Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jane Eyre: A timeless tale?

Every time I log on to Goodreads, I see a preview for the latest Jane Eyre movie. I think this is the 427th Jane Eyre movie to be released since the early 1900s. And it looks exactly like all of the other ones.

I understand why Jane Eyre's story is so beloved. Jane Eyre is one of the few classics that I enjoy for its literary value as well as its entertainment value. Jane is a very intriguing character, and her story is interesting and well portrayed. And, of course, I love that she stands up for her values, even though she totally could have gotten away with doing the easy thing.

BUT . . . do we really need another movie? I have seen at least 3 versions of the movie--all very long, all very similar--and I didn't even watch all of the ones my mom and Kimberly got through when they went through their Jane Eyre phase/obsession. And then we got another announcement that there is yet another Jane Eyre movie to delight the world, only with exciting new actors! I'm fairly certain that the dialogue, costumes, settings, and characters will be a mirror image of what we've seen already, even if the faces are new.

My first rationale for the oodles of Jane Eyre movies was the timelessness of the tale. People have loved this story since Bronte's day, and it is a book truly deserving of its praise. Stories like that last for an eternity because it is full of timeless lessons and wonderful characters. But they keep making the same movie over and over again. Directors/producers don't even vary the themes of plot devices that much. Just rehashing the same, 18th-century setting over and over again. That doesn't suggest timelessness.

Just once I would like to see a modern-day version of this movie, one that was deliberately made to play off of Jane Eyre (Twilight doesn't count). I love the pink Pride and Prejudice (that's what my family calls it, anyway)--the Mormonish version of Jane Austen's classic tale. The movie was able to keep the major elements of the original Pride and Prejudice, and because of its timeless nature, it was easy to transfer the themes to our modern day in a believable way. Especially for a Mormon audience.

The fact that we haven't seen a Jane Eyre spun modern movie bothers me a little bit. (I haven't done a ton of research on this, so please correct me if I'm wrong.) The fact that Jane Eyre hasn't been told through a modern lens suggests to me that society doesn't see the need for it. Jane Eyre is a wonderful story, but it only works in a setting in which morality is stronger than law.

When I finished reading Mansfield Park, I did my usual Goodreads review and then starting browsing through the reviews of others. Most of the readers disliked the book not because it was slow moving and somewhat lacking in plot, but because the heroine, Fanny Price, was too moral. A lot of readers just couldn't relate to her namby-pamby attitude about "doing the right thing" and her passive way of dealing with things.

I wonder if people put Jane Eyre in a similar boat--automatically dismiss her because she is upholding values that society now deems ancient.

I'm probably making too much of this. Maybe people are too busy trying to make the "official" Jane Eyre movie to think about telling the story in a creative way. Maybe I'm the only one who's slightly annoyed about the plethora of identical Jane Eyre movies. (More likely, however, there are a ton of adaptations out there, but I'm just too dense to notice.) But I'm really starting to wonder if there's a more philosophical reason why movie makers haven't tried to transfer the timelessness of Jane Eyre to our day.


  1. I suspect it's mostly because the only people interested in Jane Eyre are those who are sort of book-worms and less modern themselves, like lit snobs. While it's an awesome book, it's definitely awesome in a required-reading-to-make-me-smarter than an enjoyable-reading-because-it's-funny read to me...

    And then let's face it - Elizabeth would be a really awesome roommate. Jane? I would be sort of creeped out. Maybe that's just me...