Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility cover

I hate romantic comedies.

I hate them for a wide variety of reasons – I hate their formulaic plots, their repeated character tropes that never seem to change (hmm, will this one have a sassy best friend who only exists to dispense advice?), I hate their consistent failing of the the Bechdel test, and I hate the way they try to make me believe that a skinny and gorgeous woman is incapable of finding a man because she’s clumsy or has a job or something.

But mostly, I hate them because their plots revolve entirely around what boy likes what girl and vice versa, and nothing else ever happens. Sure, there can be subplots, and yes, brilliant romantic comedies do exist, but I want my movie protagonists to do more than worry about who they’re going to marry.

Reading Sense and Sensibility made me realize why I don’t like Jane Austen’s books, and probably never will: she was a brilliant author, and her novels are funny and well-written, but at the end of the day, her characters spend 90% of their time talking about boys. Nothing else happens: they go to a ball, where they worry about which boy isn’t dancing with them; they have tea, where they talk about which girls have snagged which boys; and they write letters about which girls have done scandalous things with boys. It’s just pages and pages of “I like you but you hate me!” “No, I really love you, you were just misinformed!” “My, what a silly misunderstanding!” “I agree! Let’s get married!” and all its variations and it bores me to death. I love the humor, and I love the characters, I just want them to do something interesting. This is probably why Pride and Prejudice and Zombies resonated so well with me – finally, the Bennett sisters got to do something besides sit around and mope about the various boys who weren’t talking to them for whatever reason!

Sense and Sensibility is one long slog of “I love this boy! But oh no, he’s engaged to someone else!” and “This boy acted like he loved me but he really didn’t and now I am sad and will ignore the other boy who has clearly been meant to marry me all along!” It’s for this reason that, when faced with the prospect of reading the last 70 pages of this book in order to finish it, I was filled with dread and realized that I do not give a single flying fuck who the Dashwood sisters end up marrying. The only thing that would make me want to finish the book is if the story ends with Elinor and Marianne deciding to go off to college or travel to China or fight zombies or do something besides get married. But I know they won’t, because this is an Austen novel, and things only end one way here.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with romantic comedies – they’re funny, lighthearted entertainment where everyone is beautiful and nothing hurts, and the people who get unhappy endings were mean people and deserved it anyway. I do not begrudge anyone for liking this kind of entertainment – it’s just not my taste, and I won’t waste any time feeling bad about this.

Sorry, Ms. Austen. I gave it my all, but it’s just not going to work out. But don’t worry: it’s not you, it’s me.

Verdict: two out of five stars


Filed under Review

3 responses to “Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

  1. I will say that, for me, Austen’s books, while wildly satisfying romantic comedies, do have a sharper edge to things, because it’s not simply “Will I ever find my true love?”; it’s also “I need to find someone to support me because otherwise I will either be a burden on my parents or out on my own oh my God”.

    • Austen’s books certainly qualify as good romantic fiction for me. They’re on the level of great romantic comedies like Love Actually or The Matchmaker (it’s Janeane Garafolo at a matchmaking festival in Ireland and it’s THE BEST, you should watch it) but the problem is that, as I said, I find it very hard to be invested in a story that’s only about a character’s romantic drama, even if it’s very intelligent and well-written drama. Nine times out of ten I just want to watch a superhero movie and call it a night.

      • Oh, fair enough! I’m just always cautious of comparing romantic comedy now to romantic comedy then, since there’s the spectre of financial insecurity hovering over the protagonists’ heads. And Sense and Sensibility, out of Austen’s works, has the second least amount of that, with Emma having the least.

        Garafolo in Ireland? SOLD.

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