'Pride and Prejudice' celebrates 200 years: Its influence on modern pop culture

PRIDE-PREJUDICE

Image Credit: Alex Bailey

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice – first published in three volumes in January, 1813 – has left quite a mark on pop culture, far larger than Jane Austen herself could have ever envisioned. In celebration of the book’s 200th (!) anniversary, EW is singling out (in honor of literature’s favorite single gal) our favorite pop culture gems that we can trace back to an origin at Pemberley. We all may have eaten up the 2005 movie adaptation starring Keira Knightley, or other modern-day films that celebrate Austen such as The Jane Austen Book Club, but that’s only scratching the surface of Austen’s pop culture superpowers — and the lovefest isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Austenland, a new movie starring Keri Russell, premiered at Sundance last week. Read on below for more things we can thank Pride and Prejudice for in modern pop culture, and definitely give a shout out to your favorites in the comments.

Colin Firth: Not to diminish his Oscar for The King’s Speech, but Firth owes his career to Pride and Prejudice. Not only did he tackle the role of Mr. Darcy in the iconic 1995 British miniseries, but his performance in that version inspired Helen Fielding to write Bridget Jones’s Diary, which is basically just a modern-day Pride and Prejudice. The best part? Firth of course agreed to star in the movie version, playing a character named Mark Darcy. That’s a whole heck of a lot of pop culture gold all beginning with Ms. Austen.

TV couples that hate/love each other: Obviously, people who originally can’t stand each other who eventually get together is a realistic trope that’s been around since the beginning of time. But for people who love couples that come from different worlds who finally grow to understand and fall in love with each other — even if they might also drive each other crazy — Pride and Prejudice is the hallmark. Let’s just say Carrie and Mr. Big owe a significant debt to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Genre-bending adaptations: Part of the reason Pride and Prejudice has endured is because even though parts of the story are from another era, a woman discovering herself and exploring themes about class and a person’s role in the world still resonate. For that reason, there have been plenty of adaptations that have taken the timeless story and inserted it into another genre, allowing for even more fans, whether that be the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or the Bollywood-style flick Bride & Prejudice.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: If you haven’t been following, you’re totally missing out. Anyone who is anyone these days has a blog, and now, that includes Elizabeth Bennet. Kicking off last April, the video diary web series tells the story of Pride and Prejudice in five-minute segments, but it’s now been thoroughly modernized, with “Lizzie” as a grad student and Darcy as the CEO of Pemberley Digital, where Lizzie interns. Addictive — and all available online. The accompanying Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook only add to the fun.

Renewed interest in British culture: There have always been anglophiles, but the nineties kicked off a renewed interest in Things That Are British stateside. Adaptations of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility as well as Emma became popular. This led us to British Invasion round two, a.k.a  Love Actually, and now ten years down the road, Americans are now freaking out over a whole new group of charming Brits trying to figure out love, class, and their place in this world — a little show called Downton Abbey.

Read more:
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26 True (Fictional) Lovers: Pop Culture’s Best Couples

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