With Extreme Prejudice.

I went to see Pride & Prejudice this past weekend. This would not have been my first choice, to say the least, but when one attends movies in the company of women, these sorts of things just happen.

It didn’t do me any favors, however, to take my girlfriend to the movie. If anything, it only served to irritate her about our own relationship. To give you a short sampling of our post-movie conversation:

Jessie: I really liked that movie a lot. It was very romantic, don’t you think?
Me: Yeah, I guess so.
Jessie: Don’t you like that? When things are so romantic?
Me: Hmm…
Jessie: Don’t you think you need to be more romantic?

The funny thing about the movie, though, is that I did find myself wishing that I were a little more like Mr. Darcy and a little less like Mr. Wickham. Generally, I am unaffected by romance in movies, and can scoff at it with an air of superior irony, unmoved by its sentimentality. The Notebook? Boring and predictable. Return to Me? I was able to bear sitting through it only by gouging myself repeatedly in the eye.

But there I was, watching Pride & Prejudice, of all things, and I found myself enjoying it immensely. This is not an easy thing for me to admit. It seems I have my own pride and prejudice, as it were, when it comes to this sort of movie. But there is a scene when they are standing in the rain, having an argument, and Elizabeth tells Darcy, “You are the last man in the world that I could ever marry,” and it was at this point that I realized that, against my better judgment, I cared deeply about what was going to happen between these two fictional individuals.

The thing is, nothing happens in the movie that is a particularly original plot device. Some variant or other of the plot can be found in nearly every romantic comedy produced today. So why did I care about this one? I think it was for the same reason that Elizabeth and Darcy fell for each other: because they both see, in that moment in the rain as they argue, that the other is a good, decent, honest individual, and each can’t help but admire the other. True, they are stubborn and willful, but they are also brave and upright, and as I watched the scene, somewhere in the cold and shriveled place that is my heart, something moved.

This same emotion, I realized—the admiration of courage and strength in an honest and uncomplicated individual—is what I enjoy most when I read a good book or watch a good movie. I like it when a movie is funny, or clever, or thought provoking or inventive, but I find I am most deeply moved when the movie portrays good people doing the right thing in hard situations, without regard for the consequences. This is what the best stories are all about. I know it sounds simplistic, but I mean it from an artistic standpoint, not a moral one. Faulkner talks about it when he mentions the “problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing.” It’s what David Foster Wallace means by the “myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story.”

And this is what, finally, sets Pride & Prejudice apart from all of the other romantic movies that I can’t stand to watch: the protagonists love the goodness in each other first, and are in love with each other second. This idea may not be found in most literature, but it’s found in the best literature, and I’d like to believe that it’s found in the best of us.


Anonymous a short stranger said...

I dont know how often you check this, probably not that often considering your posts are in increments of months, but how lame am I? I already miss you enough that I am scouring anything that I can get my hands on to find a trace of you....

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How are people supposed to send you writing samples if you have no contact information?

Anonymous Dave said...

I think my email address is on the "about" page... yowzadave@hotmail.com.


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