Dear Readers,

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

JONESing for some Joneses....

On Friday night, while resting in preparation for my full day of teaching (yep that's right, I work on the [Jewish] Lord's day) my bf and I were flipping back and forth between two Joneses and two Fieldings. The first Jones was Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason, a somewhat piss-poor adaptation of a riotously witty book by Helen Fielding, and the second is the classic adaptation of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, one of the first bildungsomans ever published in the English lingo.

Now fellow-ette's not so hip to the world of the 18th century novel. All she's read are Evelina, Crusoe, and a bunch of potboilers by Eliza Haywood, Aphra Behn, and Anne Radcliffe thanks to her awesome "Women and the Novel" class--taught by a wonderful female prof who naturally did not get tenure at Harvard. But I know enough about the turgid old 18th century to know that sex and ribaldry were far from off-topic in the pre-victorian era, and that as a result of this no-taboo age, the Tom Jones movie, if not particularly suck-you-in fascinating, is kind of hilarious. Like, 18th century breeches and low-cut blouse rolling in the hay/falling into ponds hilarious.

And the very necessary comparison between Bridge and Tom was all the more brilliantly illuminated by watching snatches of both movies back to back. Here's the thing; people dismiss Bridget Jones as chick-lit, and in some ways it did usher in that era. But the novels, light-hearted as they are, are so much more than the ro-co-standard movies, despite the good acting, can illustrate. First of all, there's the importance of the literary allusions. There's Tom Jones, there's Austen everywhere, and knowing your British literature will make you appreciate Bridget's adventures all the more.

Second of all, getting rid of Bridget's voice-over narration in the second film takes away the most vital part of the books: namely Bridget's "diary," which is witty, knowing, and a lot stronger than multiple screen shots of the wobbling, tottering, idiot Renee Zellweger would have us believe.

So in conclusion:
  1. Helen Fielding is a sly genius whose books are much cleverer than the screen can convey.
  2. Tom Jones (not the singer, the character) is a rakish but well-meaning sex panther.
  3. Don't knock [chick l]it till you've tried [chick l]it
  4. Because it may be something more.

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