same time as Tom Riddle. Because this is the internet, multiple people had decided (or wrote that they had a headcanon) that if she went to Hogwarts, Susan would be a Slytherin in a family of Gryffindors, and she’d probably become friends with Tom. One fan asked digorykirke to edit some photos together, and then even more people started shipping the couple.

Now that I see some of the reasoning behind the ship, I get it. It makes sense that, in a reality that has both Narnia and Hogwarts, Susan Pevensie could meet or fall in love with Tom Riddle.

Prince Caspian is the last time that Susan travels between England and Narnia. After becoming a grownup Queen in Narnia, she returns home and becomes a child again. By the time the Pevensies return to Narnia in Prince Caspian, and only one Earth-year after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Narnia has become a faded memory. Susan’s the last to reference her memories of their kingdom at Cair Paravel, and she’s the last to recognize Aslan. At the end of the novel, Aslan tells Peter and Susan that they’re too old now to ever return to Narnia. From Aslan’s similar conversation with Edmund and Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we learn that he goes by another name (Jesus) in our world.

Eight years after Susan’s last adventure in Narnia, we discover that she has grown up. The “Friends of Narnia” – the Professor with the magic wardrobe, his friend who watched Narnia’s birth, the other Pevensie siblings, the cousin who was changed by Aslan, and the cousin’s friend who found strength – gather together to swap stories. Susan is conspicuously absent, and the family is bitter.

Whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says “What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”

She’s patronizing. That’s the only way to put it. She talks down to her family members and minimizes their stories to “funny games.” She participated in the battles and feasts and adventures that her siblings remember, yet she denies their reality. Narnia is literally another world, so her memories of growing older than her current body’s physical age may seem hard to believe, but she doesn’t even want to talk about the possibility that it was real. In her mind, Narnia is a game of make-believe that she played with her family during the War. Lucy thought it up, then roped in her siblings, her cousin, and her cousin’s classmate. Now that she’s 21, Susan does not want to be a child, and she does not want to indulge in imagination.

She’s interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.

Pantyhose and makeup and parties are not bad in themselves, but they’re the only things that grownup Susan seems to care about. The Last Battle takes place seven years after Eustace and Jill’s quest in The Silver Chair, which indicates that Jill has had time to get to know and understand the Pevensie siblings. She witnessed everyone’s awkward teenage years, so she knows how hard Susan tried to become a “mature adult.” To a kid, pantyhose, lipstick, and invitations are things that grownups get to do, so that’s what Susan does.

I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.

Polly Plummer, who is like the kids’ aunt, has the older, big picture view of Susan. She’s just as critical as Eustace and Jill, but she realizes that Susan is striving to reach some ideal of “adulthood” without understanding what that actually means. Wearing makeup and pantyhose and going to parties may make someone look “sophisticated” on the outside, but they don’t do anything about a person’s character or emotional maturity. As a child, Polly had her own adventures with witches, and witnessed Aslan singing Narnia into being. Afterwards, she lived through two World Wars and became friends with the children who got to see Narnia centuries after her visit. She’s in her 60s now, and she has the wisdom to realize that adulthood is about more than just material things.

What I, and everyone else who sorts her into Slytherin, see in Susan Pevensie is ambition and an obsession with image. She’s probably still a nice person, but she sacrifices her relationships with her family in order to get the lifestyle that she wants. She’s a beautiful young woman who likes a good party. She wears stylish clothes and has connections with the types of people who will invite her to parties.She gets embarrassed when her family talks about their childhood adventures (because imagination is “immature”), and she pushes them away with her words. Her family builds close relationships by talking about Narnia, and she purposefully excludes herself because she thinks it’s childish.

Now imagine this social climber at Hogwarts. She wants to be accepted, and she’s heartbroken because she’s too old to ever return to her second home. She enjoys mothering her siblings and acting like an adult, but lately they’ve pushed back at her. Her older brother is the popular guy at her rival house (Peter is totally a Gryffindor; there’s no way he’d end up in Slytherin), and she feels cut off from her family. The physical separation feels even worse when her little brother and sister tell her all about their adventures in Narnia with their mutual friend. The last straw comes when her bratty little cousin, Eustace, gets to see treasure and visit with Caspian and Aslan. It’s just not fair.

Then she sees Tom Riddle. He’s Peter’s age, only a year older than her, and he has charisma. He has popularity. He’s brilliant and powerful; he’s like a god in Slytherin. Like any good Slytherin, she just knows when someone’s dangerous. He’s charming, but she knows he’s a bit of a bad boy. This is the type of person that she wants to be.

Susan can see the loneliness in his eyes. She doesn’t know he’s an orphan, and she doesn’t know where his anger comes from. All she knows is that he is surrounded by people, yet has no substantive friendships.

Tom doesn’t know about Narnia; he’s only 12 and doesn’t know legilimency yet. What he does know is that little first year Susan Pevensie carries herself like royalty. Unlike all the other pureblooded kids at Hogwarts, she actually acts like someone important. She’s poised and mature. She doesn’t push for a high status in the common room, because everyone subconsciously knows that she’s worth it. If Tom didn’t know she were 11, he would have said that her eyes had seen things.

Susan and Tom bond in their loneliness and forge a strong friendship amidst the politics of 1930s and 1940s Slytherin. Tom brings his charisma and wide network of associates. Susan brings her understanding of politics and ability to make friends. Each feels like an outcast when they “go home” for holidays.Susan develops a crush on her “sexy bad boy” friend, but that relationship fizzles out when she starts going to pureblood parties and he turns secretly homicidal.

When her family dies in the trainwreck at the end of The Last Battle, Susan goes one of two ways in her grief: either going dark and getting revenge on the people she sees responsible for her problems, or reevaluating her life and learning more about Aslan/Jesus.


It seems that this analysis has basically become a headcanon/fanfic. There aren’t too many crossover ships that I can see happening with The Chronicles of Narnia, but this is one that just makes sense to me. Of course Susan would want to be friends with the powerful guy in Slytherin. She’s a social climber. She wants to be accepted by society.

If acceptance means allying with Tom Riddle, then she’ll throw herself into his portion of society.

Some people on Tumblr are alarmed at the idea of Queen Susan the Gentle being in a relationship with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but I can obviously see it happening. What are your thoughts on the matter? I’m curious.

*Quotes are from page 135 of the 1977 edition of The Last Battle from Collier Books

Les Mis, priests, and kindness

As time goes on and the American election season progresses, I grow more and more frustrated with the entire thing. Candidates and politicians say horrible things, and their followers demean anyone who disagrees.

People are unkind, and they almost make me lose hope in my society.

I’ve mentioned this character before, but I love thinking about the bishop in Les Misérables. He was based on a real bishop in the same area who was renowned for charity and caring for the poor. Let me share a few of my favorite things about the fictional Bishop of Digne, Monseigneur Myriel.

  1. Three days after moving in, he trades houses with the town’s hospital. Though his position in the church and in society give him a beautiful mansion, he sees that the paupers’ hospital is overcrowded, especially during epidemics. So he switches.
  2. Right after swapping houses with the hospital, he draws up his budget so he can give 93% of his stipend/income to others. Who gets the money? The seminary, missionaries, maternity societies, prisoners (and improvement of prisons), underpaid teachers, education of poor girls, and the poor. That leaves 1000 francs for him, his sister, and their maid/housekeeper to live on. Then, when he discoverfs that he’s supposed to get money for travel expenses, he applies and gives the 3000 francs to hospital patients, maternity societies, and orphans.
  3. The people in his region like him so much that they nickname him Mr. Welcome.
  4. He speaks their language. Not only does he make religion easy for people to understand, but he takes the effort to understand where people are coming from. He listens. Then there’s the fact that he literally speaks their language, in a time when not all of France speaks the same language. He’s from the region, so he picks up the Provençal languages that the people speak.
  5. He’s willing to change his mind. Before he became a bishop, M. Myriel fled the French Revolution in fear of being killed for being an aristocrat. Years later, he hears that a member of the Revolutionary Convention is dying nearby. This old man is utterly repugnant to him, but they talk. It’s a very strained conversation, and yet the former aristocrat leaves with empathy for a man who tried to fight against injustice. He enters the room expecting to be stern, and leaves having asked for his former enemy’s blessing.
  6. He’s daring in the way he serves others. He visits mountainous villages under threat of violent robbers, because the villagers need him, and the robbers are so touched that they leave expensive church apparel so he can hold a church service. He wears his clothes threadbare so he can devote more money to the poor. He leaves his doors open so he’s always available to those who needs him. He gives Jean Valjean, a convict who steals from him, his only precious metal belongings so the latter can become an honest man.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to live on only 6% of their income, and I’m not saying that no one should lock their doors. That’s not very safe or wise nowadays. What I am saying is that this character is insanely humble and radically loving, and I admire that. He has a position of power and influence, yet he uses it to put others before himself. He takes the Golden Rule seriously, and it’s a beautiful thing.

There is plenty of unkindness in the world, but love and kindness still exist. Moving to Canada isn’t the answer, and neither is calling people names. But maybe recognizing kindness in others and loving others a little bit better- maybe that can make this world a slightly better place.

Stop waiting for Mr. Darcy

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.

 

Halloween for the bibliophile who likes explaining things

Halloween is in two weeks, which means that it’s time to think about which literary character you can be that your costume party friends might not recognize. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Miss Havisham from Great Expectations
    She received word that her groom was abandoning her, while she was still getting dressed for her wedding. She never changed her clothes. For this costume, wear a wedding dress with exactly one sock, and carry around a moldy wedding cake.*
    *Note: Miss Havisham was mentioned in a scene of PS I Love You, so that might not be obscure enough. Plus, she is from a famous book. I include her because I personally don’t know that many people who read Dickens after high school.
  2. Lizzie Bennet as William Darcy from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
    I wore this to a costume party in France. Unfortunately, I think I offended a number of people who thought I was making fun of their culture and trying to be a “stereotypical French man,” when I was really just trying to dress like an American hipster in a webseries. It turns out that American hipsters really just want to be French people… For this costume, wear a plaid shirt, a bowtie, and a newsie hat. Smiles are not allowed, because they “contort the face.”
  3. Princess Cimorene from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
    This 1990s series that began with Dealing with Dragons was one of my favorites growing up. Cimorene gets tired of all the girly things she’s supposed to do as a princess, so she runs away and talks a dragon into letting her live with her. In between telling knights and princes that she doesn’t want to be rescued, she keeps house for her dragon friend and fights off evil wizards with soapy water and lemon. To dress like Princess Cimorene, you’ll need a dragon and a bucket of soapy water with lemon.
  4. Père Mabeuf from Les Misérables
    You won’t remember him Mabeuf from the movie or musical. This was an old man who helped Marius learn more about his late father and sold all his books so he could buy food. When the books and the money were gone, he went to the barricades and died raising the flag of the rebellion. This was one of the saddest deaths for me to read in Les Mis, because this was a man who had nothing to lose once he had sold his books. The essentials of this costume are a red flag and a gorgeous old book. Maybe an old man beard, too, since you’re dressing as an 80 year old man.
  5. Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Oscar Wilde created this character at the end of the 19th century. Dorian was a gorgeous man who was so narcissistic that he literally sold his soul to the devil in order to stay young and handsome forever. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and murder were his “thing,” and his crimes were revealed on the face of his portrait. It’s a story about the effects that sin and hedonism have on one’s physical body. To dress as Dorian, make yourself look really attractive, and carry around a picture of yourself looking as horrible as possible, perhaps with a duckface bathroom mirror selfie. For historical accuracy, wear a suit and a cravat.
  6. Cyrano de Bergerac from, well, Cyrano de Bergerac
    Wikipedia says that there have been a ton of adaptations of this play, but the only one that I remember is the 1987 Roxanne movie with Steve Martin. Cyrano is an extremely eloquent swordsman with a humongous nose. There’s a love triangle, and he ends up helping another man woo the girl he himself loves. She falls in love with his letters, and there’s a bittersweet ending. To become Cyrano, you’ll need a really big fake nose and a sword. Speak in poems and couplets only. Feel free to challenge others to duel for the honor of your nose.

Do you have literary characters that you enjoy imitating for holidays or every day? Give me your thoughts; I’d love to hear what you do!

Lydia Bennet, soul sister

And now for part three of my Lydia-centric posts to celebrate The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet. (Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about Lydia’s character growth throughout Pemberley Digital works, including The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Epic Adventures)

In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet is a flat character whose only purpose is to drive the plot. She’s the youngest of five sisters who are all “out” in society and on the marriage market. She loves ribbons and dresses and soldiers and parties… and that’s about it. Granted, she’s 15, so she has reason to lack Jane and Lizzy’s maturity, but she’s a pretty obnoxious little sister. Her most exciting experience is when she runs off with the soldier who used to flirt with her sister, spends a month with him in London, and returns home as the only married daughter. She doesn’t understand that she has brought shame upon her family, and her “happy ending” at the end of the novel is a loveless marriage and endless debts.

In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, we got to see Lydia outside of Lizzie’s prejudiced viewpoint. We saw the little sister who just wants her older sister to love her. We saw the insecurity that hid behind the masks of bright clothes and “adorbs.” We saw the lonely little girl who acts crazy because she wants someone to accept her as she is. Continue reading

Dear Miss Mary Bennet…

Yo girl, we need to talk. First of all, you must know that I have the greatest respect for you. You’re about five million times better at playing the piano than I am, and you have the patience to deal with Kitty and Lydia’s silliness every day. Still, I think you should know a few things.

1. You have become a very accomplished pianist, but you’re a bit of a snob. Calm down, sista, it’s okay to play a few jigs and reels once in a while. You may have taken youself out of the courting game, but there are other girls who need their opportunities to perform and dance so they can prove their abilities to throw parties as married women.

2. Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy, but they have nothing in common. You, my dear, would be the perfect wife for him. Just imagine: the two of you reading Fordyce together under a tree. You playing the piano while he writes next week’s sermon. Lady Catherine de Bourgh complimenting your interpretation of Vivaldi… Of course, you don’t have to imagine it if you just talk to him. Try it. I can promise you now that Lizzy will not mind.

3. Being the middle child in a family of girls who are either the most beautiful girls in the county or the most flirty teenagers at the parties must be hard, but you should remember that you have value independent of your sisters and your accomplishments. Forget what Lizzy says about you, and forget the comparisons between your sisters and you. You spend so much time in your own mind; I’m sure you have ideas you can share (in a safe place). You seem like a really deep person, and that’s a beautiful thing. Take pride in that, and don’t let the haters get you down.

Don’t give up, Mary. Everything’s going to work out in the end.