anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (pastrylove)
[personal profile] anghraine
I cannot say how many times I have heard certain fanon "facts" about appearance repeated over and over - and they're not just popular and prevalent, like a good deal of fanon, either.  With appearance, people will actually insist that they're what Austen/the book says.  e.g., Jane is listed under the TV Tropes entry "Hair of Gold," with this explanation:

Following the frequent book descriptions as 'fair-haired', in the two most recent film adaptations of Pride And Prejudice, the prettiest (and most innocent) daughter, Jane, is a blonde 

It's stretched far beyond purely Internet fanon, too:  Colin Firth's hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes were actually dyed for the 1995 P&P; blonde Jennifer Ehle wore a dark wig for Elizabeth and even Susannah Harker's naturally blonde hair was lightened.  Mary got spots, and Mr Collins grease.  The 2005 P&P likewise gave Keira Knightley a wig much darker than her naturally light brown/dark blonde hair, and Matthew Macfadyen insisted that he wasn't dark enough to physically resemble Austen's Darcy.

So, given the rampant assumptions and clichés, I decided to track down what canon actually tells (or more often, doesn't tell) us about what the characters look like.

(10) Mr Collins is tall and heavy, but his personal hygiene is never mentioned.  Incidentally, he suffers extreme Dawson casting despite being, at 25, one of the youngest males in the cast.  (The last Mr Collins was 48, while the youngest ever was Tom Hollander at 37.)

(9)  Jane is heavier than Elizabeth and the most beautiful of the famously pretty (...in Meryton) Bennet sisters.  Bingley thinks she's as lovely as an angel; Darcy thinks she's pretty - the only really good-looking woman at the assembly - but smiles too often.  Her colouring is never mentioned.  (Re the quote above - Mr Collins refers to all his cousins as 'fair,' ie, beautiful, but the word is never used in reference to their hair.)  After Elizabeth returns from Hunsford, we discover that Jane is about to turn 23.  (Casting-wise, the actresses playing the role all seem to be 2-3 or 6-7 years older than that.)

(8)  Wickham is gorgeous - even the notoriously good-looking Darcy doesn't have his "appearance of goodness" or "countenance," which seems to be angelic rather than aristocratic beauty.  (Or sex appeal.)  So boy!Jane, pretty much.  We don't know anything about his height, colouring, etc, but his youth is heavily emphasized.  (Appropriately, he's the only character regularly cast at his own age or younger [since Darcy is almost exactly his age, and Wickham implies that he was 25 two years previous, he must be 27/28].  Only the 1940 and 1995 Wickhams, at 36, were older.)

(7)  Georgiana is reported to be beautiful, though it turns out that she's not quite as pretty as Darcy.  She is also tall, more so than Elizabeth, and also larger than she is in scale - which probably means longer legs, broader shoulders, wider hips and fuller, uh, curves.  Somehow, her face is also sensible and good-humoured, which I presume relates to her default expression.  (At 15/16, she's one of the younger characters in the book, and generally cast within five years of her age.  Every actress who has ever played her is slim and delicate, usually more so than Elizabeth.)

(6)  At fifteen, Lydia is tall - the tallest of the Bennet sisters, anyway - and full-figured.  We know nothing more about her appearance except that she's pretty (all the Bennet girls but Mary are), but less so than Jane and Elizabeth.  She turns sixteen in June.  (Typically, Lydia - like the contemporanous Georgiana - is cast with five years of her actual age, but the 1995 and LIA Lydias were 26 and 23.  She is rarely the tallest of the sisters.)

(5)  Colonel Fitzwilliam is not handsome.  Yes, "not handsome" are her exact words.  Sorry.  He's also around thirty.  (Casting-wise, he also suffers the Dawson effect, though not as much as Mr Collins - actors range from 35-year-old Anthony Calf to 48-year-old Gerard Oliver Smith.)

(4)  Caroline Bingley is pretty.  We don't know anything else about her looks at all, and we don't know how old she is - just that she's younger than Louisa.  (It does, however, seem unlikely that she could be anywhere from 26 to 39, per casting in adaptations.)

(3)  Charlotte Lucas is plain and has never been pretty.  She's about twenty-seven at the beginning of the novel, in common with Darcy and Wickham.  (She is invariably cast near her age of 27/28ish, presumably since it's actually a plot point - ranging only between 28 and 30.)

(2)  Darcy is startlingly handsome; he has perfect, aristocratic ("noble") features which resemble Lady Catherine's strongly-marked ones, and is better-looking than his reputedly pretty sister.  He's very tall and his figure is apparently so attractive that men and women alike admire it everywhere he goes.  Nothing is so much as implied about his colouring, let alone mentioned.  He is introduced as "a young man" and his youth is repeated throughout the novel; we don't know his actual age until Ch 58.  (In adaptations, he is invariably aged up to the early to mid thirties; the disconnect is most striking in the 1995 mini-series' flashbacks, where 34-year-old Colin Firth plays a then 22- or 23-year-old Darcy.)

(1)  Elizabeth is pretty - the prettiest of the Bennet girls except Jane.  She has dark eyes, with very fine lashes, and a slender asymmetrical figure; her skin is "brilliant" after exercise and tans (deeply, if you believe Caroline). Jane is heavier than she is, and Georgiana and Lydia are taller.  (With the exceptions of Greer Garson and Jennifer Ehle - 36 and 25, respectively - she is regularly cast within a year or two of her age.)

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anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)
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