A Blog Housekeeping Question
New Orleans

I Laughed Out Loud At the Sex Scene

My wife and I spent the last two Sunday evenings watching the BBC dramatization of P.D. James's Death Comes to Pemberly, which, as you probably know, is both a murder mystery and a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I haven't read the book, and it's been a long time since I read P&P, so I can't comment on the success or failure of James's work. The TV version was enjoyable, though if you think I sound slightly unenthusiastic, you're right.

But there was one scene that struck me as unforgiveably bad and out of place. I don't know whether it came from James or was inserted by the BBC folks. I'm pretty sure Jane Austen would have been horrified. Elizabeth and Darcy are talking intensely. They move closer to each other. Suddenly Elizabeth begins to tear at Darcy's clothes, then he at hers, and down they go onto a handy sofa. 

I laughed out loud, and it was completely spontaneous. A scene like this seems to be as essential to modern television and movies as a gunfight was to a Western, and has become even more predictable and dull. Somehow seeing it inserted into what we were supposed to think was Jane Austen's world struck me as very funny. It could not have seemed more out of place if Elizabeth had lapsed into teenage-girl-speak. Which, come to think of it, might be even funnier, except that it would probably be impossible to render the complex thoughts of Austen's characters in a deliberately moronic argot.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

That was not in the book.


It makes me not want to watch the next episode, but I will. It's probably best that I am forewarned.


Reminds me of one of the recent Marple series which features lesbian murderers and a Miss Marple who, in her youth, had an affair with a married man.

It bothered me intensely that in all those Jane Austen movies from the 90s they always had the musicians at dances and whatever play completely anachronistic music. One I remember was Vivaldi's 4 Seasons. That would be roughly like attending a formal ball today only for the band to break out into obscure Russian academic compositions of the 1840s.

I meant to say that I don't think it's a significant spoiler. It's just thrown in, rather pointlessly, and it's not explicit at all.

Yes Marianne, I hate that and in the first mystery in the BBC Inspector Alleyn series, they added a bunch of unsavory stuff, and changed the inspector's personality in a way that made me crazy. Thankfully, after that they got a new actor and were as close to the book as they ever are.

In one version of "Persuasion," Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth are kissing in the street--IN THE STREET.


"It could not have seemed more out of place if Elizabeth had lapsed into teenage-girl-speak." Have you seen the recent(ish) P&P movie with Keira Knightley? The scene where Charlotte is defending her choice of fiance ends with her exclaiming, "Don't judge me, Lizzy, don't you dare judge me!" It has exactly that jarring make-you-realize-you-are-watching-a-modern-movie result. (I don't recommend the movie--it's not great, even leaving that scene out.)

I think there is more and more of those modern colloquialisms now. One that I notice a lot is "I need you to...", as in "I need you to support me on this." Downton Abbey is especially bad about it, e.g. "I'm just sayin'".

I missed that Marple (heh). Or else forgot that aspect. There were three that came out recently, and I missed one of them. That must have been it.

The musical anachronisms bug me, too. If a piece of music could have feelings, I would feel sorry for the Four Seasons. It gets pressed into service constantly as an emblem of aristocratic elegance.

I don't know the Allyn books, so didn't have anything to compare the tv series with. I must not have seen that one, though, because all the ones I've seen had the same actor.

I think that first one was some time before the others, and it's not included in the DVD series.


Well, your description made me LOL, Maclin. :)

"I'm just sayin'" - please tell me this has not actually been said in DA.

I think I actually remember hearing that in DA.

Everything about the KK P&P is bogus. I think Darcy hands Elizabeth his letter in her bedroom, at least she is in her nightclothes. And then near the end, she goes out to meet him in her nightclothes.


Louise, what is that word you use for "whining?" I was trying to remember today. Oh. Is it whinging?


Probably "whinging". I don't remember Louise using it but have heard it from Brits. I think it's a great word. Like "whining" with a few drops of Tabasco on it.

We just finished watching the last episode (there are only 4) of the BBC dramatization of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. The Victorian couple in it also did it--kissing, that is--IN THE STREET.

The Marple series with the lesbians and a Miss Marple with a complicated past is not the latest one. It's the one right before that, with Miss Marple played by Geraldine McEwan, who apparently saw her as an eccentric and slightly ditsy, yet worldly and sympathetic, old gal.

Yes, I thought that ending to North and South was very lazy and weak. Rather a letdown to the series, which was fairly good up to the final three minutes.

I did wonder if they'd run out of money and had to wrap it up quickly. But that's probably too charitable.

I've steadfastly refused to watch the KK P&P, even though I've liked Joe Wright's other movies very much (although I haven't seen his Anna Karenina yet). I think P&P was his first film.

Had you read the novel, Paul? I haven't, so didn't know how far the series might have departed from it, though I figured the passionate public kiss, was unlikely to have been in the book. I did think it was good overall, though, and it made me want to read the book.

I know I saw at least some of those McEwen Marples, but it's been some time, so maybe I've just forgotten the lesbian murderers.

I really liked that series and I read the book. That last scene takes place in a home in the book. There are some differences in the story line, but I don't think it's a bad adaptation. Of course, I saw the series first. I might now think so had I read the books first.


Whinging must be Grumpy. I remember we had a discussion about it here sometime or other.


Have you seen the other Elizabeth Gaskell series: Wives and Daughters and Cranford?


No, I haven't, but I noticed that they exist, and figured we would watch them if they're available on Netflix. This sorta made me want to read the book, but I don't know when I'll get to it.

I seem to remember it's a pretty quick read. It's been a few years though.


I definitely used the word on this blog and it is indeed whinging. :)

"I think it's a great word. Like "whining" with a few drops of Tabasco on it."

Heh! I know some people using both words for emphasis as in "Stop whinging and whining."

The TV series "Wives and Daughters" was really good, I thought.

Me too. And I liked Cranford, although it was very, very sad.


I just watched the second episode and there was no scene like you describe. How long were the episodes you watched?


Well, I just looked at the AL PBS schedule and I see you have been watching hour and a half episodes. Ours are only and hour long. I guess tomorrow I will see the famous scene.


Yes, I noticed that the BBC site said it was three episodes, and assumed it had been packaged as two for the American market. But I guess it's just Alabama.

And by the way, it isn't much at all as sex scenes go, if I haven't made that clear enough. It's just so ludicrously out of place. You'd hardly notice it in a typical movie.

I haven't said anything to Bill. I'm waiting to see his reaction.


I always used to joke that the Mr Darcy taking a bath scene and the swimming in the lake scene were a "Jane Austen sex scene." Not that either was in the book, of course.

Heh. Auto correct doesn't like that word. Keeps changing it to "hen."


He just said, "What is this?" but you really had to see his disgusted expression.


I wonder what the general reaction of their viewers was. Like ours, or "well, it's about time they caught up with the 21st century." I have heard complaints that The Lord of the Rings doesn't have any sex scenes.


I thought the scene with Aragorn and Arwen was bad enough. I mean, it wasn't inappropriate, it just shouldn't have been there.


Perhaps I should spare you this, given your expressed level of shock, but the complaint I remember was about the book. And it was expressed by a literary reviewer. As I recall the writer also wished for more dirt and sweat.

Is it because people have no imagination? I mean, if you pictured Frodo and Sam trudging through Mordor, wouldn't you have pictured dirt and sweat.

This reminds of my current bête noire which is that almost every movie or series I watch that is set in the 21st century--and some earlier--has a scene of men using urinals. Is this supposed to be daring or something? Or just gritty realism I guess. And then there's a lot of throwing up.


I think that's precisely it: a lack of imagination. There are even some readers who seem to think that if a writer doesn't explicitly condemn bad behaviour, they implicitly condone it.

Similarly, I once read a review of Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe books, when the series was already three or four books long, that criticized him for ignoring the prevalence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Since one of the main characters has a brother wasting away from an unnamable disease, I'm pretty sure it's more a failure on the reviewer's part than on the author's. But if you don't name it, there are readers who will not see that it's there.

Was it Edwin Muir's review of Lord of the Rings that said all the characters were adolescent boys with no experience of women? Tolkien said something pretty dismissive about that ("Only somebody who didn't understand women would want to display that kind of experience of women", or words to that effect.)

Whoever reviewed those Mma Ramotswe books ought to be fired for incompetence. He obviously hadn't really read the books. Aside from the dying brother, she mentions "that terrible disease" all the time.

That's a great quote from Tolkien.


Just think if Mel Gibson had done the Lord of the Rings.

Are you saying that's good or bad.


I think I remember reading that opinion from Muir, Paul. Maybe it's referred to in one of Tolkien's letters, as the only thing I can ever remember reading by Muir himself is an excellent poem in Sound and Sense called "The Horses" (I think).

In both Muir's case and that of the one I'm recalling, it's beyond a failure of imagination, I think. It's a complete lack of sympathy and/or understanding of what Tolkien was doing, judging it as if it were a work of modern naturalistic fiction, which Tolkien detested.

And as for the de rigeur urinal scene. I suppose it started as gritty realism and now is just another tiresome convention, like the woman tearing at the clothes of the man. Orange Is the New Black extends the practice to women, and I expect you could find, if you cared to look, feminists cheering this development.

Well, I think I'm also thinking of imagination in a larger sense, i.e. getting the picture--seeing the vision. You have to do that to have sympathy. If you are determined to live in a materialist world, you're blinded to that--like "the dwarves are for the dwarves." It's all around you, but you are unable to perceive it--like sin darkening the intellect.

So, you only understand (but you don't) the story on the surface--it's just a big adventure movie to appeal to the senses--and that makes the nitty-gritty details more important.

This seems to be growing, and I wonder if it might have something to do with jettisoning the humanities from school curriculi.


That's pretty much me thinking aloud. I hope it makes sense. Too busy to make it make more sense.


It's not so much a quote from Tolkien as a paraphrase-from-memory.

I wondered how accurate "jettisoning the humanities" was. Then moments later I read: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/education-secretary-nicky-morgan-tells-teenagers-if-you-want-a-job-drop-humanities-9852316.html

Oh, it's pretty common over here.


Up-thread there was mention of Keira Knightley's Pride & Prejudice. Well, it could have been worse, I guess, since she's now gone topless "in protest at the use of women's bodies as a battleground".

This whole business of women (girls, mostly) taking off their clothes to protest something or express "awareness" of something is utterly baffling to me. Some of the most beautiful women in the world, gazed upon with admiration and longing by millions, male and female, take their clothes off as a way of making a statement about the attention paid to the female body? It's completely wacko. Another one a few months ago said she "did it for all women." My wife was not especially appreciative of the gift.

Dumping the humanities is definitely a trend. But the woman quoted in the Guardian piece is unfortunately correct about the job possibilities. For all practical purposes, they simply don't exist for someone with an undergrad degree in the humanities. Things have been going this way for decades but since the crash of 2008 it's pretty much reached bottom, in that it is extremely unlikely that a new humanities graduate will find employment based on or related to the degree.

And you also have to consider the role of the humanities departments themselves in the general degradation. It's far from a uniformly bleak picture, but the obsession with gender, race, etc., and the whole attitude of debunking and derision toward Western culture is purely the work of the very academics who were supposed to be passing on the heritage.

Your point about imagination and vision is valid, Janet. But there are a certain number of people who don't lack those qualities who simply don't connect with Tolkien's work because they want and expect fiction to be naturalistic, to stick pretty closely to real life for its materials. They get, for instance, Waugh, and O'Connor, et.al., but the appeal of something set in a different and more magical world just escapes them.

I thought that's what I was saying in the dwarves bit. Well. I did say they couldn't see it, but some just can't and some just won't. The dwarbes bit was the won't. Anyway, I don't think I'm disagreeing with you.


Oh, and I had been meaning to say that about the jobs/liberal arts situation I got home. My daughter hasnever had a problem getting a job, and she's doing what she wants, but she's not making much and I think she and her soon-to-be husband will have to struggle. But, so did we and itseems to have worked out.


Because what I'm saying is that the lack of vision and imagination IS that the appeal of something set in a different and more magical world just escapes them.


Wasn't she kind of plugged in to a Catholic subculture, though, and seeking employment within it?

No, we're not disagreeing. My point is in addition to yours, not instead of: that for some readers the lack of sympathy for Tolkien's vision is not a fault in the sense you're describing, but just a matter of taste and sensibility.

Yes, I'm agreeing with you there, too. I'm saying that despite the fact she has been able to do what she wants, she isn't very employable outside that culture, except in not very profitable (financially or spirirtually) clerical work. BTW, the school where she currently teaches, although the owner and director is Catholic, is not a Catholic school.

Her friend who majored in some kind of business-y, computer thing (well, that would be my son too) went straight from college into a very well-paying position and probably makes 4 times what B. does now.


The statistics I've seen for graduate unemployment are all single figure, ranging from 4 to 9. Obviously, you'd rather be in the 4% than the 9% range, but even arts graduates aren't what you'd call "unemployable".

And I think somebody who could get a top degree in humanities but instead gets a mediocre one in science "because that's where the jobs are" probably isn't really acting in their own best interest.

One consideration is that I don't think humanities graduates particularly want employment directly related to their degree. Developing a high level of cultural literacy and critical thought that can be transferred to other fields is one of the reasons for wanting to study the humanities in the first place.

Looking back 25 years at my own contemporaries studying academic history as undergraduates, I was the only one who actually had any ambition to go into academic history. The others wanted to go on to law, politics, teaching, banking or the civil service — and did that. I failed to get an academic job in history, but I've made a fair living as a commercial translator and more recently as a translator trainer (which doesn't pay as well but is a lot less lonely, and allegedly provides an actual pension).

But the education secretary wasn't even talking about undergraduates. She's basically telling 16-year-olds to drop humanities options in school. Which might just end up discouraging good students from doing what they're best at. As one of the people quoted in the article said: “Politicians would do well to stop making such sweeping statements… Sciences, maths and engineering are of course useful subjects, but so are the arts.”

Where do those statistics come from? I mean, what part of the world?

I agree with everything you say, Paul. I would still chose Liberal Arts, but I would know that there was a price to pay for that decision--either in decreased income or increased post graduation education costs. I know lots of young people who went to Catholic LA colleges who are now lawyers or medical professionals.


Choose not chose. On KF and trying to type fast before leaving for worAMDG

It's not that they're unemployed, it's that if they are employed it's likely to be minimum wage jobs not just not directly related but utterly disconnected from what they studied--low-paying and probably rather unpleasant if you're the type of person who wanted to study literature or history or philosophy: Macdonald's, Starbucks, waiting tables, retail clerk. I'm also not counting those who got a humanities degree with the intention of going on to law school or some other kind of more specialized advanced degree.

This may once have been a reasonable path to take in the U.S.:

"Developing a high level of cultural literacy and critical thought that can be transferred to other fields is one of the reasons for wanting to study the humanities in the first place."

But I just don't think it is any more. One of the many things going on here is grade and credential inflation: having a BA is now comparable to what having a high school diploma used to be. Many, many jobs that have no functional requirement for a college degree now require one, simply because it's a convenient way to weed out a lot of completely unqualified applicants. Functionally illiterate people can and do now enter college in the U.S.

Yes, I've had conversations with Paul about that last sentence many times. I just think it's hard for anybody that's not here and has not experienced it firsthand can comprehend how little education many degrees signify. Eight years working in a graduate school was a very depressing experience. The doctoral students couldn't write as well as an 8th grader should be able to, and that's being generous.

I would say that to support a family, one person at least would have to have more than a BA in LA--and even then, I there are MA grads working in Starbucks, etc, too.

Maybe studying the Humanities will be something successful people do in middle age. God help us if we forget them altogether. Well, God help us already. We seem to be rushing toward every kind of dystopia ever conceived.


Even to myself, I sound like I'm saying conflicting things, so instead of responding to what other people are saying, I'll try to restate in one comment what I'm thinking about the topic.

I do think that an education in the Humanities is valuable in itself and that it is important that some people pursue that kind of education. I'm not as negative as Maclin regarding transferring that literacy to other fields, but I do think that almost anyone who chooses this path will have a hard row to hoe, and I think they need to know this ahead of time.

I personally would make this choice, but then, money has never been the deciding factor in any major decision we have ever made. It has been very difficult financially, but with the Lord's help--more than help really--we have made it.

I've been working on a post about eternal verities. Maybe I should finish it. ;-)

As I was writing this comment, I was wondering where this conversation began--oh, a sex scene. That's pretty funny.


"We seem to be rushing toward every kind of dystopia ever conceived."

And some that never were until now.

"I'm not as negative as Maclin regarding transferring that literacy to other fields..."

Just in case there is any misunderstanding: it's not that I think this doesn't work, just that the idea doesn't seem to have much persuasive power to employers.

I see.


Off the main topic of the worthiness of the humanities, but there is some political stuff going on with the British education secretary here, I think. She's very new to the job, conservative, and Christian. And opposed to gay marriage.

Just maybe all that played into the reaction her speech got because I read it differently. The full text of the speech is here. I don't think it is encouraging students to drop humanities so much as it is an effort to gin up interest in science and math, which are not attracting enough students.

"the arts and humanities [...] were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course now we know that couldn’t be further from the truth"? The gratuitous dig at humanities does take up very little space in a speech that is mainly talking up STEM subjects, but it's front and centre when it shouldn't really be there at all.

It reminds me of the deputy head at my sister's school who told new parents "And of course there are language options, but why put yourself through that when everybody speaks English these days?" It's a throwaway remark, but one that somebody in charge of things should know better than to throw out.

Yes, the dig is out of place, and moreover not true, if you take "useful for all kinds of jobs" to mean "useful in doing all kinds of jobs" rather than "useful for getting all kinds of jobs."

The speech would be fine if not for that. I mean, nothing wrong with talking up STEM, but you don't have to dismiss the humanities.

Also, I wonder just how conservative a British politician can be--she's also "Minister of Equalities" (!!) responsible for "policy on sexual orientation and transgender equality".

I had an interesting conversation about the humanities/jobs topic last night with friends who came over for dinner. I didn't bring it up, but it came up naturally in a conversation with a Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Political Science, and a Professor Emeritus of Christian History and CSL. We had been talking about a program that the former teaches in which is a year of study for students in between high school and college in which several local professors teach the Western Canon in a lecture/discussion format. I think the students attend a couple of times a week and have to do a lot of reading in preparation.

Anyway, this friend was talking about a study which showed that while students of the humanities start off more slowly in life job-wise, they eventually rise to higher positions because they excel in the jobs they have.


I can imagine that that would be true in many areas outside of hard-core technical fields. And even there: at one time three out of six people on the IT staff where I work had undergrad degrees in English. (I'm one of them--the other two have gone on to bigger things, though one of them still comes in now and then as a consultant.)

Coincidentally, just yesterday I was reading a defense of classical learning in which it was mentioned that J. Paul Getty (one-time extremely rich oil man) hired not just people with degrees in humanities but specifically in classics for a lot of his top positions.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)