The Problem of Julia Quinn: Rape Isn’t Romance

I wasn’t going to write another blog post on the rape scene in Netflix’s Bridgerton. I truly wasn’t. I had thought about possibly doing one on the costumes until I came across a YouTube video were VBlogger Book_and_Keys asked Julia Quinn about that rape scene, both in the novel and the adaptation. Reader, I became LIVID at the answer. Quinn replied that most don’t see Daphne raping Simon as “morally wrong” and it’s only become an issue as the “years [have] passed an we [Society] gained new understanding of ‘consent’.” She also states that we (the ones who are concerned and are complaining), lack the finesse of comprehending the historical context in which the novel is based. She believes that Society in 1813 would not have seen this as rape. Excuse me Ms Quinn, but thy Ivy League Whyte Privilege has reared it’s ugly head and history has not only proven you to be wrong, but a liar as well.

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Edgar Degas, The Interior (The Rape), circa 1869. Courtesy of the Tate

As I had written previously, the first series of Bridgerton is based on The Duke & I, which was published in 2000. This meas it was most likely written in 1997 or 1998, but possibly as early as 1995. This is important because what was really big in 1998? The Impeachment of Pres. William Clinton for lying about getting blowjob. The whole issue of consent and the overuse of power was a key point. There was also this HUGE thing about consent between an adult woman and a child in 1997 (Mary Kay Letourneau plead guilty in 1997 to 2 counts of Second -Degree Rape of a Child, which is a felony charge). And if that doesn’t ring a bell, in 1991, sexual harassment (and abuse of power) was brought forth during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings by his victim, Anita Hill. By having Julia Quinn state that the whole rape scene in the novel wasn’t a big deal when it came out in 2000 is really doing a disservice to many readers. I cannot fathom how this even passed her editor or publisher. Cait’s Books (a blog) did state that rape was definitely considered a bad thing when this book was published, so Quinn trying to pass it off as no big deal is, quite frankly, repugnant.

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HS Ford, for Andrew Lang;s Grey Fairy Book, Circa 1900. Public Domain

Now, I forced myself to read The Duke & I this past week, as I couldn’t finish it the last time I attempted it because of the rape scene. Thankfully, there’s this great thing called libraries and borrowing ebooks, so I didn’t have to purchase it. While I had mistakenly written prior that the rape of Simon took place before marriage, it actually occurs after the marriage has taken place. I have no issues to admit I was mistaken as to when it took place (one must, of course, always acknowledges an error, dear Reader). This doesn’t make it less wrong. Simon is drunk. Daphne decides to rape him by forcing him to ejaculate in her. They fight, They breakup. She thinks she’s pregnant, so they get back together and work things out even when the pregnancy is a false alarm. Throughout this narrative, Quinn frames Simon as the villain and he is to blame for everything. Even though it’s been set up that he was abused emotionally (if not physically) by his father during his formative years, which led him to the understandable conclusion to not have biological children of his own. Now, a better writer would have had these two talk and work out the whole children thing so no rape would have occurred. Or if Julian Quinn had done the even the bare modicum of research, she would have realized that the frequency of Simon and Daphne screwing would have led to a pregnancy within the year anyways. Because, science. The book, FYI, is extremely predictable in the Silhouette romance kind of way.

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Artemisia Gentileschi (1614-1620), Judith Beheading Holofrenes. Courtesy of the National Geographic.

Now, full disclosure: There is NOTHING wrong with reading romance novels. There’s NOTHING wrong with writing them. We all enjoy escapism an whether it’s a romance, or Sci-Fi, or true crime story, we enjoy reading. There is, however, something seriously wrong with this need to romanticize rape in 20th and 21st C novels, TV. Film, music, etc. It’s a sick and twisted trope that needs to be weeded out for good.

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Weird Tales cover for January 1929. Public Domain

Julia made the bold and inaccurate statement in an interview with The Guardian where she believes she’s being “dinged” for the historical inaccuracies in the Netflix adaptation. While she was primarily referring to the casting, that’s not the main issue people like me have. And yes, there are a lot (and I mean A LOT) of issue with historical accuracy in the show (corsets, dresses, etc). But most of us know that this is meant to be fictional and while I would like it if some of the costumes were more Regency instead of Victorian, many of us are upset over this rape scene. Quinn firmly believes those of us criticizing the rape don’t understand the context of the time period she set the tale in. Au Contraire, Ms. Quinn. I have studied the years 1740-1860 since I was 12 years old and am currently 40, so I am more than a tad well versed in this area. Not to mention my MA Thesis was on 19th C Burlesque. I am well equipped to handle this Kevin Kruse style smackdown.

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Suzanne Lacy, Three Weeks in May 1977. Courtesy of suzannelacy.com

First, the historical context. Historically, rape has existed. It existed before Jane Austen was born and continues to exist after her death. I suspect it will continue long after my own demise as well. Marquette University has a wonderful page dedicated to Gothic Novels and the issue of Rape in them. They even state a 7th Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale (1671-1676) as stating “in a rape case it is the victim, not the defendant, who is on trial.” Marquette University also points out that there was this 1753 Act of Parliament called The Hardwicke Act, which was written and passed to prevent “clandestine marriages” from being legal. In our modern vernacular, they were trying to stop the kidnapping, rape, and forced marriages of wealthy women (or girls) to their rapists in order to preserve their honor. The main reason these illegal marriages were occurring stemmed from men who wanted control over the fortune and/or family connections these ladies had to offer. Now, how many marriages were still forced to save a woman’s honor? Probably quite a few even after this had passed. Most families would opt for the marriage to keep what occurred a secret instead of allowing it to become a scandal. But this doesn’t man rape was never prosecuted.

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Edgar Degas, Rape of the Sabines (based on the Nicholas Poussain 1630s Painting), 1861. Courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum

In 1777, Benjamin Russen, Clergyman and Educator, was found guilty and executed for the rape of Anne Mayne, child. While there were very few men executed for rape in the 18th C, there are many examples of rapists being accused and a few even went to trial. Most were, naturally, men of means (i.e. wealthy) and were found not guilty by attacking the victim’s character, especially if the victim was not a virgin to begin with. If this tactic sounds vaguely familiar, it’s one that is still used in our modern Society. Recall the hatred all the women who came forward to talk about the sexual abuse they experienced Brett Kavanaugh? How many times did we hear about how they had to be unreliable, but Kavanagh’s testimony was to be believed 200%? Or the over 20+ women and girls who have stated Donald Trump raped them and yet people don’t want to believe them? For all our talk of progressive values, it seems the issue of not believing a victim of sexual assault has existed for eons, and that should worry everyone.

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Evariste Vital Luminais, The Abduction (El Rapto), 1887-1889. Courtesy of the Museum of Belle Arts, Argentina

But wait, there’s more! These are a few, but not all, cases of rape that we know occurred PRIOR to the year 2000:

Hypatia of Alexandria (412) CE: stripped, beaten to death, body torn apart and burned. PLUS, we all know (even though it’s not recorded), they raped her

Rogneda of Polotsk (10thC CE) from Scandinavia was raped by Vladimir, the half brother of her fiancee, Yaro Polk I of Kiev, in front of her parents

Xenia Borisorna, Tsarina (1605), raped by False Dmitry I, who then forced her to become his concubine before sending her to a nunnery 6 months later

Artesmia Gentileeschi, Italian Artist (1611), raped by fellow artist Agostino Tassi and his friend, Cosimo Quorli

Mary Travers (1864), raped by Sir William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde (playwright)

9 Yr old Girl (1860s), raped by Amos Greenwood, who was attempting to cure his syphllis (she died from it)

Waterloo Outrage/Mt Rennie/MaryJane Hicks (1886), 16 yr old Mary was gang raped by at least 8 men

Suryanelli Rape Case (1996), 16 yr old girl in India was gang raped by 37-42 men over a period of 400 days

Aruna Shanburg (1973) raped and choked by Brtha Walmiki (she passed in 2015 after bing in a vegatatve tate for 42)

Mathrua (1972), 15 yr old and raped by 2 policemen

Eliabeth Pena (16) and Jennifer Ertman (14) were gang rapped and murdered by 6 teenage boys in 1993

Junko Furuta (1988), raped by 4 men over a period of 40 day over 400 times before being murdered

Bhanwari Devi (1992), gang raped by 5 men

Pausanias of Orestis (336 BCE), bodyguard and lover of Philip II of Macedonia wa raped by Attalus & his servants (Attalus was Philip’s father in law); Pausanius killed Philip because there was no justice (and this led to the reign of Alexander the Great)

Boudicca’s Daughters (45 CE), gang raped by Roman Soldiers

Indigenious Peoples (1490s CE) raped by Columbus and his crew and they took notes on it (seriously, we have their journals)

Sarah Woodcock (1798), raped by Baron Frederick Calvert

Harriet Jacobs (born a slave), raped by her former owner Samueal Treawell Sawyer (who was a Congressman AFTER the civil War)

Kishnev Rape [POGROM], the murder of 49 Jews and the rape of Jewish Women by Russsian Men occurred in 1903

Dylan Farrow, 7, by her stepfather Woody Allen, in the 1970s

Marilyn Monroe (as a minor)

Eartha Kitt (born of rape and raped herself)

Billie Holiday

Maya Angelou

Rita Hayworth, raped by her father

Sandra Dee, raped by her stepfather

Oprah Winfrey publicly talked about her sexual abuse (which resulted in a pregnancy) in 1986 from age 9 to 13

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Kathleen Gilge, Susanna and the Elders Restored. Courtesy of kathleengilge.com

As we can see, we’ve known about rape for quite a while before 2000. And Austen herself knew about rape not only from literature (the Gothic novels of her time), her education (which would have included some of the classical mythologies as well as her upbringing as the daughter of a minister). It’s clear in Sense and Sensibility that Wiloughby’s seduction of Eliza (who IS underage) would be seen as a rape under English law at the time. Now, he refuses to marry her, even though she is pregnant, as this would have been seen as a way of saving her honor. But o notice that nowhere does Austen blame Eliza (nor does Brandon blame Eliza) for the decision to live quietly, have her child, and not be forced into a marriage with her rapist. This is a fairly modern way of thinking. Now, in Emma, Mr. Elton’s insistence that he was led on by Emma Woodhouse’s behavior is very much how a rapist defends himself in court (victim blaming). He tells her that she led him on with how she behaved. He refuses to take any blame for his actions. While I could find no evidence of Austen ever attending any rape cases, it is fairly certain she would have heard how they were conducted from her father, or even her uncle, who was a lawyer. Jane Austen would have know that current (to her time) English rape laws were based on the military laws of Henry V and Richard I (these primarily dealt with rape during a war and if you haven’t figured it out yet, Austen grew up during a time of war and had 2 brothers in the Royal Navy).

The Rape of Europa
Titian, Rape of Europa (1560-1562). Courtesy of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

In 1563, the 24th Session o the Council of Trent made forced marriages illegal (though French Women were not granted this until 1793) and the marriages only had to be consensual between the two parties and lack of parental consent was not seen as an invalidation (unless you were French and female). We acknowledged date rape/acquaintance rape as something that does occur in the 1980s. Martial rape was recognized in the US in 1975 in South Dakota (the first state) while North Carolina didn’t recognize it as a violation until 1993 (making it the lat state). During the time of the novel, 1813, Napoleon in his address to the Army in Egypt, stated that he found rape committed by soldiers to be disgusting and declared that rapists were monsters and if he found any of his men committing such acts they would be executed. Again, this is something Quinn could have easily found IF she had done any research (which she does claim that she does do in order to write Regency romances). We could also mention that since the adaptation has made Simon a person of color (POC) Daphne raping him has strong connotations of colonialism and slavery as well.

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1823, Enslaved Africans cutting Cane in Antigua. Courtesy of University of Virginia & slaveryimages,org (image NW0054)

So, Julia Quinn, where is this no historical context you speak of? Clearly, during the period of 1813 in which you place The Duke & I, rape was an issue and there had been many laws regarding this. And as for the statement that women were seen as property in 1813, this would be an outdated mode of thinking as Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1797. Not to mention the popularity of women authors earning their own money during this time (Anne Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney). I can even cite more laws, because why not.

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John Opie, Mary Wollstonecraft (Mrs. William Goodwin), 1790-1791. Courtesy of The Tate Museum

Poet Lucretius in 50BCE condemned rape as a primitive behavior out side the boundaries of an advanced civilization (Volenta virir vis atque impenda libido). Emperor Dicoletion (284-305 CE) stated a victim is innocent of the rape, but at the same time stated it may have been caused by behavior. Lex Julia de vi Publix (3rd C CE) defined rape as forced sex by anyone against anyone (most scholars belief it has its roots from the reign of Julius Caesar; this did not protect sex workers or slaves). Ancient Rome had no statute of limitations on Rape, but Adultery had to be prosecuted within 5 yrs, Rome also had a law called The Crime of Lauis, meaning a man who is raped (based on the rape of Chrysippus by Lauis). Romans saw rape as a capital offense and a rapist could be executed (this was one of the few crimes one could be executed for in Rome). Thomas Aqunias in Suma Theologica (question 154) stated rape is sinful, but then goes on to state it’s not as bad as pulling out or masturbation. Medieval England had a Raptus Law (1100-1500CE), but was more about how women were property and raping of them was desecration of said property (law never saw a distinction between rape and abduction). Emperor Constantine redefined rape as a public offense instead of a private one (again, because women were property), and if it were discovered that the woman consented, she and the man were burned alive (even if she did not consent, she was burned as an accomplice to her own rape because patriarchy). Again, these are all laws that predate Austen and we should point out that even Rome acknowledged that men can be raped.

Rape of Lucretia by Sextus Tarquinius and her suicide, 16th C Illuminated Manuscript (Anon, Southern Germany, pre-1560). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Now, I thought I would list artworks that depicted rape, as Quinn as a degree from Harvard in Art, and decided to put a few examples scattered throughout this blog. Given her background in Art, there is no reason Quinn didn’t know that rape (specifically heroic and mythological rape) did not exist prior to Austen and prior to writing The Duke & I. I firmly believe there is no logical reason for rape to be included in any romance novels, or any form of entertainment, at this time. In 1979, a soap opera called General Hospital had Luke rape Laura, then stated it was a seduction, then resolved it all by getting the two characters to marry, because how completely 16th C of them to preserve Laura’s honor. Reader, even the actors who portrayed those characters have stated it was a rape and they hated that scene. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982) forces himself on Rachel, but it’s portrayed as romantic and sexy with the music and in the sequel. Rape, even with a sexy saxophone background, is STILL rape. Dr. McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy forces Meredith Grey to go out with him (he IS her boss) and just because they get married doesn’t make it any less wrong.

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Hans Van Aachan, Rape of Peresphone (1589). Public Domain

Shondaland Productions is know for gritty and dark moments. They did not HAVE to include the rape scene. While Quinn states readers haven’t made a big deal of it, the fact a majority of reviews of The Duke & I mention the rape and how it should have been left out. And some of these reviews date from when it was first released. Just because they made Simon sober instead of drunk doesn’t make it less of a rape. The whole scene is about power and consent. Daphne wants control over Simon. She denies him consent. If this were reversed, we would definitely be calling this out as rape.

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Simon Basset (Rege-Jean Page)

Lastly, Quinn made the remark in The Guardian that no one wants to adapt a contemporary piece of fiction anymore. And this is clearly a lie. Outlander has been successful and rape in those novels is depicted as violent (they wisely chose to NOT depict the violence as written when adapting the novels). To All the Boys (a Netflix Production) is a contemporary and minority driven romance adaptation. Even Game of Thrones decided to not depict a rape scene in the book when it was adapted. And GOT was all about sex….and dragons, but mostly sex. So if other adaptations can successfully NOT depict rape, even when its in the original novel, so can Bridgerton. Especially when the rape is being used in a way to romanticize the relationship. Because we shouldn’t normalize the notion that rape leads to love. Rape is a violation. It is morally wrong. Nothing about rape indicates love. NOTHING. So yes, Julian Quinn needs to be called out on this and needs to be held accountable. She’s not writing The Monk, nor The Italian (both Gothic novels predate Austen and depict rape or the threat of rape). Rape in literature, prior to Austen, was used to show depravity of a character and the power they had. By the time Austen was writing, there was no need to use rape as a literary device. So, Ms. Quinn, what’s your excuse then?

Resources

Morgan, Susan. Why There’s no Sex in Jane Austen’s Fiction. Women & Early Fiction V 19 N 3, Fall 1897. Pgs 346-356.

Easton, Celia A. ‘The Encourageent I Received”: Emma and the Language of Sexual Assault. JASNA V 37 N 1, Winter 2016.

Rodgers, Stephanie. Rape Culture and Austen (Boots Theory 1/14/2015).

Castle, Terry. Austen’s Characters know nothing of Date Rape, Unwanted Pregnanacies Hip Hop Bitches. Stanford University Book Haven (2/23/2014).

Tauchert, Ashley. Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen: Rape an Love as (Feminist) Social Realism and Romance. Women and Cultural Review, V 14, N 2, Jan 2003. Pgs 144-158.

Kelly, Helena. Many Ways in Which We are Wrong About Jane Austen (Lit Hub May 3, 2017).

Friedersdorf, Conor. Jane Austen and Men Who Refuse to Hear No (The Atlantic 10/22/2014).

Anonymous, The Continuous Romanticization of Rape Victims. Voice for the Innocent (Feb 27, 2017).

Ortega, Johanny. Stop Romanticizing Rape in Books and Write What you Know (Medium 8/31/2020).

Beck. Julie. When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance (The Atlantic 1/17/2018).

Harris, Carissa. Women have been Drugged and Raped by Men for Centuries (Vox).

Lewis, Matthew. The Monk (1796).

Coleridge, ST. Review of The Monk (1797).

De Sade, Marquis. Justine or The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791).

Cleland, John. Fanny Hill (1748-1749).

Richardson, Samuel. Sir Charles Grandison (1753), Pamela (1740), Clarissa (1748).

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of Lock (1717).

Radcliffe, Anne. A Sicilian Romance (1790), Romance of the Forest (1791), Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), The Italian (1797).

Burney, Frances. Evelina (1778), Cecilia (1782), Camilla (1796).

Walpole, Horace. Castle of Otranto (1764).

Romano, Aja. Bridgerton Has a Rape Scene, but it’s not Treated as a Rape Scene (Vox 12/26/20).

Schifano, Izzy. There was a Rape Scene in Bridgerton and No one Seems to have Realized (Vox 1/4/2021).

Kelly, Alice. How Bridgerton Failed Male Rape Survivors (Your Tango 1/13/2021).

Simon-Kerr, Julia. Unchaste and Incredible. Yale Law Journal V 118 N 8 (June 2008).

Redhead, Amanda. Stop Romanticizing the Sexual Assault of Young Men (Huff Post)

The Mary Sue, Bridgerton and Consent.

Fox, Caroline. Bridgerton Failed to Fix Mistake (Screen Rant).

Freedman, Eselle B. Women’s Long Battle to Define Rape (Washington Post 8/24/2012).

Bindel, Julie. Rape: A Burning Justice (The Guardian 8/13/2013).

Wolf, Leonard. Women are Purused, Tortured, Ensalved, Raped. (NY Times 1/14/1973).

Thompson, James R. Metaphor of Rape Culture (Wisconsin. edu)

Eitelmann, Matthais and Stella Butler. The Organic Uncanny: Taboo, Sexuality, and Death in British Gothic Novels.

Sex and Horror in Gothic Novels (Bookbywomen.org)

Gothic Tropes and Incest (The Gothic LIbrary)

Grove, Allen W. Coming out of the Castle: Gothic, Sexuality, and the Limits of Language. Historical Reflections V 26 N 3 (Fall 2000).

Incest in the Gothic Novel (Denison.edu)

Bridgerton: A Review

Well, first I must apologize for not writing as much last year as I thought I would be. An unexpected increase in workload meant I had little time for anything other than trying to sleep and survive. But I resolve to try an start this 2021 year off with a bit of fun and fluff.

Bridgerton | Netflix Official Site
Courtesy of Netflix

Bridgerton, if you haven’t heard, is a book series by Julia Quinn set in the Regency. The books are fictional, so there is very little attempt at them being historically accurate, other than the basic facts (like who is the ruler, dropping the name of well-known and famous society leaders, etc). Now, the Netflix series has gotten some criticism for casting people of color, some in prominent roles. To me, it’s refreshing because it IS historically accurate. Sorry to burst the fragile misconceptions of every Austen Adaptation ever, but there were non white people living in England during the 18th Century (and even earlier, if we’re being truthfully honest). Theatre folk (of which I will always be), know that blind casting really is the best way to cast roles. People who are good SHOULD play parts that suit them as actors, not skin color. And we should have more diverse casting. We should have disabled actors, trans actors, etc cast based on their ability, not their looks. But I digress…

Romance novels have this reputation for being the cheesy bodice rippers published by Silhouette or Avon (for example). But Romance Novels are a unique literary form that we should never sneer at. Many of us have probably read a cheesy romance novel, or two, growing up. I myself m exceptionally fond of the Gothic romance novels of the 1960s and not just because they have fun cover art (which they do).

Vintage Gothic Romance Books Classics Paperback Novels 1960's 1970's Women  running from houses, heroines in pe… | Gothic romance books, Gothic books,  Gothic romance
Courtesy of Pinterest

Romance novels are pure escapism. Austen novels have been labeled as romance, young adult, and adult fiction in libraries and in bookstores. I myself have outlined for 6 Austen style novels (one being written and edited and rewritten and you get the picture). There is nothing wrong with writing or enjoying Romance just as long as you remember not to take it too seriously (thought it can be hard).

The 'Bridgerton' Ending, Explained | 'Bridgerton' Season 1 Finale
Lady Danbury and Simon Basset, courtesy of Marie Claire

As an adaptation, I think Bridgerton is well done and has moments of being far superior than the recent ITV Austen adaptations. The costumes are rich, colorful, and sometimes a tad ridiculous (the Feathertons in particular), but they are all well made and have that silhouette we all associate with the Regency Era. They do an adequate job of visually giving us insight into the person’s social status, mood, marital status, and degree of social acceptability. As well as mixing elements of the fantastical with the historical. Visually, it is a delight.

Romp and circumstance: why Netflix's Bridgerton is just our cup of tea this  year | Period drama (TV) | The Guardian
Queen Charlotte, courtesy of Netflix

Now, as far as the adaptation goes for being faithful to the book, I must confess that I cannot supply any information. Now, I did try to read the first novel, The Duke and I, but had to stop due to a triggering element that, while it was not the same in the series, a similar event was depicted and I do have issues with it. That element is rape. In the novel, the “heroine” rapes the Duke (he is drunk) and denies it ever occurring up until they are married. As a victim of sexual assault, I could not finish the novel. No matter how it is framed, nor that the people involved end up being “in love”, rape is never acceptable. Ever. I found it repugnant and disturbing that any author would use the disgusting and reprehensible troupe of rape, but framing it within the confines of a romance, thus trying to make it acceptable (or palatable) to the reader.

not amused puppy - Google Search | Funny animals, Funny, Funny pictures
Puppy is NOT Amused, courtesy of Pinterest

I found the rape so triggering, that I engaged in some self harm (which I will not disclose as to the TYPE other than it doesn’t involve any knives nor blood and yes, I do see a therapist and have for years). Now, the adaptation did not include the rape scene as written, but still included a rape scene nonetheless, which was extremely disappointing. Any forward thinking person will tell you that even in the midst of engaging in a sexual activity, when one person says STOP or NO, it all stops. Period. The adaptation still had the heroine rape the Duke, but now within the confines of the marriage bed, which makes it that much better.

Reader, it does not.

Spousal rape is real and it should never be treated lightly nor be filmed as one person had the right to continue. And that was how it was framed. Daphne is seen as being in the right to force her husband to ejaculate inside her because she wants a child. This is rape. He clearly tells her to stop. Not once, but many times. And yes, we should be having this conversation because no mater how much I enjoyed this adaptation, I am utterly disgusted they would still keep Daphne’s rape of Simon in. It doesn’t matter that she did it after they were married instead of before. We do not need to see depictions of rape, including spousal rape, in any adaption that is advertised as a romance. This season is framed around the book The Duke and I. It’s touted as being a historical romance.

Bollywood angered over Hathras gang rape, demand justice for victim |  Deccan Herald
Courtesy o the Deacon Herald

Rape has no place in romance novels. It has no place in adaptations. No matter how much I enjoyed this series, I cannot fathom why the producers decided it would be perfectly acceptable to include rape. The story could have worked perfectly fine without it. Simon (the Duke), in a moment of passion couldn’t have forgotten to pull out since that was his main form of birth control. Or have him use a condom (yes, they existed) and have one tear or rip or perhaps he forgets? There are so many other ways to possibly hint at Daphne being late with her period without the rape. The pull out method is known to not be 100% effective against pregnancy and considering they devoted an entire episode to them screwing each other, you are telling me that not once he might have forgotten to pull out? Seriously? I understand that this is a work of fiction. Trust me, I know because I write fiction (though I endure the added burden of trying to be as historically accurate as possible). But once you start having some structure of reality to help us believe the world we are in, logic will come into play. According to Planned Parenthood, unless you are using a condom and/or birth control with the pull out method, 1 in 5 who only do the pull out method will get pregnant within a year. So, this means Daphne really had nothing to worry about because statistically, she would have gotten pregnant eventually.

Now, the series is enjoyable and I do recommend it because it is so rare for me to see anyone who looks even remotely like me on screen (big or small) that isn’t a terrorist or a servant that the biggest draw for the series IS the diverse cast. And if you ignore (or skip) the whole rape scene, it is an enjoyable series.

There’s still the old troupe of how the fat girl can’t possibly be anything other than the friend until she magically becomes beautiful (Yes, I’m looking at you Lady Whitstone).

A Brief Look at People of Colour before the 20th Century: Part 2

Horae ad usum Parisiensem, dites Heures de Charles d'Angoulême | Gallica 87v

Image from the Hours of Charles d’Angoulême; courtesy of Gallica.bnf.fr

I am not an expert in Medieval nor Reinassance history, but I do have an appreciation for those who are experts in those fields (and i am being very broad in using tose terms, for which I am quite aware of). But I do also have a penchant for Art and this period in human history was rich in Art. Above is an image cropped from Plate 87 (I believe, my French is a tad rusty at the moment) from the Hours of Charles d’Angoulême, which was complied (that is, drawn and written) around 1475 to 1500 CE in France. The full image depicts Christ and possibly other religious figures, but the focus on this is the the knight (or solider) being shown here. There is a fallacy to assume that artists at this time didn’t know what people of colour looked like. And most art history courses (and I have taken at last 1 or 2 in my day) tend to focus on religious imagery and rarely show anyone who isn’t white. It’s this issue which has led to the belief that there weren’t any non whites in Europe until after the 20th Century. But look at the care, the attention to minute detail that has been rendered here (rendered being a very posh term for drawn and/or illustrated). This man is wearing hose and you can see the folds of his top/surcoat. His hair is curly/kinky with a lovely gold scarf. His skin is darker than the hose and he’s wearing a large gold hoop earring with a ruby in it (yes, it’s hard to see in this picture, but if you go to https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b52502694t/f184.item.zoom, you can zoom in on the image and really appreciate all the detail in this one plate). This soldier is also not depicted as ugly, which I think is very important. He’s humble, in awe of Christ (not shown in this image). The artist clearly had seen a person of colour before and did, in my opinion, a decent job drawing them. That’s not to say that every piece of illustration from this period is drawn this well. Because it’s not, BUT the important take about this is clearly to illustrate that there were non whites living in France at this time. They may have been servants or slaves, this is true, BUT they did exist.

The Queen of Sheba, Fresco in a Church in the Lalibela region of Ethiopia (dating from 1100-1200s CE); courtesy of the National Geographic.

The Queen of Sheba is a figure from the OT and most biblical scholars do agree she came from an African country. In Africa, she is from Ethiopia, which is the only Christian country in Africa. She has a long history and presence in that country. However, what I like about this fresco is that they show her being more of a mixed-race person rather than just being dark skinned. Other images from this period, or later, tend to make her look darker but this one has a more Middle Easter feel to it, which seems to fit with who she may have been historically. Again, it’s another figure who isn’t white, but the difference is this time the image hails from a predominately non-white region so I find it interesting to see the Middle Eastern influences. I mainly included it because it’s different from the other images I will be showing and discussing.

Lorenzo Lotto c. 1532 Saint Lucy Altarpiece (detail)

Detail from an Altarpiece depicting St Lucy by Lorenzo Lotto (dates from 1532 CE); Wikipedia Commons Image.

This image from an altarpiece done by Italian Reinassance painter Lorenzo Lotto is an incredible piece (do Google it) which only has one person of colour in it-a servant girl looking after a child. Now, contrast this with the image from the Hours piece and you will notice that she is not as finely dressed, clearly indicating her status as a servant (and she is the only servant in the piece besides being the only other female). Yet she wearing earrings and a veil, meaning she has some status amongst the servants (perhaps). Now, the reason I chose this image was to show the beauty in rendering this female figure, but the care the artist took into detailing her hair and how it contrasts with the child’s hair and that of Saint Lucy. There is a gentle beauty in this figure, which again shows the artist clearly has seen non whites in his area. I am again trying to show that, let’s say the character of the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet could easily have been a woman such as this, yet she is always portrayed by an elderly white dame (and there’s nothing wrong with this), but a case can be made to have the Nurse be non white and back it up with historical evidence. I chose Romeo & Juliet as an example because firstly, I love Shakespeare (the downfall of being both an English & Theatre major I suppose), but I once had a teacher inform me that my looks would always regulate me to the roles of Nurse, except he didn’t believe anyone would cast a non white woman in that role (he was a grade A jerk).

“Portrait of a Moorish Woman” from the School of Paolo Veronese. Made in Italy, ca. 1550.

Portrait of a Moorish Woman attributed to the School of Paolo Veronese, Italy (dates from around 1550); Wikipedia Commons Image.

This is another portrait, done not that far apart from the previous image, but I love it because it’s not associated with religion (which the previous three were) and it’s attributed to a certain style of an artist (so Veronese could have painted this, or started this, and it was finished by one of his apprentices). She is stunning and being referred to as a Moor means she is of Italian and African decent. The Moors, in case anyone doesn’t know, did occupy a large part of Italy at one point (think of the crusades everyone). It’s a very beautiful and powerful portrait. She’s dressed more like someone from Ancient Rome than Italian Renaissance. She’s got large pearl earrings, a pearl necklace and a jeweled turban on her head. Her skin is richly glowing. This could be a young Cleopatra meeting Caesar for the first time. Or the Queen of Sheba. The point I am trying to make is while some of these models may have been servants or slaves, there is also the reality that there were also free people of colour, occupying the same space.

Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Penne and Duke of Florence, who was commonly called "il moro," Italian for "The Moor". In his day, he was officially recognized as the son of the powerful Lorenzo II de Medici (1510-1537) and an unknown African woman. Alessandro was the last Medici to rule Florence, having assumed the throne at the young age of 19.

Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Penne and Florence (dates from 1530s); Wikipedia Common Image.

Alessandro de Medici was the last Medici to rule Florence (he was assainated by his cousin, Lorenzino in 1537). He was nicknamed “il moro” (the moor) for his complexion. His father was Lorezno de Medici, one of the most powerful Medicis and an unknown African (or Moorish) woman. He attained his Dukedoms at the tender age of 19, started construction on massive forts in these areas, then was murdered by a cousin. He ruled for 7 years and was a free person of colour in Italy. Not only free, but a powerful person was well. This is where history has failed us. Most history books that I have read on the Medicis don’t mention why he was called the Moor, but only he was assassinated after ruling a short period of time. Granted, these books were written prior to the 1970s, but remember that popular show on the Medicis? You can find it on Netflix now. Knowing NOW that the de Medicis had illegitimate children with a variety of skin colours, and that there were people of colour in Italy at that time, the show is fairly whitewashed. Which is a pity because the Medicis are a fascinating family. The last Medici to rule Florence deserves his own biopic at this point in time. I’d love a Ken Burns special on the family at this point in time. I highlight this particular figure because most people, if they do acknowledge that there were people of colour in Europe at this time, don’t want to believe or tend to think there was no way any of them were in positions of power. This is inaccurate as it is saddening. Skin colour should not determine one’s ability to rule and so far, we haven’t been shown historically accurate depictions of our past in film, television, and even in books (especially fiction).

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Clipart Image

Part of the reason I started this brief series on people of colour existing in Europe proir to the 20th Century was partly my exasperation at hearing complete nonsensical bullshit reasons why a non white person shouldn’t be cast in the upcoming Dracula, or Dr. Who (people made such a fuss over Bill Potts being a woman of colour and a lesbian). People get upset if you show a person of colour existing in the 19th Century and who wasn’t a slave or a former slave (in the US) and how they don’t believe these people were existing outside of the US and Africa (and Asia). Another is that I have routinely gotten rejection letters from literary agents (up to 35 currently) stating that someone with my name (meaning, not white) has no RIGHT to be writing as well as I do. I’m not kidding. I was asked, in all seriousness, who my translator was because my English was just “too good to be true.” I’ve also gotten rejection letters simply because they inform me that no one will want to buy an Austen type novel from someone with a non-English name. Forgive me, but I didn’t realize that Jane Austen and the Regency were supposed to have been marked WHITES ONLY when it came to writing and appreciating. Austen herself, in all her letters and novels, never mentioned once that her works were to be the domain of only White People. Yes, it’s offensive and it’s wrong. It’s also extremely frustrating as a writer to be told my ethnicity makes me unpublishable. Now, somewhere out there is an agent who will look past my name and actually take the time to read my novel. So far, I haven’t found this person. And in case you think this meant people of colour ONLY existed in Italy, well…

Gerrit Dou Portrait of a Man Netherlands (1635) Oil on Wood, 22.5 x 18 cm. KØBENHAVN, Statens Museum for Kunst. The Image of the Black ...

Portrait of a Man (region, the Netherlands) by Gerrit Dou, from 163 CE. Courtesy of the Statens Museum

Oil on canvas from the school of Francois de Troy in Toulouse, France- Portrait of A “Mulatto” Aristocrat in Armor probably painted between 1680-1730

Unknown Aristocrat (yes, a mixed race one) from the school of Francois de Troy (located in Toulouse, France) from 1680-1730 CE; Wikipedia Commons Image.

ca. 1651 Elizabeth Murray, Lady Tollemache by Sir Peter Lely (Ham House - London UK)

Elizabeth Murray, Lady Tollemache by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1650; courtesy of Ham House – London UK. Notice the servant is a man of colour and this was painted in ENGLAND.

Portrait Of Lady Charlotte Fitzroy With Her Indian Page

Portrait Of Lady Charlotte Fitzroy With Her Indian Page Boy by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1673; courtesy of Artfund.org & Wikipedia Commons Image. In case you thought there weren’t any people with my ethnicity floating around…

Portrait of a Gentleman with a Young Servant, possibly Sir George Thomas Bt (c.1695-1774), by Charles Philips Portrait of a Gentleman (possibly Sir George Thomas) with a Young Servant (clearly an Indian) by Charles Philips and possibly from the 1740s-1760s (Sir Thomas lived from 1695-1774); Wikipedia Commons Image.

So yes, when I mean people of colour, I don’t just mean people of African decent. While it’s easier to find those of African decent in art images prior to the 1800s, this doesn’t mean other people (from India, Native Americans, etc) weren’t around as well. Pocahontas famously came to England in the 1616 and died in March 1617 (contracted an illness). So this assumption that if there were people of colour, this means only those were could have been slaves is also a false narrative.

Pocahontas by Simon van de Passe 1616.jpg

Pocahontas was on exhibition when she came in England in 1616. This engraving is the only known portrait of her. Engraving by Simon de Passe, 1616. She was 21 when this was done.

A Brief Look at People of Color before the 20th Century: Part 1

I was very excited at the news that Moffat & Gatiss were doing a modern take on Dracula, but then became disappointed when the cast was revealed and it had no people of color in any of the lead roles. Now, the people cast are good at what they do, but I was hoping at least one lead would be someone who isn’t White. For someone like me, who’s only seen 2 major stars like her in films (Merle Oberon and Sir Ben Kingsley), it’s sometimes hard to believe that with all of the resources out there, all of the talent, casting people of color as leads is still an issue in Western Film and TV. Please don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Sherlock and enjoyed Moffat’s turn writing Dr. Who. I also follow Gatiss on Instagram & Twitter and think him an excellent writer and actor. I believe some of these issues is the lack of knowledge of history. Neither man is at fault here for not knowing much about the history of colored people in Europe. It’s not taught in schools in America and probably isn’t really taught in schools in Europe either.

Nefertem - Goddess of Perfume Also known as she Who is Beautiful and Water Lily of the Sun, was goddess of both healing and beautification

Nefertem, Goddess of Perfume, Healing, and Beautification. Also known as She Who is Beautiful, associated with Water, and is referred to as Lily of the Sun.

I thought I’d start with Ancient Civilizations because there is a bad habit in Hollywood to cast White people in ethnic roles (cough cough Ridley Scott). Now, Egypt is a country on the continent of Africa (yes, I explain this because I know adults who think Egypt is in the Middle East and Africa is a country). Egypt is close to the Middle East, so there are many cross cultural shifts that have been going on for centuries. However, it may come as a shock that Egyptians, both ancient and modern are not 100% African decent, but are a mixture of all the people that have conquered it over the centuries. Cleopatra, perhaps the most infamous female rules (next to Nefertiti), was a Ptolemaic and of Greek decent. Now, she may have had some native Egyptian DNA and ancestry, but her father was Greek. So while people get upset over someone like Elizabeth Taylor being this Queen, in terms of skin tone, it’s probably close to reality than we’d care to admit.

King Tut and his sister-wife

But also keep in mind that some rulers were of African decent. Like King Tut, his father and mother and the man who ended up as Pharaoh and erased Tut and his father from history. While the Greeks came later, the original rules of Egypt were of African decent. There may have been trading and marriage with the Middle East as well during these centuries, which would lead to a diverse population. The Greeks coming would produce even more diversity. Then, of course, the Romans also brought a different culture into this region. Now, if they did a new Cleopatra film and cast someone who looked more Arab or more of a modern Egyptian, I wouldn’t mind. There are many different thoughts on who her mother was, one being an Egyptian concubine, so there is a possibility of Cleopatra being a person of color. I do have an issue with films like ‘Gods of Egypt” which show a primarily white Egypt in terms of the Gods and the populace. It was a slap in the face to Egypt and it’s rich history.

Fayum mummy portrait of a woman,Roman Egypt

Portrait of a Mummy, Roman Egypt., Notice how she resembles women of Middle Eastern in our modern era.

This brings us to Rome. There is a cult of Whiteness when it comes to Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome by Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and Proud Boys. They base this beleif that the ancient world was ruled by white people by the statues. Except the statues were originally painted to represent different parts of the population. What we have, because paint chips off, is the raw material (aka, the stone) left to us from those times. Anyone who paints understands the need for a neutral background and all white marble is fairly neutral.

The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture | The New Yorker

Reproduction of what a classical statue would have looked like. Courtesy of the New Yorker.

Head of a Roman Boy, Roman, 150 – 200 CE Marble

Head of a Roman Child (they believe it is  boy) from 100-200CE. Look at how finely detailed this is with the curly hair and roundness of face. Most researchers do think this statue is portraying a person of color.

This doesn’t mean that all the white statues were colored. Some may have been left white and allowed remain in that neutral state. However, research is showing that a majority of them were painted, proving that Ancient Rome wasn’t this bastion of whiteness, but a rich, culturally diverse population that spread across from Turkey, Egypt, to France and England. That’s a lot of people and from all kinds of varying backgrounds and races. So, while I enjoyed The Gladiator, I cringed at how a majority of the Roman Populace was white because they wouldn’t be. Rome would have people from all the areas that they conquered represented in that city. Either by having these people in the army or to be representatives of their area for the government.

"If people say, 'What kitsch,' it annoys me but I'm not surprised," says Brinkmann, who, with his wife, archaeologist Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, colored this reconstruction of the c. 550 BCE "Lion from Loutraki." Its stunning blue mane is not unique on ancient monuments. Lions often sat atop tombs in ancient Greece, where ornamental details such as the animals tufts of hair and facial markings were painted in bright colors that accented their fur.

Lion reproduction based on a statue dating from 550BCE. Courtesy of the Smithsonian.

So, what does this mean? Well, for one, history isn’t just white people and it isn’t just people of colour. History is PEOPLE. There are fake history websites trying to erase people who weren’t of colour from history. This is just as dangerous as White Supremacists believing that the ancient world was just populated by white people. Again, as I have blogged about previously, revisionist history is a dangerous, slippery slope towards a skewed outlook on life. Of course, I am all for a re-telling of Cleopatra with an all Egyptian (and Middle Eastern) cast. But it also should include people who were of Greek or Roman ancestry as well as Nubian ancestry. Ancient Egypt was a cosmopolitan place. But this means I also want Ancient Brits to be depicted with a range of skin tones as well.

A forensic reconstruction of Cheddar Man’s head, based on the new DNA evidence and his fossilised skeleton.

A reconstruction of Cheddar Man, courtesy of the Guardian UK.

When the reconstruction of Cheddar Man was revealed over a year ago, many racists lost it. And I mean they LOST IT. Some white supremacy websites today claim this to be a fake image. I’ve even come across a few on Pinterest that link this image with the “deep state”. Cheddar Man was unearthed over a century ago in Somerset. Obviously the nickname “Cheddar Man” is just that, a nickname. This gent hails from about 10,000 years ago (roughly the last major ice age) and when people first starting immigrating from the Continent to England. Earlier depictions had him looking like a figure from Norse mythology with flowing blond locks and piercing blue eyes. Thankfully due to scientific advancement, they tested his genome (his DNA) and it revealed he had dark skin, dark curly hair, blue eyes and still shared similar DNA to people living in Britain today. Now, this may be interesting to some of you, but I think it’s vitally important to realize this. Now, this doesn’t mean every person he traveled with looked just like him. We all contain the genetic code for a variety of looks. But it does make any Clan of the Cave Bear type film woefully and pitifully inaccurate with everyone pale, white, and having no variety in skin pigmentation.

Image courtesy of Panorama NYC

Basically, I am trying to get across to anyone who’s listening (or reading in this case) that we can no longer just blindly accept adaptations or stagings of any novel, biography, etc to just contain only white people. It’s a fallacy to think that there are no people of colour in existence in any and all historical re-tellings. I still come across articles written today about all non-white castings of Shakespeare plays and how “edgy” that is. Or a critic complaining that not having any white people is “pandering” to the non existent God of Political Correctness. Gatiss, while I still admire him, famously didn’t think there should be a non-white Victorian soldier on the moon for an episode of Dr Who because he didn’t believe there were non-whites living in Britain at that time. Remember, Dr. Who is a Science-Fictional 50+ years show and he objected to one minority solider on the MOON. Please Mark Gatiss, I implore you to do some reading into history and the existence of non-whites. Don’t get me wrong, I will probably watch the Dracula adaptation and will enjoy it. I will also silently weep and cringe that if there are any minorities on screen, they’ve been regulated to background characters because no one bothered to hire a historical consultant before writing and casting the show.

Pity.

Emma Adaption : Part 3 (1996 ITV Version)

Andrew Davies is known for his 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. He’s gone on to adapt other Austen works for BBC or ITV. After the hit that was Pride & Prejudice, he approached the BBC with his script for Emma. They turned him down as they had contracted with Sandy Welch to provide an adaptation. Oddly enough, the BBC adaptation didn’t come out for 12 years (2008). And this version had to compete with the Hollywood film version (and did very well). Because Andrew Davies wanted to have his version come out, he went to ITV and took practically the entire crew that worked on Pride & Prejudice with him (so the crew was well familiar with the time period, which is helpful).

Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith and Kate Beckingsale as Emma Woodhouse.

The adaptation starts off with chickens being stolen. This was, while not a common occurrence during this time period, a concern as most people raised their own chickens, ducks, turkeys so having any poultry stolen was a loss of eggs and meat. It’s also funny because it’s mentioned in the novel Emma (but towards the end) as a good reason for Mr. Knightly to move into the house with Emma & Mr. Woodhouse. So, it’s a nice little nod to the novel and this version ends with the chickens being stolen as well (so the chicken theft bookends the adaptation). It’s also the only adaptation to show the poor and working class people of Highbury. Poor farm workers would have been seen quite regularly. And Highbury being only 16 miles from London means you would get migration of the poor during the warmer months (like the gypsies). This is also the only adaptation to not show Emma as a blonde. No where in Austen’s novel does it specifically state Emma Woodhouse is a blonde. We base this on drawing and illustrations done during the Victorian Era and also because the 1972 version has Emma with dark blonde/light brown hair. Personally, I like the contrast of Emma with dark hair compared to Harriet and her lighter locks.

Mark Strong as Mr. Knightly

For the most part, the hair in this adaptation is really good. Harriet is shown with her hair down in Church, which I don’t think she would do, but the rest of the time her hair is up, so it’s not that big of problem (just an odd choice). They show older men wearing powdered wigs (or wigs in general) with the younger set having natural hair styled in a variety of ways. Mr. Knightly’s hair is very long and not quite fashionable, but considering he runs his farm and oversees others like Abbey Mill (which he rents out), not being in the height of fashion works in his favor (as opposed to the other adaptations were Knightly is impeccably dressed). Mr. Elton portrayed by Dominic Rowan and he is elegantly dressed, making him an excellent contrast to Mr. Knightly.

Emma & Knightly

The costumes are very well done, but considering it’s the same crew as the 1995 Pride & Prejudice, one would expect the same kind of attention to detail, which we do get. While Emma and Harriet are both dressed in the latest fashions, Emma’s gowns are made of better fabrics and have much more detail, giving her the appearance of being socially above Harriet (which she is) yet still looking not so far above Harriet that you cannot see these two being friends.  And Kate Beckingsale portrays Emma as a young girl (which she is) who just doesn’t understand how the real world works. Emma’s fantasies of Harriet getting married to various men is proof of Emma’s more childlike nature (besides just being fun). They also show Emma puffing up Harriet (making Harriet believe herself too good for Robert Martin) which falls in line more with what I recall from the novel.

Samantha Bond as Mrs. Weston

It’s interesting that they do show servants in this film and I do like it. They show servants riding on top of carriages, holding all of the picnic items for the outing to Box Hill. So while the people complain about the heat, the servants have long been exposed to it and have not had the comfort of being inside a carriage to get away from the sun. The gypsies are shown to be unrelenting in their pursuit of Harriet and money. I’ve often wonder how accurate that was, but reading Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Country Life, she points out newspaper articles indicating gypsies (or any wandering poor person) were sometimes ruthless in robbing people.

Raymond Coulthard as Frank Churchill

Harriet’s portrait, like the 1972 version, sticks to the novel and has her sitting down. Miss Taylor is seen getting married in her best gown, which is accurate to someone in her position. One thing I couldn’t quite understand was Mrs. Elton’s accent. She sounded a bit American at times. Did they do this to show she was uncouth? I’m at a loss because it’s just a weird choice. Or she just has an accent that I have never heard before (and I’ve watched a lot of UK television in my life). Prunella Scales is Miss Bates and she is wonderful in the role. Guy Henry is John Knightly and acts like Mark Strong’s sibling (they even seemed to have similar mannerisms). The casting really was superb in this version.

Lucy Robinson as Mrs. Elton

Now, things that I don’t like is it feels too short at times. The run time is 107 minutes, so sometimes it seems they tried to hard to fit so much in, they left things out. Compared to the film version, which is 120 minutes. Basically, I wish it was closer to the film in terms of length just so we could get a little more of the novel in to this version. Like the previous two versions, Mrs. Weston is not shown as being pregnant, even though in the book she gets pregnant and has a child. Overall, it’s a good version and I enjoyed it so much when it first came out, I purchased it. Watching it, you cannot tell it has a third of the budget of the film version, because it’s so rich and the outside shots are lovely.

Olivia Williams as Jane Fairfax

Emma: Part 1 (1972 Adaptation)

Now I venture into the one novel of Jane Austen’s that, quite frankly, I’ve never really enjoyed. Emma was the last novel to be published in Austen’s lifetime (23 December 1815, but the first edition lists the novel as being published in 1816). Austen herself stated that this was a character which “no one but myself will much like.” I have read Emma several times and I do enjoy the witty way in which Austen writes the characters, the scenes of folly, the playful ways in which the characters do endear themselves to the reader, I just have never been as fond of this book as I have of her other works. Out of the six novels Jane Austen wrote, Emma ranks at the bottom for me in terms of personal preference. Perhaps it’s because I do not find myself as having much in common with a rich, spoiled pretty heroine who has everything whereas I’ve struggled all my life. This is the only time Austen wrote a character who basically has it all; all other main characters tend to be poor and, therefore, are more palatable. However, Emma is a fine novel and should be enjoyed for the fine writing. Even though it is not a personal favorite of mine doesn’t mean I don’t wish to see a decent adaptation of it.

Emma Woodhouse (Doran Goodwin)

The 1972 version is the first adaptation done by the BBC for a six-part miniseries. It was adapted by Denis Constanduros and he was extremely faithful to the novel. A few lines were added that were not in the novel, but they seemed to be in the spirit of the mini-series and fit the overall feel. Like the 1971 Persuasion, the indoor scenes are most likely are done on sound stages, so rooms will be not so accurate in terms of dimensions and sizes (but I did notice the rooms were more proportionate than they were in Persuasion). And like Persuasion, there is a difference in film quality between outdoor and indoor filming, but that cannot be helped. It does seem that a lot was gained from the filming of Persuasion in 1971 so when it came to filming this adaptation, much that may have been an issue previously (such as background colors and costumes, etc), were fixed.

An example of the lovely muted colors. The silhouette is most likely post 1815.

The background colors of the set pieces are much more muted, so the costumes of the actors and actresses stand out more, which works out better. Color television, we must  recall, is still a fairly new medium and what they think may work doesn’t always translate to the television set. The hairstyles of the men is still skewing slightly towards the Victorian, however it seems they are costuming this towards the later part of the 1810s (most likely after 1815), so some transitional hairstyles I don’t mind seeing.

Mrs. Goddard (Mollie Sugden).

Some of the stand out cast I must mention is Mollie Sugden (most famous from “Are You Being Served?”) portrays Mrs. Goddard. Instead of being a barely there character, she’s given a bit more presence, even being in scenes accompanying Harriet (which, when one thinks about it, she would be) as an appropriate adult. Plus it is nice to see her in a role looking fairly normal. Debbie Bowen portrays Harriet Smith and is very elfin looking. She is very dainty compared to the actress portraying Emma and very fair compared to Emma (it’s usually the other way in more recent adaptations). It gives the character an air of innocence.

Harriet Smith (Debbie Bowen) & Emma.

The costumes, for the most part, are fairly lovely and accurate for the most part. Emma’s dresses seem to date from after 1815. Some variation in the others seem to range from 1810-1815, which would be accurate for the time period as women would wear a gown until it wore out (it was cheaper and less expensive to alter a gown then have a new one made). One would expect Miss Bates, for example, to have a gown at least 5-10 years out of date, but perhaps altered to fit the newer silhouette (at this time, it meant the removal of excess fabric from the back). I didn’t quite understand the wearing of the mop caps (see image above), but since they wore them under the bonnets, I saw them as a way of protecting the hair from the inside of the hats. Women did wear mob caps indoors, though usually spinsters and the elderly ladies (besides married ones). But I can see younger ladies wearing them if they were protecting their hair from having been recently washed. It’s a minor point and not worth getting too up in arms about.

The pleating of this hat is divine.

I must commend the attention to detail for the pleating done on the inside of some of the hats used. The hat worn by Emma (see above) is simply divine! It frames her face perfectly and is in a nice, neutral shade to not overcome the natural coloring of the actresses’ face. Plus the draping of the feather is done so well! And while you cannot tell, she does wear hat pins! Hat pins are important as they keep the hat in place and women used them.

Emma & Miss Bates (Constance Chapman)

Other good historical accuracies used is they show servants wearing tings like caps, aprons, half boots, sensible sturdy clothes. Mr. Woodhouse is portrayed as being frail and with an unnatural love of gruel (which he does in the novel). Jane Fairfax is shown to be delicate and ethereal, which I like, but she is too delicate. There is a strength to that character for enduring all she does for as long as she does. Gifting someone a piano is very wrong and amounts to a declaration of a proposal of marriage. I’ve always hated that part of the novel (and Jane should have never accepted such a gift). Mrs. Weston’s pregnancy is mentioned (her condition) and is even shown at one point, but isn’t shown to be pregnant, which is weird. I do love how they show curls were achieved by tying them up with rags at night (when they show Harriet in bed ill). Dancing shown is lively, which I approve. And Mrs. Elton is sometimes portrayed as not being cruel, but perhaps trying too hard to fit in (or wanting to be liked).

Jane Fairfax (Ania Marson), Mr Knightly (John Carson) & Emma.

Some unusual choices made in this adaptation were the Dixons were removed as the Campbell’s in-laws (the daughter was gone) and the Dixons were mentioned as potential employers of Jane instead. Considering this was a six-part miniseries, I didn’t understand the reason for changing such a small, but vital part like that. Having a potential employer seen as sending you a piano is even more scandalous than the husband of your friend. It makes the thought of Dixon as Jane’s supposed lover even worse. The Box Hill incident, Emma is then seen apologizing to Miss Bates, which doesn’t exist in the novel. Now, I do agree Emma should apologize, but disagree that Miss Bates would then state Emma would have nothing to apologize for. Even though the costumes are nicer and moe accurate, hidden zipper plackets are seen. I am not being overly not picky on this, it’s just an FYI for people thinking that these are going to be completely accurate based on what I’ve said and then may complain that I didn’t mention the plackets. Well, I’ve mentioned them. As for the makeup, it’s light on some and heavier on others, which probably would have existed at that time, but I do question some of the color choices. Some of the colors used are too modern for that time period (they didn’t have too many choices in terms of lip colors, so to see some bordering on burgundy are a bit inauthentic to say the least).

Knightly is amused

Overall, for a first adaptation, this one does a really good job. By first, I do mean for a first adaptation that was preserved on film. There are 5 previous adaptations that were done on television. They were all done live from 1948-1960 in America and in the UK and there are no recordings available. While I did watch 4 adaptations for this next round of blog posts, I did not watch 1995’s Clueless nor 2010’s Aisha as they are both loosely based on the original novel and my purpose tis to watch versions and rate them on historical accuracy. There is apparently another film version expected out in 2020. No word on whether it will be a loose adaptation or a historical attempt.

Bring another bowl of gruel!

 

Northanger Abbey: Part 2 (The Nice One)

So, now that we’ve had a few days to deal with the weirdness that was the 1987 adaptation of Northanger Abbey, let us continue with the only other version available, the 2007 ITV version adapted by Andrew Davies. Unlike the 1987 one, this one starts off with Catherine Morland’s baptism, shows us her youth to age sixteen (and funnily enough, the clothing silhouette seen never changes, which makes is hard to distinguish the passage of time). The hair for Catherine was very romanticized in terms of style and leaned more towards the Edwardian than Regency (so, they tended to make her look more “romantic” than regency which suited the actress’ face, but was an unusual choice given this had a big budget and they could do a better job at a historically accurate hairstyle).

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland and her Edwardian Hair.

Like the the previous version, they used Catherine’s imagination and had fun with scenes of wild scenes lifted from the novels she tended to read. Instead of Gothic scenes or Erotica, we got more swashbuckling adventure, which I thought was more appropriate and much more fun. The character, after all, is going to Bath on an adventure of her own so the parallel is meant to be obvious. The casting was done very well for this adaptation and everyone involved seemed to understand their parts, which is always a good thing. Sylvestra Le Touzel was lovely as Mrs. Allen and is no stranger to Austen adaptations as she was Fanny Price in a 1983 version of Mansfield Park (it’s always lovely to see actors from one adaptation show up in another). Davies, of course, does still keep some sexual innuendos in (he is famous for adapting the 1995 Pride and Prejudice version with Colin Firth we all love), so it should come to no shock that the character of John Thorpe makes a comment that Catherine is a “peach ripe for the plucking” when he first sees her. I don’t mind the statement because it shows the baseness of the character (yes, sex can be used in Austen is done correctly and with finesse).

JJ Fileds as Henry Tilney. He understands Muslin.

What this version has that the previous one didn’t is JJ Fields. He sparkles with immense wit and a great amount of humor as Henry Tilney. I’ve always thought the character of Henry Tilney as being Austen’s best male flirt she ever wrote and finally, to see it portrayed this way was very gratifying. He’s charming, but obnoxiously funny at the same time that you cannot take his flirtation at all seriously. For me, he is the perfect Henry Tilney and while I would love to see more versions of this novel in my lifetime, I feel bad for anyone that has to compete with this portrayal.

Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe.

I did not mind Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe. I think she did a decent job as the conniving Isabella, but she didn’t quite have the evil, sinister quality that the 1987 version had. The Thorpe siblings in the novel, as they were portrayed in the weird 1987 version, are sinister, manipulative, and are just plain evil. They are greedy and feel the only way to have money is to marry into it. It would have been nice to see some of this in her performance as well as in the brother’s. Though this version does give us a glimpse into how far she was willing to go with Captain Tilney in order to try and marry into wealth (apparently willing to lose her innocence and bed the man), only to find out he was only using her as she was trying to use him.

Isabella’s downfall.

Like the 1987 version, I am confused as to what year this takes place. At one point, Isabella mentions Lord Byron and insinuates how awful he is (hints of his incestuous relationship with his sister Augusta are rumored to have occurred around 1814). So, this may be taken place in 1817, when it was published or thereabouts. So, the dresses do fit the fashions of the time frame if that is the case. The hair, sometimes yes and sometimes no. For the most part, yes the hair for most of the ladies is still very Regency and fits. Catherine, as I have stated before, tends to be more Edwardian inspired, though sometimes it leans back towards the Regency.

Northanger Abbey. Again, we go with a Castle and a Moat. General Tilney (Liam Cunningham)

One main issue I have with both versions is the depiction of Northanger Abbey. In the novel, it’s described as a house, not even Gothic in nature (meaning, it’s not a castle, it has no Gothic architecture), but a respectable, Georgian Manor House. Not a castle, no moat, just a house. For once, it would be pleasant to have an adaptation actually be accurate in this description. And, in the novel, we visit Henry’s parsonage. We never visit his home in either adaptation. It’s sad because this is his home, the place he lives and where he’s brought Catherine, his sister and his father to visit one day. Another is the need to have a scene of young ladies in their undergarments. Since the undergarments are never 100% accurate, please desist in showing us this. Actually, if you show is this, then I demand you show us what the men are wearing as well (basically, have a similar scene showing the men with their undergarments-hint, they didn’t wear much if any). In other words, stop sexualizing Austen the wrong way. Also, clichéd rainy day almost kiss scenes need to stop in period films or adaptations. Just….no.

Now, things that were good, they showed a young boy still in a dress (and yes, he would have been in a dress until he was breeched). Excellent use of lighting and candles (no fire hazards that I could see). And I did appreciate the overall color schemes that were used-light and pale for the most part with a few bright colors now and again. Keep in mind that vivid colors weren’t like our vivid colors today. Colors were rich, but not necessarily bright. And the use of prints (both large and small) helped create texture. I did wish for more background variety, like servants and did notice (again) the lack of naval men in Bath. It wouldn’t be that hard to have extra dressed in naval uniforms to give a more authentic feel to Bath.

1987’s Version

So, it may surprise you but I actually do recommend the 1987 version but with this warning: don’t expect it to be accurate or faithful to the novel. As a first attempt, it’s weird, but in it’s own way, a bit enjoyable. It’s more of a Gothic film with bit’s of Austen thrown in than anything else. I feel it’s more of a fun Halloween film to enjoy after watching Vincent Price in Fall of the House of Usher and before Del Toro’s Crimson Peak. It sort of fills that middle ground between both of those films.

2007’s Version

For me, hands down I highly recommend the 2007 version if you are looking for an adaptation that’s accurate to the novel (for the most part), enjoyable, and just fun to watch. I would definitely state it should be added to anyone’s DVD library. Plus, he understands MUSLIN! Do you not comprehend the significance of this?!

Correction: I had wrongly stated in the novel by Austen, the home is not described as being Gothic. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, that notion bothered me because why would two adaptations set it in a castle if Jane Austen herself did not indicate something of the sort? So, instead of correcting the original mistake, I opted to write in a correction to show that anyone, even those of us who read and are entrenched in her works make errors. Yes, in the novel Austen makes mention of the Abbey as being Gothic in the courtyard (or having Gothic elements). This could mean anything from some use of re-purposed stonework from an actual Abbey or Monastery, or ruins of an Abbey that are close enough to this home. In the book Jane Austen’s Country Life, author Deidre Le Faye points out that the boarding school Jane and Cassandra attended for two years (Mrs. Latournelle’s in Reading) was also called the Abbey School because the building was adjacent to an abbey gateway of an old Medieval abbey. This gateway would have Gothic elements and perhaps was inspiration for the similar elements being described by Austen herself in Northanger Abbey.

Abbey Gate at Reading. I believe the building to the right has replaced the older, 18th Century building that was the Abbey School.

I have often thought of the house in Northanger Abbey as looking more like a Tudor Manor House. Not quite Gothic in terms of architecture, but these homes still did have the old arched windows, were made of stone, and did look very grand as some did look like miniature castles or forts. Just as as large as the ones used in either adaptation.

I sort of think this is more like how Northanger Abbey should look. Sadly, this place has been abandoned. But do notice the arch entrance way and the windows do seem to have some curvature to them. I did try and find the name of it and could not. Si triste!

This is Dorney Court, located near Windsor Castle. I have often thought it would be a splendid Northanger Abbey as well.  (dorneycourt.co.uk is the official website and the pictures of this place are spectacular).

Edmondsham House (located in Wimborne, Dorset) is a Tudor Manor House that was updated with elements during the Georgian Era. I saw this place online over ten years ago and immediately thought it was perfect for Northanger Abbey. There’s a 12the Century Church located nearby as well, so definitely has some Gothic vibes!

I do hope everyone has at least enjoyed the few homes that I do believe still fit in the whole grand feeling of what Northanger Abbey should feel without it being an actual castle. Please do remember, this is just my personal opinion. Some may like the use of castles because it mimics the Gothic novels of Romance of the Forest (Radcliffe) and Castle of Otranto (Walpole).

A Brief Look at Sick Bay or Please Stop Wanting to Take Data There for Assignations

I had long ago promised Mr. Brent Spiner on Twitter to write a blog explaining the history of Sick Bay. This was, of course, close to two years ago. I have not forgotten and I most heartily apologize for the delay. It has long worried me that fans of Star Trek (Trekkies/Trekkers) feel the need to tell their favourite actor (or actress) that they have lond held desires to whisk them along to Sick Bay. I’m hear to inform them once and for all to please don’t. Sick Bay is not a place for romantic assignations. Sick Bay is a medical area where people are brought to because they are sick, injured, dying, or in some instances, giving birth. Nothing about the term nor the function screams “Romance.” Since this is a history based blog, let’s go on a journey of the history of Sick Bay and it’s usage as a term.

In modern terminology, Sick Bays are the areas on board or ashore Naval and Marine Corps bases (meaning ships or land based facilities) were medical supplies are located. Usually, only the medical oficer and the commanding officer will have access to the locked medical cabinets. On a ship, it’s a specialized compartment or bay. On land, it can be a building or a series of rooms (think medical clinics). Naturally, it’s become popular to use in science fiction due to Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. But I often laugh at people (though also cringing as well), who think it a suitable place to have an assignation in. Granted, it is a sterile environment and I suppose cleanliness would be a positive aspect of selecting such a place. Nonetheless, it is a medical facility first and foremost, which means people have vomited there, gross bodily fluids have spilled there, and people have died there. None of these images conjures up feelings of romance nor of flirtatiousness.

First known use of the word to describe a specific area, according to the Etymology Dictionary, if from the 1580s. They state it can mean the forepart of a ship’s main deck used as a hospital (which sounds like a modern interpretation unless you are made aware that hospital dates from around mid 13th Century France) or an indication of a space between decks, on the forward side, but a recessed space. Hospital meaning “a place for the needy”, “guest lodgings” or “to be hospitable” which doesn’t mean what we now associate with the word. Though one does hope that medical staff in our modern hospitals would treat one hospitably. Even though the word dates from the 1580s doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t in use before that. Some form of the word may have been in use for much longer than we are aware of as sailors rightly deemed it wise to use an area that had no function and turn it into an area for use by those who are injured or sick. One doesn’t want sick men intermingling with healthy men in case it’s an illness that can spread.

Sick Bay: 1898USS Brooklyn, circa 1898 “Sick Bay”, Detroit Publishing Company (courtesy of Shorphy.com; image 8863)

Of course, as the decades evolved, so did warfare and a dedicated space was then established for the treatment of injured and ill sailors. Looking at the picture of the U.S.S. Brooklyn (see image above), it’s still clear that the area was still located at the end of the ship. It’s hard to discern whether it’s at the front or the rear. However, this ship was laid out (as in begun) in 1857 and launched (finished) in 1859, so it’s probably located int he front of the ship, like the majority of the Sick Bays were on other man of wars at this time. This ship was decommissioned in 1889 and struck from the Naval lists in 1890; then sold to a private company. This ship is said to be the first official US Naval Ship of this type and one of the best in her day. She was active during the Civil War for the Union and traveled to various interesting places in the world. I do believe there is a much newer ship bearing the same name currently. So, the sailors pictured here are working for a private firm, possibly involved in trade or exploration.

The USS Constitution Museum website has a wonderful entry on their ship

s Sick Bay and how this inspired some writings by Herman Melville (yes, Moby Dick Melville). They also have terrific images of where it is located on the ship itself with period drawings, along with other entries dealing with how they keep the ship in working order (even though it’s permanently docked). They openly discuss the restorations process over the years and the detail they’ve put into it all. Everything about this site has been infinitely informative for me in writing not only this blog post, but for researching and writing my first novel (as I do have Royal Naval Men in it). I cannot state how phenomenal the site it and if you do email them a question, they do try to respond within a few days. They readily provided me with links to other sites of similar ships, which I do not think I would have been able to find on my own without their assistance. https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/2016/05/04/sick-bay-away/

Sickbay

The locked Medicine Cabinet of the HMS Victory’s Sick Bay (courtesy of the HMS Victory)

The above image was emailed to me from the very fine folks restoring the HMS Victory, which is one of the finest examples of Georgian ships to still exist in the world today. When I explained ot them that I wanted to know what the typical medical cabinet aboard a man of war would possibly look like, as they didn’t have an example shown on their site, they very kindly sent me this picture. They are restoring various areas of the ship, so this may be an old picture of what the cabinet looked like before they started to restore the Sick Bay area, as I do believe they are working on it or have been working on it recently. Be that as it may, the important thing to remember is that only the Captain (or the highest ranking Officer on board, say an Admiral) along with the medical Officer, would be the only two to have keys to unlock this cabinet. Any sailor who needed to be treated in Sick Bay also lost their ration of rum that day. So men did not willingly want to be treated for any injury or illness, often preferring to self treat instead. Receiving one’s ration of rum was considered a right and continued in the Royal Navy until Black Tot Day (31 July, 1970). Again, doesn’t sound very sexy, does it? After all, who wants to have their rum ration taken away? The more one finds about Sick Bay, the less appealing it’s sounding.

By the time of WWII, Sick Bay became slightly bigger in size, as they now had to include more modern equipment and the medical officer was now a trained surgeon. The area usually contained a folding operating table, possibly an oxygen tank, maybe an IV stand (though more likely to have hooks in the wall to just hold bags up), fans, perhaps a small fridge to hold vaccines, and a small sink. For now sailors had to be vaccinated and treated for such things as Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Cholera, and STDs like Syphilis. Like their fathers in WWI, STDs were the very Devil; condemns, if you are not aware, have been around since the 1400s. Like always, this was not an area you wanted to be in and one you wanted to avoid at all cost. It was not a sexy place. This was a place of death during the war. Men died on their way there, died from hemorrhaging on the table or died from infection afterwards. In battle, the last thing on the medical offier’s mind would have been sterilization of equipment, unfortunately.

Basically, the point is Sick Bay is not a romantic area at all. I don’t think any proper lady would want to be taken there for an assignation nor should any man deem it an appropriate place to begin with. Places on board a ship which would be much more suitable, and romantic, would naturally be his personal quarters. Considering Data is a Lieutenant, therefore an Officer with Rank, his quarters would be much nicer than the average, basic non-ranking Star Fleet Officer. Personally, the Conference Room (or War Room) would be a nice choice; historically, only Officers of Rank would have access to this room and it does have a lot of windows on one side, meaning there is a nice, pleasant view. On a ship of the 18th & 19th Centuries, this area usually connected to the Captain’s personal quarters and was a bit like his personal sitting area and also his office/conference room. Star Trek wisely has the Captain’s Quarters in a separate Deck, with his office on the opposite side of the conference room, with the main deck in the middle (which I think is a very wise placement decision). Of course, there’s always the Captain’s Office, which may be thrilling and slightly naughty. Empty shuttles, for instance, offer privacy out in the open. There is also the Holodeck, which is engineered for fulfilling fantasies. All I am stating, Star Trek fans, is be less creepy with this fascination for sex in Sick Bay and more realistic.

And while I have given thought as to where one should have an assignation on board a ship, my personal preference is for Captain Wentworth and the Laconia, not Lieutenant Data and the USS Enterprise. I was, after all, seven with TNG came out, so never understood the sexual appeal of Data. Though I did believe Data would be an amazing friend. He would play with Legos with me. We would draw, color and paint together. I’m fairly certain Data would have enjoyed Super Mario Brothers and Tetris. Plus, he was friends with Mr. Reading Rainbow himself, Levar Burton, which made him super cool. And we both liked cats. Watching it again, being older, I still think that way, which isn’t a bad thing. Personally, I ended up crushing on Mr. Nimoy as Spock from the original series. I guess Vulcans are more my thing. Though having meet the man in real life in 2008, Leonard Nimoy was absolutely fantastic. He was warm, kind, and we were able to speak for a little bit. And I always tell people he smelled incredibly good. Which sounds weird, but it’s true. So, I may be unusual, but at least I don’t want to shag someone in Sick Bay.

 

Sources:

https://www.history.navy.mil/

www.shorpy.com

https://www.etymonline.com/word/sick-bay

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sick%20bay

https://www.hms-victory.com/

https://www.ussslater.org/tour/decks/platfrm1/sick-bay/sick-bay.html

https://historyofnavymedicine.org/

http://www.riparia.org/Medical%20History/sickbay.html

 

My Encounter with Willoughby

Willoughby has always been a problematic character for me. Do I like him? A bit as he is redeemed slightly towards the end. Do I hate him? Of course since he acts as if women were mere playthings. And yet there has always been something that I have never understood about him-his motivation. The reason I didn’t understand it was, I believe, because I had never experienced a relationship like that. Of course, I’ve had crushes and have had my heart broken (who hasn’t), but not like Marianne Dashwood. Well, until now.

In August of 2016, I began working at a Country Club where I met Sebastian (not his real name for obvious reasons). He was only 3 years older than me-pleasant, a bit flirty, but overall I thought him a nice man. I didn’t think much of it (his flirtation) or him actually simply because I tend to fall for men who are taller than me and who are readers (in that they read books, or are intellectual in some way). Sebastian, on the other hand, is slightly taller than me (maybe an inch taller than me) and is more of the physical type (really into sports, not really into the arts or anything intellectual). Strictly speaking, I found him nice, but not at all attractive in terms of relationship status. He was, in essence, my boss and that’s how I saw him and how I treated him. Yes, he had little flirtations with me, but he did with all the girls and I didn’t think much of it. He stated that it was part of his culture (Hispanic) to be flirtatious with women so I brushed it off. This all changed in October of that year.

For some reason, since I worked on my birthday, Sebastian decided he would make a meal for me (he’s the chef there). And I was very touched because I saw it as an act of kindness and a gesture of friendliness. He also began doing little things like that afterwards-maybe not meals, but sometimes strawberries cut up into flowers, fruit arranged to resemble an animal, homemade oatmeal, etc. Nothing that I saw as being overtly romantic, but I tended to smile and thank him and think he was just being very kind. I was always amazed at his ability to cut fruit into animal shapes so when he did little things like that for me, I tended to clap my hands and smile. I was charmed by it because I thought (and still think) it a very amazing talent. But then he started commenting on how “gorgeously green” my eyes are. And how he would talk about my green eyes with the cooks, his family, his friends. It was all very flattering and confusing. Flattery is a very powerful tool. Especially when such flattery starts to include talking points about the color of my skin and my dark hair.

I should make mention that I am very inexperienced with such attentions and really have no defense for such things. Then specific nicknames started for me and me alone. Always sounding similar to my name, but not my name. And then he would tend to hum or sing around me and tell me that he was singing Mexican Love songs. Now, I don’t speak Spanish so I have no idea what he was actually singing. He could have been telling the truth. Again, these were attentions that I have never had paid to me and had zero experience for. Of course, then he noticed that I was losing weight and complimented me on how attractive I was becoming. It was then Sebastian started talking to me about his interests, asking advice regarding his children (he is a single parent), seeking my approval on clothes he was thinking about purchasing, etc. I became bombarded with aspects of his personal life as he dew me in. I, of course, enjoy helping people so when I am asked for help (especially in regards to a child), I will give it freely. I didn’t realize the trap was being set (and it was a trap). He would draw a few personal tidbits from me, no doubt, to make me feel comfortable and to learn enough about me to be able to engage in a conversation, but only superficially I have realized. Almost every conversation ended up revolving around him-his needs, his wants, his interests, his desires. Especially his desires.

I was overwhelmed by all this attention and completely unsure of myself that when the country club closed in December, I was glad of the break. Of course, the break was to only last a month, but I felt that I truly needed that break. Of course, Sebastian made a few promises of  his own-possibly a date or two-but not a word did I hear from him until about a week before the club was to reopen (two and a half months later). I truly believed that since enough time had passed and I had time to reflect, that I would not be drawn in again. Now, I did try to find other positions, but was unable to and decided better the devil you know. I was a fool.

He started his attentions full force this time around. Actively seeking me out whenever he could. Even talking, at length and quite often, about taking me out before screwing me. Well, he didn’t use that wording, but I was clearly out of my depths here. I have never encountered any man so blatant and open about his sexual desires for me-well, any desires for me to be honest here. And it was seductive. He openly called me “his love” in Spanish at work and made no effort to hide the fact he desired me at work. It isn’t hard to imagine why I began to like him to caring deeply for him. I may have even have started to fall in love with him (perhaps a little).

But once I began to show that I cared for him a lot, a little meanness began to appear. Comment son how I wasn’t losing enough weight fast enough and how I should or shouldn’t be eating. Now, as a Diabetic, I have to eat at regular intervals. When he cared, he made sure that I ate something. Now, he doesn’t care at all and I have begun to bring snack bars in because while everyone who works there is entitled to a free meal when they work there 6 hrs or more, this has begun to be denied to me more and more. He also made comments that I really should only buy undergarments (bras) from Victoria’s Secret because, in his opinion, that’s sexy. Which I’ve always thought an odd comment since 1) he’s never seen my undergarments 2) he never shall see my undergarments and 3) Victoria’s Secret doesn’t make bras big enough for the busty gal. Or even comments that getting my hair done and wearing certain colors of lipstick is leading me on the path towards becoming a whore. I’m sorry but I believe that most women would not find it strange to spend over $50 for a hair cut and color at a salon. And it’s not like I wear gobs of makeup either.

Of course, the final straw was that while he could text me about everything personal under the sun, I crossed the line by sending him a picture of me holding my infant niece because he demanded to know who I was having lunch with. His response was that I can no longer text him anything except restaurant business. This occurred just this past Sunday and yes, my heart broke. And yes, I was and am still upset. But at the same time, Sebastian pursued me. I didn’t pursue this man at all. Frankly, hes not my type and from what I’ve gleaned from his family (yes, his family), he tends to go for immature 20 somethings, take them out a few times, probably sleeps with them, then dumps them. Apparently, I am exception because 1) I am age appropriate to him 2) I am mature and 3) I am not stupid.

Perhaps that is the real issue here. Sebastian, like Willoughby, saw me as a prize-something different than his usual fare and wanted to see if he could get me. So he started this game and I did try to resist. I don’t think anyone can be immune to such charms forever, especially when exposed to them on almost a daily basis. When a man in constantly telling you that you are beautiful, you are desirable and that he wants you, it’s very hard to stop feelings from developing. This same man would become jealous whenever another man paid me a compliment. this same man who threw not one, but two separate temper tantrums because I received flowers from 2 other men. Sebastian is so overtly possessive of me that even a vendor (who did end up asking me out), who only wanted to know my name was give the impression that I was Sebastian’s woman. But it’s just a game, right? A silly eight-month long game of flirtation he started and ended abruptly.

Except now I can see him through my tears for what he is-egotistical, vain, pompous, and extremely phobic of anything he doesn’t understand. He tells me that I don’t know God because I’m not Catholic, yet he sees nothing wrong in seducing young women in order to sleep with them. He thinks anytime a man in staring at him, it’s because the man is gay. Well, it could be because you’re almost 40 and you’re dressing like you’re still 20. Just because I can fit into dresses at the plus size clothes at Forever 21 doesn’t mean I am going to purchase them and wear them. I am no longer 21 and am 36. And I’d rather wear my Alexander McQueen scarf than anything from Forever 21.

Yes, I am still hurt and will still hurt for a while yet. It’s very hard to stop feelings for someone you care for. It’s not like I am a faucet and I can’t just shut them off (though I wish I could). Yes, I am well aware that such feelings were created under false pretenses. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t real for me. And I also call into question everything he ever said to me that I enjoyed. I call into question that I am beautiful. I call into question that a man can find me desirable and would want to willingly spend time with me. Sebastian, unfortunately, was the first man to ever say such tings to me and I do not know if he truly meant them or if it was all a lie. My hope is that perhaps while he many have started this as a game, he did, at some point, mean it.

This brings me back to Willoughby. Sebastian is now Willoughby for me-Willoughby wears his face, has his voice, uses his mannerisms, and his motivations. Willoughby. Willoughby will forever know have brown eyes that can seduce you one day and wound you the next. I’m not justifying what Sebastian did to me. On the countray, I think what he did was wrong-not only ethically (as he is, technically, my boss), but morally as well. I cannot believe that a majority of men out there would ever behave in such a manner willingly. And I cannot believe that he would approve of any man treating either of his two daughters this way. But Sebastian did act like this. More’s the pity because I am someone’s daughter, Sebastian. I am someone’s sister and someone’s aunt. Maybe, one day, I will be someone’s mother and someone’s wife. And that alone meant I deserved to be treated with respect by you and by every man out there. Especially by you because you started this game with the intent to do what….seduce? Hurt? Boost your ego? Except I do believe it backfired, this game you started. I believe it started to mean something for him as well and that’s why he started being mean because it was something new (only about a month) and only once or twice a week. The rest of the time, he was always all smiles, and sighs. All sweetness and love. And perhaps he realized that he went too far and his game was, perhaps, becoming all too real. Being mean was and is his way of pulling away. The only problem is that unlike Willoughby, there is no Austen to write an explanation for the meanness, to soften the hurt feelings.

Now, I still work with Sebastian and will have to use my acting skills to not only refrain from crying, but to fight the urge to slap him. I refuse to run and hide. Sebastian, after all, is the one who is to blame for all of this. He pursued me-I didn’t seek his attentions nor do I desire them now. I believe his true intention (besides the obvious thrill of seducing a virgin to his bed) was to stroke his ego and nothing more. After all, isn’t it a boost to his macho self image that he can go after and make an uninterested virgin interested in him? And since I do believe one of his goals was to seduce me to his bed-on that count he failed miserably. I am not so easily won and am not that stupid. Truly, if he wanted to seduce me, a trip to the Field Museum or the Art Institute would have been more seductive than the finest restaurant he was planning. I did tell him once that I am an intellectual and would not be so easily won like his past girlfriends. Clearly, he didn’t understand and never bothered to read my letter that I wrote to him either. That, he informed me, he tossed away without ever opening it.  Pity then, for it seems while he tried to play a game with me, he himself got a touch of it as well.

The one thing that still bothers me is why-why go after me? There were and are other girls more like his usual taste in bedfellows. One girl, in particular, has stated to me (and to Sebastian apparently) that she will do anything for a raise. Now, she has a boyfriend, but is willing to do anything sexual for a raise. He flirts with her and while that hurt last week, this week I shan’t care. If she does do “anything,” I doubt he’ll do anything for her and I’m not going to say anything about it because he has children and I refuse to hurt them. They will end up getting hurt by his actions, but I refuse to be the one to hurt them. One of these days he will play this game again and it won’t end well. Or he’ll end up exactly like Willoughby living a semi-charmed life. Regardless of what occurs, I hope he does have a few regrets. I really hope one of those regrets will be how he treated me. Not to be mean, but only so he can understand how his actions hurt me and how they, no doubt, have hurt others.

I will get over it and I have to because while every fiber of my being wants to curl up and cry, I know that I have to face him at work every time. Unlike Marianne, there is no Colonel Brandon there to pick up the pieces and make me feel safe and loved again. I wish there was. I wish I had more experience with men other than what I end up having, which is mainly a lot of male friends. And I don’t think any (if at all) of my single male friends has ever thought about dating me. Ever. they probably don’t realize this, but when they tell me that I will make “some guy” a great girlfriend, it’s like some kind of back-handed compliment. Because you’re telling me that I’m girlfriend material, and apparently really good at that, but somehow not pretty enough to tempt you. Which is what most of them have said or implied over the years. They haven’t said it to be cruel. I honestly don’t think they realize that telling someone that except for her looks you’d date her is soul crushing and the fact she continues to be your friend, is pretty  amazing of her. Sebastian, of course, has done the most damage regarding how I feel about my looks as I had begun to think I was pretty. After all, here was this very good looking man pursuing me and telling me that I was beautiful. Except that since it was all a game to him, it was all a lie.

So, what did I do? I went to see Wonder Woman today. It was better than crying over Sebastian (or even dying over him, because frankly, he’s not that worthy). And seeing the film helped. After all, I have been wanting to see a live action WW film since I was 12 and first read a WW comic book. It was also, in a way, some kind of revenge on Sebastian. He thinks the film looks “stupid” and is “for lesbians” because I believe the concept of a strong woman, or a race of them, challenges his perception of what it means to be a man. After all, Sebastian has no appreciation for literature of any kind. He thinks books are worthless and was proud of the fact that when he moved into his place, there were all these old books that he threw out. He never understood that books are precious and full of knowledge. He also thinks watching Dr Who or liking Monty Python makes me stupid for some reason. He doesn’t believe that girls can enjoying fishing or camping and believe all women want to be taken to restaurants before being tumbled. Well, I’d rather watch Blazing Saddles and order a pizza. Or go to a museum or a Theatrical show. I want someone who thinks being smart is sexy. That doesn’t care what size dress I wear. Who thinks I’m something special. Applications are being accepted.

As the World Falls Down: My lifelong crush on David Bowie

I remember seeing Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth” on VHS when I was about 7 or 8 years old. It was love at first sight-literally. Next to Wentworth and Darcy, I have been in love with 2 of Henson’s creations for the majority of my life: Kermit the Frog and Jareth the Goblin King. The soundtrack of said film alone has been a constant favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. It was one of the first CDs I purchased (besides U2’s Achtung Baby). Bowie is dangerously sexual and seductive in the film and is meant to be so. As a child, I fell in love with the Goblin King because I wanted to live in that world-I wanted to play with the fairies and Ludo. I wanted to run around in the Escher drawing. I wanted to threaten misbehaving goblins with the Bog of Eternal Stench. As I moved into my teen years (specifically around 12 years of age), the ball scene became my favorite. I wanted to dance with the Jareth and I know it’s a fantasy of many a girl my age, older and the younger generation. There’s a reason this film endures and it’s not because women everywhere are in love with David Bowie and his tight pants (well, we are, but that’s not the reason). It’s because it’s a tale about how hard it is for girls to become women-it’s painful, it’s hard, and it’s dangerous. And the dangers are unseen and untold. Jareth is not only dangerous because he is a very attractive male, because he is the ONLY male available. He is powerful, he knows your weaknesses but at the same time, he is weak as well. It’s a very sensual tale of seduction that almost occurs but never does (much to many a female disappointment). Again, because the female in question is a teenager, but we always hope that somewhere, somehow, when we get older, we meet our own Goblin King who takes us away. Because the world of becoming an Adult is scary-it’s riddled with choices that no matter which one you choose, it’s the wrong choice. Life is increasingly unfair as you age and you find out that the opposite sex is not only something you need to be wary of, but that you like the danger it contains. And that you do eventually have to give up playing with toys and living in a fantasy world (well, it’s recommended that one does this, but I have yet to divest myself fully from this and highly recommended that neither do you).

Actually, now that I am older, it’s amazing how much sexuality is in the film and was allowed to stay in it. I’m shocked it didn’t get a higher rating just based on the tightness of Bowie’s pants alone. As a child, you are aware that there is this undercurrent of something there, you’re just not sure what it is, but it definitely becomes more apparent as one gets older and more sexually aware. Because all of the sudden, instead of enjoying the story, you want the Goblin King to come and kiss you. Or kiss the girl in the film (and become angry that he doesn’t). Actually, I tended to get angry at Sarah for the choices she made (always poor choices in my opinion) and wanted to smack her until she made the right ones. Or at least be able to step into her role and make the decisions I know would make me extremely happy (basically, choose the Goblin King-forget about the baby). Then you pick up on the tight pants, the extremely low cut shirts (open of course), and all that leather. And should one mention the riding crop and swagger stick? Jareth was a pseudo Regency-Steampunk Bad Boy before that was even a thing. With Tina Turner Hair and makeup that only seems to make him seem more feral and dangerous than anything else. Of course, this was before his teeth were fixed, so the jagged teeth actually worked in his favor. Plus his two different colored eyes were truly magical. I’m pretty sure that David Bowie is the only man that looked good with those kind of eyes. Of course, he had cheekbones that were just as sharp and deadly. Then there were the smirks. As one gets older, you tend to live for them because you come to realize that Jareth is snarky and full of wit and quite possibly the magical version of Darcy and Rochester rolled into one. Yes, he’s the villain of the film, but then again, didn’t he do everything that Sarah asked for? Is he really the villain or did he just grant her every wish and whim only to be thanked by constant complaints? Truly, what was there to complain about?

Plus the music-the soundtrack itself is timeless and pure Bowie. As the World Falls Down is very much a love ballad, but sad and poignant. I confess that I have the entire lyrics memorized and sing it every single time I hear it-I really can’t help it. It’s a very beautiful song. And, if you listen carefully, it’s based on a waltz, which is why it’s so simple and seductive (and makes one want to twirl). It’s full of sweetness and sadness with a tinge of regret at times and while it’s not my favorite Bowie song, it’s pretty close. There’s a reason so many women have wanted to dance to this song at their weddings. The music video for it is also just as lovely as it pays homage to the film but also is not wholly about the film, which makes the video (and the song) continue to work after so many years. It was very easy to go from “Labyrinth” to “The Man who Fell to Earth” to “Ziggy Stardust” and other films and albums of Bowie. His voice has always been seductive to me. Beautifully resonant and filled with emotional depth. Plus, he sometimes included saxophone (which he played) on some of his songs, and I just enjoyed his talent as a singer and musician. He was an artist. I always thought it was a pity and he and Prince never did a song together (but could the World have ever actually handled that much seduction and talent in one song? Probably not). Yes, David Bowie is not everyone’s cup of tea. He had songs on some of his albums that are very jazzy and all instrumental. He constantly challenged himself and never wanted to be boxed in. But he was always the Goblin King at the same time. He was seductive and dangerous and vulnerable and slightly bored with reality. So he created his own with each and every album. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of “Labyrinth.” Either the film nor the soundtrack. Sometimes I need to escape into that world as Henson created a very beautifully dark faerie tale for girls and something in me will always need it. Just like something in me will always whisper, when I am alone in front of a mirror, “I wish the Goblin King would come and take me away right now.” I am always a little saddened when it never happens though.

When Jim Henson died, I admit that some of my childhood died. After all, I loved and still love Kermit the Frog. He doesn’t sound quite the same, but at least the spirit is still there, which is why I love that character. But when Bowie died, I was devastated. He was, after all, my first major teenage crush. I don’t think I ever stopped being in love with the Goblin King, I just expanded it to be in love with the man behind the character as well. I respected his music and always considered him to be a terrific actor. The man had some serious talent there, though not many people appreciated it. But his music was an art form in of itself and I feel that’s what I will miss the most. I will miss the next new Bowie album coming out. I know he left recordings of songs and there’s always unreleased stuff that can come out, but his evolution as an artist ended. That’s what I will miss. He was always way ahead of the curve and songs he wrote in the 1990s are more relevant now than when they were first released. He was the Goblin King in that regard-he was magical. He saw beauty in all races, all colors, all people.

But at least we live in an age where if I’m feeling particularly stressed or blue, I can pull up a song or album up on my iPhone by Bowie and let his voice relax me and take me away from reality for a little while. And while I can never get the Goblin King to come and take me away like I’ve always wanted him to, at least I can turn on his voice whenever I wish, which is as close to true magic as I’ll ever be able to do.