Sunday, March 18, 2012

Watching Films with Classical Elegant Women

I recently read a post on The Proper Lady called The Elegant and Proper Ladies of Jane Austen (great post!). In the past I'm not sure if I ever watched a film based on Jane Austin's books and I don't think I've read one of her books. I think I might have one or two of her books somewhere. I have seen some period films (Valmont is one of my favorites) and I suppose, if you pay attention, they can teach someone quite a bit about chivalry and how to be a lady. I really don't have time to read a book right now (I'm about to graduate and there are other more pressing things to do!).

I think that in the past I rejected some of these films because they were "chick flicks" and way to girly and romantic for me. The term "chick flick" is derogatory but really it shouldn't be so I won't think of them in that way anymore. Sometimes, when I'm single, I avoid watching anything related to romance because they just remind me of what I don't have. But I think that this may be a fast and easy way to see ladylike manners in action. I think seeing demonstrations of comportment will be very useful since I can't find a real, all-encompassing etiquette video online.

Another reason why I rejected these films and books is because of their lack of cultural diversity. I want to read and watch things that include different ethnicities, including Black people. I think Jane Austen writes about the Victorian Age (1837 -1901) and this is after the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1833. So I don't think there will be any slavery in the films/books which is a good thing. I just wouldn't feel good trying to emulate the behaviours of women who had slaves and thought they were inherently better than me (you know what I mean). It would just feel wrong because the women would act kind and lovely to their peers and family yet they would be participating in such evil by having slaves. So I don't think I'd be interested in a film or book about manners in the U.S. prior to the abolition of slavery or during Jim Crowe either. Like I said in a previous post, I tend to boycott things that don't show diversity. I would love to see/read anything from the Victorian era that has diversity though, or anything about manners in Asia, India, the Caribbean, or Africa actually.

So, I think the first film I will watch is Pride and Prejudice ( I watched the Bollywood movie Bride and Prejudice before lol...not a fan of musicals). Maybe I'll just put the boycott aside for a while so that I can learn what I want to learn. It will probably be really helpful to see exaggerated depictions of femininity, etiquette, and manners so that I can develop my behaviour to be a better-than-modern-average but less-than-Victorian. In order to be a proper lady it seems logical to look at the examples of classical proper ladies. But if I hear any racism I'll be really annoyed!

Update 1: I just found out Jane Austen lived from 1775-1817, definitely before the abolition of slavery so I guess her books are not set in the Victorian age. So I don't know about this whole thing at all...The hoity-toity characters she writes about probably owned slaves and are of the same sort who went around the world to colonize other people and build plantations. These are the people I can't stand! Yes, people like me are just supposed to ignore things like this and appreciate the art and writing...not sure if I can or should...

Update2: I read about Jane Austin on Wikipedia and it states that she writes about the landed gentry, people who own land in Britain, but there was no mention of slaves. The article talked about farmers living on the land and the gentry earned money from rent (not unlike what I would like to do one day with houses or office space) but I don't know if they also employed slaves, or if the slavery was race-based. I think I'm going to have to research this more before I decide to watch/read any Jane Austen. I'll give it a chance and watch Pride and Prejudice and do a review on it. Let's keep an open mind because maybe there is nothing to be offended about.

This all reminds me of a time in high school when I told some friends that I started to watch Dead Man Walking but I turned it off after hearing Sean Penn's character say horrible, racist things. I said I didn't have to subject myself for that or try to empathize with the character because I had better things to do. The teacher overheard and said that I should have watched the movie anyway because I missed out on a great film. Well she was White and had probably never had the experience of watching a movie only to find it riddled with racist things directed at her. This was the experience I also had watching Taxi Driver (every racist slur towards Black people was mentioned in that movie!), L.A. Confidential, Saturday Night Fever, and many Quinten Tarrantino films (e.g., Reservoir Dogs). No one thought to mention that there were highly racist comments in the films said by the so-called "heroes" who the audience is supposed to root for and identify with. I'm just supposed to look past the racism and somehow enjoy the film. I don't reject every movie that has racism though, only the one's that didn't need it (and it seems as though the writer just felt like insulting Black people). For instance, in Reservoir Dogs the movie was not about a historical time period (e.g., Jim Crowe) and there were no Black people in the film, yet I still heard the n-word. It makes sense in a movie about a racist person or setting, but not out of the blue. Well I can't stand the unnecessary racism and I won't endure that anymore. If you insult me, don't expect me to stick around to hear what else you have to say. There are plenty of excellent films from around the world that I would rather spend my time watching. Missing out on a few is not the end of the world.


  1. Hello Elegance,

    This is Nina from The Proper Lady! I just want to mention that the landed gentry, at least the ones portrayed in Jane Austen's novels, usually did not own slaves. They had hired help.

    Whether or not the upper class owned slaves is not mentioned.

    In her other work, "Mansfield Park", the main character (Fanny Price) lives with her Aunt and Uncle who do own slaves in the Americas (at least in the film... I saw the film more recently and I read the book awhile ago so I remember mostly the film). However, Fanny Price expresses her disgust with slavery very clearly throughout the film.

    And you are right that there wouldn't be much diversity in the film of "Pride and Prejudice"... I guess that's because in that time period, people didn't immigrate and emigrate that often. Today, in Asian films you still see no one else but Asian people simply because not many people immigrate to Asia.

    Although I am Asian, the lack of diversity in "Pride and Prejudice" didn't irritate me (mostly because there weren't any racial slurs that I can recall) but I just want to warn you about it just in case it may irritate you. :)

    Best Wishes,

    P.S. I actually came here to ask if you would be interested in writing a guest post? I have many black readers but I don't have any posts about what it means to be try to be an elegant black woman... and since I have ones about Japanese women, French culture, and Russian culture, I really want to have a piece for them as well. :) I am trying to gain more diversity in my posts by writing about women of all races (I'm working on writing an article on Condoleeza Rice to further represent elegant black women and I'm also working on pieces to finally represent Middle Eastern women) and I was wondering if you'd be interested in writing a piece that celebrates elegant black women? Just something for my black readers? :)

    I write inspiration articles about specific black women but I've never undertaken an article specifically about being elegant as a black woman because I'm not familiar with the culture or what it means. :)

    And of course, I'll link to you!

  2. Hello Elegance,

    Just letting you know that I received your email. However when I responded it bounced back. Hmmmm....

    Anyway, what I replied to you was that you should be in no hurry about the article. As a fellow student, I understand how stressful and time-consuming academic work can be. I just wanted to put the offer out there for you to look at at your own convenience. :)

    And I would absolutely love to write a guest post for you! You were mentioning something related to becoming a ladylike or getting started.... I was thinking perhaps an article entitled something like: "Getting Started in Elegance" or "First Steps In Elegance"? :)