Last Saturday I went to see Pride Prejudice and Zombies, which is based on a book by the same name and parodies Jane Austin’s original.
The story is pretty much the same; it still has the overbearing mother who is desperate for her daughters to marry rich men and thus avoid the perils of early 19th century landed gentry society. It still has the feisty Elizabeth Bennett who refuses to marry against her wishes. It still questions pre-Victorian society and gives us a view of rural upper class country life. It still has the same themes of women in the 19th century, education, marriage, love and our perception of others.
The only difference is that in addition to all of the above, the Bennetts are living in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, where the recently deceased upper class rural Georgians are turning into corpses and eating the brains of the living.
I hadn’t read the book, so I really had no idea what to expect. I didn’t go in with particularly high expectations, but I was really pleasantly surprised. Even though it is essentially a comedy, it wasn’t too hammed up or unrealistic and was still intelligent enough to be enjoyed in its own right. The idea of adding zombies to something like Pride and Prejudice does seem like it shouldn’t work, but it was well thought out and worked surprisingly well.
I now think the original would have been better if it had had zombies in it. I remember reading Pride and Prejudice at college and it wasn’t bad, but I didn’t really get the hype either. It was okay and did pick up as I continued to read, but at the time I did feel like it was lacking something. I appreciated the story, but I thought it should have had something extra. And that extra, it appears, was zombies. You still get all the romance, historical relevance and important themes of the original, but you also get the gore, action and visuals of your standard zombie flick; just with a better story.
Even though it is a parody, the story actually appears to take itself quite seriously. The film was scenic, was well acted (and had several fairly well known names, including Doctor Who’s Matt Smith) had fairly good zombies (in this film the zombies talk, which is at odds with the idea that they are simply animated bodies searching for brains) who in some instances even go to Church, and still maintained the same basic love story between Bennett and Darcy. This was believable and quite heartwarming in the midst of all the carnage. It’s unlikely to win an Oscar, but if you are itching to go to the cinema and you’ve already seen Deadpool I strongly suggest you put aside any misgivings and give it a chance.
This film is a good example of fanfiction culture, i.e the adaption and retelling of original stories based on ‘what if’ scenarios, alternative story lines and extra scenes. Whilst some may regard this as lazy and as an indication that the authors cannot come up with their own original stories, the success and quality that is coming out of fanfiction culture (Wicked, anyone?) shows that a story doesn’t have to be wholly original to be successful or well told. Whilst these stories borrow characters and story lines many have original story lines, explore the characters in new ways and are well written and entertaining.
Of course it’s not all to everyone’s tastes. 50 Shades of Grey, originally written as AU Twilight fanfiction, shows that it’s not all well written or well executed. However, before you dimiss 50 Shades as simply badly written dribble you have to consider that those books have sold over 100 million copies worldwide, and regardless of how many people hate it it is a fact that numerous people also love it. If anything the success of 50 Shades should prove inspirational to anyone who has a good idea for a spin off or an alternative telling of a popular story. If something like that can achieve such popularity the rest of us must be within a chance. If you do ever choose to look up a fanfiction website you will see that there is a lot of talent out there and, if nothing else, fan fiction allows writers to explore their talents and practice their writing skills without the daunting and often off putting task of having to create totally original characters and plan the story out in meticulous detail. It frees you up to concentrate on the writing, it allows you to find an outlet to your secret fictional obsessions and it is very good writing practice. When I was at college part of our course work was to write a scene from the point of view of one of the characters in The Handmaids Tale. Part of my graded A Level course work was fanfiction.
If you see a story, or see a film and think of an alternative way it could have been