This Atlantic piece by Sophie Gilbert was published in May 2016 but it’s new to me. I found the piece provocative — paralleling reality stars with Austen heroines? Are they mad?
Gilbert’s thesis, “Why do reality television’s most popular stars so uncannily resemble the heroines of the 19th-century writer’s work?”, upon further thought which gave way to slow nodding of my head. “Of geeze,” I thought. “Were we always so blind to not think Austen’s characters were sketched from similiar people like the Kardashs?” And it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to compare them to the Bennet sisters: there is always a good girl (Kourtney), a headstrong girl (Khole), a social climber (Kim), and attention queens (Kylie and Kendall). Even Kris (their mother) has parallel ties with Mrs. Bennet.
But what’s clear reading Austen today, or watching one of the countless adaptations of her work, is how much the women in her novels have in common with so many of the women on reality television.
Holy cat’s pyjamas. I’m both amused and a titch recoiled comparing trashy reality stars to the loveliness of Jane’s world. (Work with me here — I know not all of Jane’s heroines lived in splendor and good graces, but for the sake of this argument, they are positively queens.)
Gilbert also ties Blac Chyna, Rob Kardashian’s baby momma, to Lady Susan which is also an uncanny parallel.
Gilbert goes on,
Isn’t it weird? It’s possible to imagine Austen, reincarnated with her bonnet and penchant for millinery, being moderately overwhelmed by the various cuts and colors of synthetic fabric worn by the contestants on The Bachelor. But the show’s premise would strike her as utterly familiar.
I wonder how Austen would feel reading these words — would she agree the roles of women in society and in the home have not changed (much) in over 200+ years since her books were published? Would she smirk, I believe Jane would be a smirker, at the silliness, though entertaining as they may be, of these shows?
This is why Gilbert’s, in my not so humble opinion, comparisons are not that far fetched. And when you think about the piece in that context, no matter how much Jane may have smirked at the idea, in the end she would, unfortunately, agree.
Let us have Jane have the final word:
For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?