Watching a story that has survived two centuries play out over new media is an assurance that something of our humanity remains constant between the world of quills and parchment and the world of styluses and screens. We will still judge each other based on first impressions. We will still have embarrassing families. A combination of money and reserve will make you seem like a huge jerk to everyone who doesn’t know you well. But more than that, watching a serialized adaptation of a story we all know takes the edge off our suspense. No matter how disturbing some developments may be, (Spoiler alert: in this version, in stead of running off with Lydia under the false pretense of an elopement, Wickham plans to publish a sex tape of Lydia online without her consent) we know the end is happy. We keep watching not to know what will happen, but how it will.
Jane Austen’s internet success isn’t so surprising. She is, after all, one of those few authors who live on as both a pop-cultural phenomenon and a dissertation topic. In fact, given her talent for snarky dialogue, Austen and the internet seem like a perfect match. For what do we use social media, after all, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?
Previous Dish on Jane Austen here.