Are the Classics Getting Too Kitschy?

Let’s face it— original ideas are a rare thing to find these days. With the countless comic book adaptations (enough with the Spider Man reboots, please. Give us time to grieve for Gwen!), slightly off-putting live-action remakes, and Disney re-dos, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that classic literature would find its way into the mix.

Re-imagining of classic works, itself, is not the issue, Warm Bodies, Clueless, and 10 Things I Hate About You are a testament to what a good adaptation can do for dense literature. But man, has it been hard out here for a proud Austenite lately. Pride and Prejudice is a popular story: it’s easy to follow, overflows with witty and charming characters, and does, admittedly, seem to work in any period with its social commentary. But this timelessness has also been its curse.

In 2009 vampires were “the thing” (not even Abraham Lincoln escaped the trend). So, of course, Darcy being the dark, mysterious, and the brooding man that he is, was cast in the role of the vamp in Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. Other than seeing it plopped on every “popular YA” table in bookstores, I heard little about the book and was less impressed when I found myself flipping through the pages. I do not fault the author for anything, mind you, book deals are hard to get and sometimes ‘ya gotta pander. But that doesn’t change the fact it was fanfiction soon forgotten.

In 2012 the internet series the Lizzie Bennet Diaries took over Tumblr. It put the Bennet sisters smack in the middle of the growing popularity of vlogging. The series, again, is not bad— but absolutely replaces the richness of character development with comedic parody that doesn’t always land.

You see where I’m heading—

Yes, this year was the arrival of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to the big screen, and I was not surprised in the slightest. Since the outbreak of the Walking Dead, zombies have become the go-to and everyone is hoping to use them to catch a bite of success.

Critics weren’t taking it.

“This gimmicky reworking of Jane Austen’s classic uses deadpan decapitations to satire the prim costume drama but its gags are ultimately unearned.”

—Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian

“Tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt substantial audiences.”

—Andrew Barker, Variety

But what’s the problem with kitsch in media like this? People like kitsch, right? From lava lamps to memes, kitsch culture is something that has been deemed almost admirable. Kitsch has been able to poke fun at the iconic and the “cool” in media that’s made to be consumed like fast food, quick and dirty.

But for those purists, those hardcore lovers of literature, this type of relationship is a little unsatisfactory. Kitsch adaptations are like the friend you love to party with, the ones who’re always good for a laugh but then are nowhere to be found when you need them. Are these relationships worth having?

What do you think? Are kitsch adaptations just another form of flattery or an eye-rolling affair? Do they have a place in the literary world? Let us know in the comments!

 

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