My Biggest Gripes with Austen Movies

Generally speaking, Gentle Reader, when times are tough I watch Austen movies. I know, I know, but we all have our visual comfort food.

Austen Movie Sins Promo Blog Post

I don’t like to be negative here on the blog, but I figure taking sublime umbrage in a Jane Austen movie adaptation ranks pretty low on the totem poll of putting negativity out into the world. Still, if you come here for all things positive, best to skip this post.


Still with me?

For the purposes of this discussion I’m going to talk about only those movies and miniseries produced in the last 20 years.

I have plenty of gripes with the 1970s BBC series of adaptations, but those party stem from being made the 1970s, just as it would for some of the 1950s and earlier black & white productions.

All of these, then, I tend to think of as period pieces, both in and of themselves, and representing the aesthetic and directorial style of he time in which they were made. As such, I hold them to different standards.

So without further adoo…

Gail’s Biggest Pet Peeves in Austen Movies

Okay then, let’s talk things about Austen adaptations that bother me.

Hair Sins Austen Wear it Up

A Lady’s Hair Is WORN UP

For goodness sake. There is absolutely no excuse of any grown female character in an Austen movie to have her hair down and loose. Under no circumstances, outside of the bedroom, would this have been acceptable. Even young girls would have had it plaited or tied with ribbon, or treated in some way.

We are talking Austen characters here, basically tradeswomen and higher ranked. THE HAIR WOULD BE UP.  It is absolutely unacceptable in a period piece to break this society regulation. It’s upsetting to watch, breaks the suspension of disbelief, and instantly modernizes a character.

It’s like being at the Renaissance Faire and seeings someone in full proper garb… wearing sun glasses.

Sanditon hair ARGH

Sanditon is doubly egregious in this manner, her hair cut and styling are entirely modern, plus she is at a very windy beach half the time, where any normal human with long hair would tie it back, doesn’t even matter if it’s period or not. The director’s choice in this matter is unforgivable.

Billie Mansfield Park Austen Half Back Hair

Billie Piper’s half-back atrocity in Mansfield Park, and Jemima Rooper’s ultra modern bob in Lost in Austen, I’m assuming have something to do with the actress weighing in on brand image. (And yes, I get that Lost in Austen is portal fantasy, but if she’s putting on the period dresses she should put up her mother-fing-hair!)

Lost Austen Modern Bob

Incidentally, Gwyneth’s Emma is a bit too severely scraped back into a bun, she looks like a ballet dancer half the time. And I can’t stand even thinking about Kiera’s neck bangs in Pride & Prejudice.

Regency Hairstyles Jane Austen

What I expected?

At the very least: parted in the middle, curls at the side of the face, bun directly at the back or slightly higher up. Yes they got more elaborate than this, but this is the basic. Here’s a historical article on the subject. The 1995 Pride & Prejudice mini series does a decent job with the hair.

Glove SIns Austen

Ladies Wore Gloves In Public!

This is a harder one to spot in movies, but generally speaking, ladies and gentlemen of a certain class (or aspiring to that class) wore gloves in public for everything BUT eating. So sitting down at a meal, or eating from the buffet at a ball = no gloves. Otherwise, dancing, walking, socializing, visiting = GLOVES!

Pride and Prejudice Kiera Darcy No Gloves Ball Austen

In the Keira Pride & Prejudice movie she and Darcy are not wearing gloves at their dance, neither are Anne and her men in Becoming Jane.

Becoming Jane Austen Dancing No Gloves

The most recent Emma (2020) committed this offense in both directions. First Anya is dancing without gloves in “that scene.” Second she eats a strawberry with her gloves on. Sigh.

Gloves Eating Austen Emma

You need only watch Under the Greenwood Tree (Victorian later period, but still about the gloves) for the sexiest no gloves scene ever filmed. They are washing their hands and it’s practically a sex scene.

Not wearing gloves is a serious business. And I get that’s what the director is alluding to in 2020 Emma, but still, there is no excuse for her not to be wearing gloves at a ball! I mean they made special gloves exactly for balls!

Jane Austen Society Gloves

What I expected?

Gloves. I expected to see gloves. On ladies and gentlemen!

“I was very lucky in my gloves–got them at the first shop I went to…and gave only four shillings for them; upon hearing which everybody at Chawton will be hoping and predicting that they cannot be good for anything, and their worth certainly remains to be proved; but I think they look very well.”

~ Jane Austen, 1813

So those are my big ones, what are some of yours? Anything you peeve about in Austen movies?

Yours (destined to die on the tiniest of hills),

Miss Gail

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Posted by Gail Carriger

9 Responses

  1. Janis Wright said:

    Additional let peeves: Not wearing walking dresses. They wear tea or even ball gowns to walk about. Men have one to two costumes. Waistcoats are boring. Not using dance cards. This is a teachable moment about the planning that went into place to score a chance to touch hands

  2. Michelle David said:

    I’m a huge Austen fanatic and I agree 100%! Touching without gloves and having your hair down was the basic equivalent of being slutty and would not have been approved of. Like going before the Queen in a halter top and miniskirt. JUST NOT DONE!

  3. Anne-Camille Vial said:

    My pet peeves are more toward posture and silhouette…
    Half the time I want to shout “straighten those shoulders, dammit” toward the actor/actress.

    And some costumes often show the lack of proper foundations… Too much hip, not enough bosom.

  4. Ms. Jen said:

    I am with you on the hair and the gloves, as well as period accurate costumes and architecture.

    I really wanted to like The Tudors, as a certain Mr. HC is scrumptious, but I barely made it 10 mins in before I was too angry about the men’s hair (not period at all), the women’s hair (also not period), and the architecture (in the scene I saw it was Jacobean)…

    As for Austen dramas, I have given up watching anything but the 1995 trio (P&P, P, S&S) – of which I saw none of the three before 2008 – 2010.

    But directors, makeup folk, set hairdressers, and costumers are not much different from the 1940s versions of Georgian, Regency, and Victorian periods wherein nearly every actress was a prophecy for Dolly Parton’s 1970s wigs.

  5. Angela Torres said:

    This. This so much! A major premise of the Austen novels is the strict society the heroine lives in, which includes clothing.

    Don’t even get me started about horses and horseback riding in period movies.

    1. Liza said:

      Ooh, I want to know about horses & horseback riding! I don’t know enough about what they get wrong in period movies. (I’m always just impressed when it’s actually the actor on the horse… 😀 )

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