My biweekly guilty indulgence is the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modernised, weblog-style adaptation of Pride and Prejudice–not a bad idea, hey? Created by Hank Green and Bernie Su, the series airs short 3-5 minute episodes every Monday and Thursday (or Tuesday and Friday if, like me, you live half a day ahead of the latter hemisphere of the world).
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or LBD, has earned wild levels of popularity, partly due to its engaging actors and partly due to cheap tricks such as not revealing male characters’ appearances for extended periods of time, and so inducing heightened levels of fan-girling in its (largely female, I imagine) audience.
As Episode 59 ends and the long-awaited Episode 60–with the day of its release being titled, apparently, “Darcy Day”–only a few short hours away, excitement levels in the LBD universe are off the charts.
And as I find myself caught in the hullaballoo about seeing the bottom half of Darcy’s face, I realise that most of us regard Fitzwilliam Darcy as a “real” person. It’s easy to forget that he was an invention; more often than not he seems more like a historical figure, or someone that we’ve heard so much about that we imagine we we’re familiar with them.
Lots of people before me have already speculated on why the Darcy character is so enduring. What I’ve decided to call the Darcy-type character pops up in fiction everywhere. The plot just works. Girl meets boy who is extremely cool/rich/handsome/popular. Girl finds boy an arrogant doucheface and loathes boy. Boy is secretly in love with girl. Girl realises that boy really has a heart of gold and falls in love with boy.
OK, I can’t actually think of any literary examples off the top of my head, perhaps because I don’t often read romance. But consider: Bridget Jones’s Diary (…which is supposed to be loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, anyway), Edward Cullen of the perfectly beautiful stone-cold face, Rushton from Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series…some of those are loose associations but the idea of a guy having a cold exterior but a warm heart is universal.
You’ll probably see it even more in amateur fiction. (Visit fictionpress.com). The first fantasy novel I wrote (back in my early high school days, oh shame) featured an snobbish, super-handsome prince called Haydin who turns out to be a brave and selfless leader…pleasedon’tjudgeme. A short while later I wrote one about a girl who attends a rock-band competition and has a love-hate romance with the arrogant, hot lead singer of a rival band. Hey, I got thousands of hits on Quizilla. (Yes, I was one of those people.)
Perhaps what I’m trying to say is, if you’re writing fiction, be aware of this Darcy stereotype. I’m not saying don’t use it–because it works. It worked 200 years ago for Jane Austen (interestingly, her working title for the book was “First Impressions”) and I reckon it will work 200 years from now. But if you’re trying to create characters that are different, that are new–then double check that your main male personality is not a Darcy in disguise.
So, why does Darcy win hearts all over the world? I tried to narrow it down to a few things.
1. He’s mysterious. He could dance with any girl in the room, but he doesn’t. The fact that he doesn’t try to be the centre of attention makes the reader all the more curious.
2. He’s absolutely devoted to Elizabeth. Her rejection crushes him, but he comes back after hearing about Elizabeth’s conversation with Catherine De Bourgh, on a wild hope that her feelings towards him have changed. He’s willing to put himself out there.
3. He’s not a bad looker. “Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien…”
4. They have witty and lively conversation. No one wants a dude who is boring.
There you go lads! If you want to hit it off with the ladies, be a grumpy wallflower, but be madly romantic inside, look good at all times, and let only witticisms flow from your lips. It’s sure to work.
Here’s to Darcy Day! Let’s hope he doesn’t have a mole.