Persuasion, when Classics Clash with Contemporary (and Fail Miserably) by
Jane Austen continues to be one of the most well-renowned authors in the world of literature well after her death in 1817 and since then, there have been about three traditional adaptations and four modern recreations of her most famous stories such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. This year, Netflix had also made profit on this Jane Austen frenzy with their own modern adaptation of Persuasion, starring Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot. I think it's very important that I pinpoint that this is supposed to be an adaptation of the book rather than a loose retelling and I expected the characters to act equivalently to their novel counterpart, however I was utterly disappointed by the stylistic choices that had been made. The Anne Elliot movie version is completely different from the Anne Elliot in the book. She is shown in the movie to be both snarky, sassy, and quirky, and it doesn’t help the fact that they casted Dakota Johnson, an attractive young woman, to play the role of Anne Elliot, who is described to look like a “plain and unassuming” spinster when it comes to her appearance.
The whole idea of the novel Persuasion is that Anne, a woman who was unmarried, a woman who is quite frankly average when it comes to her appearance and is constantly remarked as such, is not allowed to marry the love of her life simply because he is not “good enough” for her family. As a result, becomes rather lonely and depressed, the overall tone of the book intended to make the reader cry with such a relatable and miserable protagonist. But, in the movie most of the scenes where we are supposed to sympathize with Anne, are often diminished by snarky dialogue and mannerisms, such as looking at the camera or rolling her eyes, that defeat the entire purpose of the scene by shielding the audience from viewing a vulnerable side of the main character.
In an attempt to bring both Wattpad and vintage into the same environment, Netflix’s adaptation of Persuasion fails to serve justice to the original rendition of the book, with the new contemporary style straying far too away from the intended purpose to represent the “average woman” as a heroine within a romantic novel. Perhaps it serves as a lesson of what people truly want in today’s day and age, we all crave depths, the type of vulnerability television and media can provide to us through not only their plots but also in the characters themselves yet with a work like Persuasion, they failed to meet that demand, trading in authenticity for anachronistic phrases and meaningless characters in a poor attempt to appeal to today’s youth.
Smrithe Rajesh (she/her) is a 15-year-old rising Sophomore currently residing in the United States. Her work has appeared multiple times in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and she has had her work published in the Incandescent Studio and other notable publications. She enjoys reading and eating ice cream in her free time.