I knew that one day, something would come along that would inspire me to such a degree that I would feel compelled to resurrect this blog, if only for the day. That thing, that great font of inspiration has come. I have seen it, and it is beautiful.
The Ruf is on fire.
Oh, my dear Lord M. The ITV series “Victoria” is airing now in the US on PBS. I missed the first two episodes on TV but caught up on Roku over the weekend before episode three last night. I can’t say I have been totally amazed by Victoria so far. It has been good but not great for me. By far the best part of the show is Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne. Holy heck, Rufus Sewell. This man is aging like fine wineclassic literature a vampire. I wish the show spent half the time on Rufus’s face that it spends on Jenna’s. I mean, I get it, she has a beautiful, symmetric face. I don’t need 30 minutes of close-ups.
I was a bit disappointed that by episode 3, we’re already watching Lord M retreat into the shadows while Albert takes his place in Victoria’s heart. I am not a fan of this portrayal of Albert. On a scale of 1 to Twilight, how emo is this guy? Who wants angsty, dour, judgy, and floppy-haired after maybe age 15? He reminds me of the new kid that showed up at my middle-school in 7th grade. All the girls thought he was so DEEP because he was “serious” and had “thoughts” and “read books” (Oliver Twist?). But within weeks, he was dating a beautiful, ditzy girl, and all the smart, normal-looking girls groaned inwardly. But perhaps I digress? Memories…
I can’t get over the Captain Von Trapp green jacket he wears in this scene. How do you solve a problem like…unresolved sexual tension? I’d like to climb every Melbourne. Rufus Sewell is definitely one of my favorite things. I’ll stop now.
Back to Melbourne! My curiosity was piqued by the off-hand comment from Victoria about Melbourne’s wife running off with Lord Byron. I’d never heard that story, so off I went to my Victorian Encyclopedia for some research. Lady Caroline Lamb carried on a very indiscreet love affair with Lord Byron after meeting him at a ball, and devoted William defended and supported her for years, even after she was repeatedly spurned by Lord Byron, and after Caroline and William’s legal separation. According to Wikipedia, Caroline was so crazy about Bryon that she attempted to cut her wrists with a broken wine glass in the middle of a ball because Byron publically insulted her. No one needs that level of drama in their lives, M. I feel for you.
I don’t know ya’ll, I know Byron is some kind of hotness archetype, but Mel is dishy for an old dude, and Byron seems like a jerk.
I am not sure how long I will keep up with Victoria once Sewell bows out. I am just not that interested in the downstairs storyline, and there isn’t enough political or other court intrigue going on to create a larger story beyond Victoria and her romances. We’ll see how the rest of the season shapes up.
Also, please listen to this interview with Rufus discussing the show and his character. He’s utterly charming.
Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
It looks like for once, Mr. Wilde was wrong. NBC’s Dracula starring Jonathan Rhys Myers certainly had its share of excess – excess cleavage, excess slo-mo action sequences, excess fake accents – but not even all that excess could save it. Dracula has not been picked up for a second season. So Heather, what are we live-blogging this fall? Sleepy Hollow?
If you mention a movie called North & South to an American, they will likely first think of the American Civil War epic of the same name. This may be why it took me a while to realize that this is also the title of a 19th century novel and a fantastic corresponding BBC mini-series. I just watched the series this past week, and it…is…awesome. Like, tingly-feels, heart-meltingly good. I just watched it through this week, and I’m making Heather watch it with me again on Saturday. I’ve also started reading the book.
I was fascinated by the dichotomy of the English northern and southern regions, primarily because the differences seem so similar to ours in the U.S. I, like Margaret, grew up in the rural (American) South and learned to love nature and the out-of-doors. I grew up hearing stories about how the more industrial North is full of Yankees who are rude and brusque, always in a hurry. After college, I spent two years in the North at graduate school and was finally able to observe “Northern” culture first-hand. At first, I felt much like Margaret arriving in Milton, a little bit confused and disoriented. People WERE more rude! And they drove like crazy! Everything they said down South was RIGHT! Except, it wasn’t. The more time I spent in the Northeast, the more I grew to love what makes it, and the people, unique – efficiency, strength of character, valuing education and discussion – many of the same qualities Margaret learns to love in the movie. When visiting home, I couldn’t help but realize what Margaret also did upon her return to Helstone – the South wasn’t quite as perfect as I had thought it was. I began to see the flaws I hadn’t noticed before. And you know what? I even ended up marrying a Yankee! Now, all this being said, I am and likely always will be a proud Virginian. I moved back down South after school, and I will probably never leave, but my time spent in the North helped to dispel some of the regional prejudices imparted to me in my youth.
So my question to our English readers is, does modern England still have these regional differences, or has the country since become more homogenized? Can any of you relate to Margaret’s journey in the same way?
After our marvelous tea party, detailed by Katherine here, we settled down to watch the first two episodes of a four-part miniseries called “The Crimson Petal and the White” (2011), starring Romola Garai as Sugar, a high-end prostitute, Chris O’Dowd (who you might have recently seen in Thor 2: The Dark World as Natalie Portman/Jane Foster’s “sea bass” date) as her client, William Rackham, Mark Gatiss (aka Mycroft Holmes from BBC’s Sherlock) as his brother Henry Rackham, Gillian Anderson as Mrs. Castaway the Madam, and Shirley Henderson (also known as Moaning Myrtle to us Potterheads) as Mrs. Fox. It’s based on a 2002 book by Michel Faber and is set in Victorian-era England. According to Wikipedia, the title is a reference to a Tennyson poem called “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal“, taken from the first line: “Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white”. As we go through the remaining episodes, I’ll have to see how the content of the series fully relates back to this particular text.
The series opens with us, the audience, following a mysterious, well-dressed woman through the disgusting, filth-ridden streets of Victorian London. One of the first things you notice (besides the dirt-and-sore-covered troglodyte residents of the streets) are these tiny wings on the back of this woman’s coat. As you can probably tell, it’s a very pretty (if heavy-handed) metaphor that is sure to be important later in the series. I always appreciate movies and television episodes that present Victorian England sans rose-colored glasses. You are immediately hit with scenes of horrible poverty, poor hygiene, obese, grimy whores covered in open wounds and peeing in chamber pots, and so forth. Soon we come to know that the diamond in the middle of all this rough is a high-end courtesan by the name of Sugar.
Sugar, is of course, the talk of all the fine young gentlemen who say she can be anything and everything to every man: a celebrity among whores. Our (rather pathetic) male protagonist soon finds himself intrigued by the thought of her and pays her a visit. She surprises the hell out of him by speaking on various intellectual topics of interest, switching from art to literature to music without missing a beat, buttering him up like a Paula Deen recipe. Almost immediately, he falls completely and desperately in love with her and plans to do anything to make himself her exclusive company. Hmmm, naïve and problematic, anyone?
It really is impressive to watch her “work” him over intellectually. She’s highly intelligent, extremely well read, too clever for him by far, and she’s completely out of his league. The three of us were both amused and completely offended by his condescending behavior towards her, when she clearly outclassed him by a mile. She finds subtle ways to insert herself into his life of privilege as the heir to a fancy perfumery (think Yardley), looking both for diversion and purpose in her life, and achieving it as a sort of Cyrano to his Christian. We also discover that she is herself a bit of a writer, nursing elaborate revenge fantasies on her clients and using them as fuel for her ongoing novel. I SENSE POSSIBLE FORESHADOWING. Regardless, she tries to seize whatever power she possibly can from an utterly marginalized and powerless position. Perhaps she’ll succeed?
While William feeds his infatuation with Sugar, his mentally and emotionally fragile wife is left to wither away alone at their large estate home, a proverbial madwoman/wife in the attic a la Jane Eyre. The audience is left unsure as to whether or not the wife is actually suffering from any mental or physical illness or whether she’s being gaslit into fragility and hysteria thanks to the super-molesty ministrations of her doctor (he’s from the whole “Oh, I can feel that your womb shifted so you must be crazy” Victorian school of doctoring). William himself seems so unwilling to deal with her ‘condition’ that he leaves her almost completely to the staff and runs back to Sugar. Drug use may eventually become involved. It’s basically a hot mess all around and no one’s a hero.
As you can probably tell, and in no uncertain terms, sexuality (and nearly all male/female interaction) is presented as a horror. The three of us found ourselves turning away in disgust more often than not and nearly every sexual encounter was punctuated by one of us saying, “UGH, gross!” or something similar. Women are presented as objects to be used horribly and discarded without a backward glance. The sex was not, in fact, sexy and was more likely to turn your stomach and send you to the showers. You also saw practical scenes of what it must have been like to live as a sex worker, including lack of privacy, douching/genital cleansing, and generally unromantic conditions. Again, what we have here is brutally honest storytelling, which in itself is refreshing, even if it wasn’t comfortable to watch (though all very-well acted).
At first glance, it seems a classic “whore with a heart of gold” tale but I still feel like it like we have roads yet to travel with the story and that it will (hopefully) transcend that tired trope. We watched the first two episodes of four and clearly, there’s a great deal left to tell. There was also a random bizarre subplot involving William’s suppressed cleric brother (played by Gatiss) wanting to get it on with Moaning Myrtle, so I made serious work of the Mycroft/Myrtle jokes that were available to me.
So, what say you, Dear Reader? Would you give this series (or book) a chance or would you pass by it like a whorehouse in the late 1800’s?
As an early heads up, Katherine and I are planning on another fun Friday of late-night Dracula liveblogging! More Boobarella! More Tesla name drops! More random ladies mud wrestling! Same Bat Time; same Bat Channel!
UPDATE: HAHA just kidding. Apparently, the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy is a little more important than Drac. Katherine and I will save the next episode for post-Turkey Day shenanigans!
Heather/Point: Dracula has a great deal of potential but suffers from a lack of proper pacing and unnecessary/oversexed distractions.
So, we’ve had a couple of weeks to experience NBC’s Dracula, give or take a few episodes. We’ve encountered familiar faces, some familiar plot threads, and experienced a few standard vampire tropes. Obviously, as this is a modern retelling, we’re going to have some divergence; how are we enjoying what we’ve seen? Some spoilers ahead!
Pros: There’s no denying that Rhys Meyers has a powerful presence. His physicality and look are perfect for a modern Dracula. Katherine and I go back and forth on his accent, but mostly it works and he comes off as less of a lord interested in new digs and more of a Victorian Tony Stark, with his entrepreneurial interest in electricity/wireless technology. Mina is also fairly interesting, being a medical student (I still have to do research to see if women could have been medical assistants or students back then) and having more independent sensibilities. The actor who plays Harker is very convincing, Renfield is a powerful (and currently sane) presence, and the relationship between Van Helsing and Dracula is a fascinating twist that I’m not sure has been attempted before. I also really loved the twist they put in with Lucy in the last episode (i.e., hinting that she harbors unrequited feelings for her BFF). More often than not, Lucy is painted as some kind of glorious whore, made for the adoration of all the lovers and warriors around her. I feel happier about this development for her character in a feminist sense. I do enjoy the interactions between all these characters and see great potential for the future.
Cons: Katherine went on vacation for a couple of weeks and we missed a few episodes because frankly, I wasn’t going to do them without her. Be that as it may, we picked back up on the fourth episode….and hardly anything had changed. Now, I’m all about a character-driven series; I’m personally content with a show that spends time focusing on personalities and individual growth and not forcing major plot events every episode. That being said, a brand-new series needs to show progress, should drive the show forward to get us wondering about character motivation, and excite us for events to come. I have concerns when I can pick up the show so easily after missing several episodes, with nothing gained from missing them: let’s call it the “So What” factor. So, we found out that Dracula is working against some powerful, Fat Cat Order who controls and has infiltrated most of society. How is he going to do that? Manipulating tech and stock markets? Through inventions? Sexing up the powerful old crones? I still haven’t figured that out and I think that might be a problem. Make your ideas and major plot more clear, NBC; otherwise, how are we supposed to invest our time? There’s also a buxom blonde who appears to be a Buffy analog who has some investment in both Dracula and this order? Really, she just seems like gratuitous T&A, which is why we’ve dubbed her Boobarella.
Some of the best moments are when they get back to the main narrative; Dracula’s existence and his relationship (past and present) with Mina or with the other important original characters. There was a moment in last week’s episode where Dracula shields Mina from an explosion; they focused on him holding her in his arms, eyes closed, as a traditional Hollywood explosion burst all around them. It was absolutely breathtaking. More of that, please, and less of Boobarella and the random Victorian Mud Wrestling that you featured as a backdrop to a random sex scene.
Katherine/Counterpoint: Boobarella is a deep, well-developed character who is essential to the show’s plot-line.
Heather, I must strongly disagree. How could you be so short-sighted as to disparage Boobarella? She plays a pivotal role in this series, as I will explain in the next several sentences. First, without Boobarella, there would be no crazy, violent vampire sex, and a vampire story without crazy, violent vampire sex is…that’s right, it’s TWILIGHT.
Second, Boobarella has many well-developed character traits: 1. She’s blonde. 2. She has big, push-uppy boobs. 3. She kills vampires in slow-mo action sequences. As a matter of fact, I can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for her in the rest of the season. What will her boobs look like NEXT week? It keeps me up at night in anticipation!
Hmm…what else? Ok, third, she’s clearly a feminist character counter-balancing the show’s otherwise patriarchal hegemony. She does all kinds of empowered things like, 1. She clearly states in Episode 2 that her breast augmentation surgery was for her, not for any man. 2. She chooses to let Dracula grope her nether-regions at the opera, 3. She allows herself to be totally turned on by the Victorian women’s mud-wrestling match. In conclusion, Boobarella is not just gratuitous T&A as you argue, Heather! She’s only T.
And there you have it, folks: Dracula has tons of potential, some mildly inconsistent plots, magnetic characters, and a LOT of T.
So, it’s been a couple of weeks since our last Dracula liveblog and some stuff has happened since then. Ummmm…..since we last saw him, Drac went to go get a mani-pedi, because centuries of grave dust can destroy your cuticles…
and Boobarella had to get breast reduction surgery due to back problems.
K: Thank goodness for the “previously.” I’m sure they can tell me everything important that happened in 1 minute.
H: Booberella seems pretty bad at her job. Also, that is a seriously swank house.
K: At least the action sequence was normal speed.
K: Hmm, guess I was wrong about the breast reduction.
H: THE HUNTER WAS A WOMAN. OF ALL THINGS! Oh the huge manatee!
H: Also, Dracula got one extra guy to help him with…what exactly? What’s his master plan?
K: Financially ruining this Order of the Dragon? It seems kind of lame for Dracula.
H: He doesn’t like how they’ve diversified their profiles.
K: He’s probably going to sell them a bunch of sub-prime mortgages.
H: Oh snap! Is he the one responsible for the mortgage crisis and collapse of 2008?? CONSPIRACY!!
H: I still think his American accent is highly suspect.
K: I think it’s ok. So Drac and Harker are buddies now? Interesting.
H: It goes between good and extremely nasal. He’s still got a great look and I really love that opening credit sequence.
K: You were right last time- he does have a Tony Stark vibe.
K: Crap, now we have to change the “X days without an accident” sign!
H: OSHA VIOLATION!!!
H: Also, I have to admit I LOVED that shot of him holding her. Gave me a chill.
K: Yeah…this show has really good elements and overall a good concept I think.
H: I definitely think it has potential. It’s kind of a shame that the ratings are in the stinker at the moment…
H: I think one of the problems is that it doesn’t seem to have progressed from the pilot. Dracula Stark is still playing with Tesla wireless and he has some plan to bring down the Fat Cats? Maybe?
K: They seem to be working to develop his relationship with Mina a bit, which is good. But yeah…I’m not sure we missed anything over the past couple of weeks.
H: Which is a huge problem when you’re starting a new series. What’s his deal with Boobarella? He playing with her? I mean, seriously, just kill her already if you think she’s a threat.
K: I think he was planning to meet her and charm her but changed his mind because of his feelings for Mina?
H: I think they should do more with Harker as his friend. That could be a fascinating dynamic to play on.
H: Also, do NOT get me started on how much I hate the idea of Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp.
K: I KNOW! Please don’t destroy one of my favorite things, NBC.
H: Wait, you’re an ages-old vampire and you’re talking smack about WITCHCRAFT??
K: Hmm…how to make Dracula’s heart function again? <clip to Mina> METAPHOR! sort of.
H: The attempt at some kind of dodgy vampire-science intrigues me. How do you make a corpse live?
H: And we have our exact date: 1896.
K: And I LOVE Lucy’s orange outfit.
H: Great clothes. And did we just get an unrequited lesbian love vibe from Lucy??
K: YES! Was just going to say that.
H: Aaaaand random Victorian Women’s MMA? In mud?
K: (sigh) I think Boobarella is just here to get sex scenes out there early in the series.
H: Yeah, are we getting a pretty obvious/boring vamp whore vs. pure virgin dichotomy with the ladies here. Boobarella likes SEX, VIOLENCE, SEX DURING VIOLENCE. ROCK AND ROLLLLLLLLLLLL. Mina, on the other hand, likes pretty frocks and SCIENCE.
H: Hey, look! People are actually *dying*. Surprisingly rare for a show called DRACULA.
K: I can’t unsee Edith’s schmucky old guy with this actor.
H: Nor can I. And what just happened? Are these dudes supernatural too?
K: Would be kind of cool if that were Irene Adler.
H: The time period is definitely right. Renfield is still a cool dude. I wouldn’t mind seeing his character develop beyond one season, to see if it delves into madness. Could be a GREAT arc.
K: Yeah, I agree. He’s so level-headed here. What makes him go crazy?
H: Bugs? Torn draperies? Having to deal with Drac’s stupid friends coming over all the time?
H: And what is this ridiculous scene. “Terminate” this relationship? Is she firing his sexual services?
K: Wait…did Drac’s plan with Boobs not work? So he’s giving up and just letting Klaus or whoever take her out?
K: And who is Harker investigating? Edith’s old man?
H: Yeah, I mean, that was such a poorly written scene. Something about emotions and power and something else stupid. I could write a better breakup scene than that.
H: I think he is? But maybe it’s this woman?
K OH! I get it now. This is how Drac earns her trust! Wow, he sacrificed his “brother” for this?
H: Yeah, that’s pretty good. But yeah, I mean. How long is she going to be swayed by that? And what’s with her special sword? Is she the Bride now from Kill Bill?
H: Gratuitous tub scene!!
K: I wonder if Drac is going to turn on Renfield at some point. Ren should be sweating.
K: HA! He just did one for his homies.
H: HA! Yes, I was just about to say, Pour one out for my homie.
H: Also, that “knight” bit was a bit overdone. That dude didn’t show that he was any better than a pawn.
K: That was a good tease for next week, though.
H: Yeah, it looks like you might get your wish about Renfield being driven to madness. Also, more Mina/Drac development.
Alright, that’s it for tonight, folks. Did you watch Dracula tonight? What were your thoughts? Now that Katherine is back from vacation, we’re hoping to do this more regularly. See you next week!
H: Nope, THERE’s Van Helsing. So, who is the blonde chick and the dude that looks like Christoph Waltz?
K: Mmm…I love professors with German accents. I think they are the “Order of the Dragon,” right?
H: Yeah, guess so. Still think she’s somewhat supernatural. Also LOVE the steam that came off of Drac’s hand when he had it in the light. Fantastic bit there.
H: I also get the sense that he’s trying to be a bit Tony Stark in his nonchalance.
K: We haven’t seen a single bat yet.
K: How realistic is Mina as med student in 18-whatever?
H: Also, let’s do the math on the time period. Ripper killers stopped 7 years past, so we’re in what year?
K: Yeah, that’s a question for you.
H: 1895 it seems. Might Sherlock Holmes show up as well????
K: I’m nick-naming the blonde Boobarella.
H: I’ll go with that. I also waver between being a fan of his accent and thinking that it’s awfully nasal at times.
K: Yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about it either.
H: Also, was he fingerblasting her at the opera?! I’m so confused as to their relationship. Do they know of each other? Not know?
K: Not clear to me, either. She looked a little frightened by him for a minute there. Does she not yet know that he is the vampire she was talking to Christoph Waltz about?
H: This plot might be clearer without Boobarella. Also, we need more backstory on the Order of the Dragon. It’s familiar to me, but not fresh in my mind.
K: I’m kind of over slow-mo action moves.
H: I was just about to say, I was cracking up a bit at the action scenes jumping the shark there. What is this, The Matrix, 1895? Also, the scene with Boobarella mimicked Elecktra’s training scene in DD a little bit too much for my taste. It just lacks the Evanescence soundtrack.
K: Twist! Van Helsing and Draco are working together!!
H: Secret Motivations!!! (I admit guiltily that I like this teamup.)
K: I agree about Rhys Meyers wooden-ness. And that’s not a sexy pun. I don’t think Dracula seems particularly “charismatic.”
H: He has moments of magnetism with Mina (holla alliteration) but in other moments, it’s very transparent that the people around him are out-acting him (see: Harker, van Helsing, Christoph Waltz).
H: Huh, that was it? Went by fairly quickly! The preview moments for the upcoming season look simultaneously ridiculous and good. I suspect that most of the great moments with Drac will be between him and Renfield and him and Mina. I also want to see how they show van Helsing doing his reverse face-heel turn and teaming up with his mortal enemy.
K: Yeah, the season preview is enticing. I think it’s worth another couple of weeks. There’s always gotta be the “exposition” episode.
H: Agreed. What I’m really interested in is this mentor/student relationship between VH and Drac. Is it going to be like, Pinky and the Brain? Are they more equals? One the brains one the brawn? How will that pan out? Will we get to see him be able to be more human thanks to SCIENCE!!!?
Alright, folks. We’re signing off! Thanks for sticking with us! If you watched, what grade do you give the Dracula Pilot?
I saw a lovely German movie (auf Deutsch, aber mit subtitles) last week called “Ludwig II.” I have since discovered that there have been a bunch of German movies about this particular king, so this one may have been a bit of a bore for those who have seen the other ones, but this was my first movie about the “Mad” King of Bavaria, and I quite liked it.
The movie spends a lot of time on one particularly interesting aspect of Ludwig’s life, and that was his patronage of the composer Wagner. Later in Wagner’s life, he was living in hiding, on the run from creditors and the authorities for failing to pay his debts and having revolutionary and otherwise scandalous political connections. When Ludwig II became king, he immediately summoned Wagner to Munich and took him in, paying off his debts and encouraging him to continue to compose. It was under Ludwig’s patronage that Wagner composed his later works Tristan and Isolde, Die Meistersinger, and the Ring.
Young King Ludwig, only 18 at the time of his coronation, was deeply enamored of Wagner and his music. Ludwig was a passionate and sensitive man who deeply loved music and the arts. During their relationship as composer and patron, Ludwig wrote a series of heartfelt letters to Wagner, expressing his love and devotion to the composer.
My one Friend, my ardently beloved!
This afternoon, at 3.30, I returned from a glorious tour in Switzerland! How this land delighted me! – There I found your dear letter; deepest warmest thanks for the same. With new and burning enthusiasm has it filled me; I see that the beloved marches boldly and confidently forward, towards our great and eternal goal.
All hindrances I will victoriously overcome like a hero. I am entirely at thy disposal; let me now dutifully prove it. – Yes, we must meet and speak together. I will banish all evil clouds; Love has strength for all. You are the star that shines upon my life, and the sight of you ever wonderfully strengthens me. – Ardently I long for you, O my presiding Saint, to whom I pray! I should be immensely pleased to see my friend here in about a week; oh, we have plenty to say! If only I could quite banish from me the curse of which you speak, and send it back to the deeps of night from whence it sprang! – How I love, how I love you, my one, my highest good! . . .
My enthusiasm and love for you are boundless. Once more I swear you faith till death!
Ever, ever your devoted
From what I’ve read, modern historians generally concur that Ludwig was a homosexual, though this seems to remain somewhat controversial. Whether he had romantic affections for Wagner is unclear simply from his letters, but it is obvious he felt a very close connection to the composer. The movie portrays them as having more of a father/son relationship, which seems more reasonable to me based on their significant age difference.
Wagner, 1871. Dude was old.
Another enjoyable thing about the movie was the serious man candy. Deutschland is seriously bringing the hotties.
My favorite had to be Friedrich Muecke, the actor playing Richard Hornig, Ludwig’s Master of the Horse and one of his lovers. I’ve never seen this guy before, but I’ll take two, please! Do any of our German readers know of any other well-known movies this gentleman has been in that might be available in the US? Staring at this picture is making me hornig.
Maybe things could have turned out differently between me and Heathcliff if I hadn’t just fallen in love with Rochester. I went into Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights having just finished her sister’s wonderful, beautiful Jane Eyre. I loved Jane Eyre. That book has got everything – a badass feminist for a lead character, a charming male love interest, suspense, plot twists, and a beautiful romance. I was hoping Wuthering Heights would be similar, and I was disappointed. For some reason, Wuthering Heights seems to be commonly viewed as a great romance and Heathcliff as some dreamy protagonist; I disagree strongly with both of these characterizations. The two main characters of this book are terrible people, and I didn’t for one minute believe in their “love.” Sure, they have an attachment as children, and I can understand Heathcliff’s affection for Catherine as the only one who ever really showed him kindness (though the dad was pretty nice to him, too), but once they grow up it gets way too twisted for me. Catherine is selfish and cruel, and I don’t believe that she really loved Heathcliff. Yes, she says that stuff about him being more her than she is, but dem’s just words, honey – her actions say something completely different. She torments Heathcliff with Linton, and then she chooses Linton over Heathcliff for no compelling reason. She says that it would be beneath her to marry Heathcliff when in fact her father had always treated Heathcliff like a son and therefore an equal. Sure, Hindley treats him like crap, but everyone knows Hindley is a jerk. There seemed to be no real barrier between Catherine and Heathcliff besides her puffed-up sense of her own status. After Catherine ditches him, Heathcliff hulks out basically for the rest of his life and enacts his truly sadistic revenge on everyone in his path. But his revenge is not even really revenge because most of the people he abuses are completely innocent. Young Cathy, Hindley’s son, Isabella Linton, even Edgar Linton – these people had nothing to do with Catherine treating him like crap, and yet he views destroying their lives as some sort of appropriate retribution. It just seems so pointless. There is nothing compelling or sympathetic about these characters at all. I don’t argue that the book is not beautifully written or innovative for the time or a venerable literary work – I can concede all of these things. I just don’t like reading books about twisted sadists who hate each other and the world.
Heather: Why I Love Wuthering Heights
It’s hard to justify my love for this book when, as Katherine so aptly put it, the main protagonists are a pair of horrible people doing horrible things to each other horribly in a horrible setting. Horrible?
Strangely, though, it’s been one of my favorite books since high school and was a major gateway drug into Victorian poetry and literature. I suppose I do love it, in part, for the excess. It’s an excess of passion and emotion in an environment that’s as full of unbridled rage as the characters. Howling winds over the lonely moors; a howling Heathcliff beating his head against a tree until he gets CTE. Rather than the classic tropes of softness and kindness and giving and compromising that you find in most romantic narratives, here there is no compromise. There is no giving and no love as a healthy, normal person would understand it. To steal from the title of one of the more famous books on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, this is “furious love”, angry, intense, needy, and uncompromising. When these lovers swear to be together forever, it’s not in any idyllic lover’s heaven; they condemn themselves to waking torment until they are together once more: “Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” Or this from Cathy: “If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger….My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.””
Yes, one could call such stuff ridiculous and melodramatic but it’s love as we rarely see it; all consuming, “ungovernable passion”, where the lovers are seemingly literal halves of one (cruel) whole and the narrative itself illustrates the mutual annihilation of both parties and their universe when fate or selfishness divides them. Also, I love Emily Bronte a little bit more, knowing that this howling, raging thing came from her psyche. It’s not at all what you’d expect from the mind of a woman growing up in such times, but her imagination was so vivid, her passions so great, and her mind so keen that to me, it speaks so much to the power of her own personality, to have constructed a work such as this.
What say you, dear Readers? Take it to the poll and to the comments!