Persuasion 2022 inspired a lot of criticism from the moment the first still photos were released. When the trailer dropped the reactions from the Jane Austen purists (of which I am one, in my own way) ranged from curiosity to downright anger. Some proclaimed vehemently that they would not watch. They shall not. They will not! Well, maybe….
They really, really shouldn’t.
They’ll hate it.
They will despise it with a seething, frothing, bonnet-topped indignation.
But all that moaning doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch Persuasion.
I confess that I, too, have suffered from More Austen Than Thou Syndrome while watching adaptations. Whenever a new Jane Austen adaptation emerges, I spend the first viewing comparing it to the book and being annoyed by the changes. It’s rare that I enjoy it the first time. I’m usually disappointed. Then I get over myself and go back to watch it again with different expectations. Every adaptation will contain something special, a new take, something unique that a particular actor brings to their role, maybe a scene that captures a specific emotion, but always, in every single film or tv adaptation, I find something to love. No one keeps me away from a new Austen adaptation. NO ONE.
Not every Jane Austen adaptation has been made with me as their target audience. Persuasion 2022 certainly hasn’t but that doesn’t mean I’m not invited to the party…and I am here for that party! The beauty of this Persuasion is that it opens the doors wide for those who might not otherwise have felt a part of this world. I am standing on the table cheering for the beautifully done diversity in casting. It brings a little closer the ideal of loving each other for the content of our character. One cannot dismiss the importance of seeing one’s own reflection in a story. More people will feel welcomed into the literature loving, Jane Austen fandom, and just thinking about that makes me happy cry.
Persuasion shows me a well loved book through a different lens. That’s not a bad thing. Many people are loving Persuasion because of what it is and that’s a very good thing, indeed. It may well be a new generation’s introduction to Jane Austen. No, it’s not completely faithful to the book. But in its defense I put forth that my introduction to Jane Austen was the 1940 Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier Pride & Prejudice, which, I think we can all agree was a pretty far cry from the novel. My English teacher showed the class and explained the differences between the film and the book. It piqued my interest and I was off to the library. Persuasion 2022 is a fresh take on the story peppered with modern colloquialisms mixed in with Austen’s own words. Viewers might be inspired to pick up the books, like I did. Maybe they’ll check out more adaptations. Maybe we’ll find out we all love Jane Austen.
You just might love Persuasion 2022. You might loathe it. Like me, you might be shouting “WHAT?!?” at the television, smiling and cringing, laughing and groaning. Persuasion 2022 will never be my favourite version of the story, but I already have favourites. Watch it for the fun that it brings in not taking itself too seriously. Watch it for some original characterizations. Watch it so you can say you’ve given it a try. Watch it because no one can stop you from checking out a new Jane Austen adaptation.
But now that I’ve seen it once, no one can stop me from getting over myself and watching Persuasion all over again. I know I will find more to love.
Elyse Ashton, the author, is an actress, a voracious reader, a sometimes writer, an LA Press Club award-winning co-host of The Anglophile Channel’s Dish shows, a shamelessly enthusiastic historical dancer, and a great lover of English literature, her degree in French Literature notwithstanding. She’s a big geeked out fan of Jane Austen and Regency culture.