s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Pride & Prejudice, retold

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pride & Prejudice, retold

A couple of weeks ago, I watched Bride and Prejudice, a Bollywood version of (as you might have guessed) Pride and Prejudice. It was very cute to see the way they transformed all of the P&P situations and characters into Indian / Bollywood equivalents.

The movie reminded a theory of story retellings developed by a friend of mine. (The theory was an offshoot of a theory of plot types that became her master's thesis.) Because I'm sure you're all so very curious to hear about it, I've pieced together what I can remember of Eotena's Theory of Peircean Story Retellings, using Pride and Prejudice as an example (where possible).

Reflex - Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC / A&E version) This is the most straightforward retelling, because it doesn't attempt to alter the story at all. Other Pride and Prejudice movie versions of the Reflex include the 1980 BBC version and the 2005 Kiera Knightly version.

Plot - Bride & Prejudice The most distinctive feature of this type of retelling is that it looks very different from the original version, but otherwise tells pretty much the same story. So, if you saw a still frame of Bride and Prejudice, you probably couldn't guess what story it is. However, if you're at all familiar with Pride and Prejudice, you'll soon notice that Lalita Bakshi, Mr. Kholi, and Will Darcy bear a striking resemblance to Lizzie Bennett, Mr. Collins, and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Another Plot version of Pride and Prejudice is Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-day Comedy (a modern Mormon version of the story). Again, if you saw a screenshot of the movie, you wouldn't know what story it was telling, but as soon as the characters start acting out their parts, you recognize the story.

Pattern - Bridget Jones' Diary This type of retelling keeps the underlying structure of the story, but in an even more abstract, almost archetypal way than the Plot version. In Bridget Jones' Diary, almost all of the supporting cast is gone, including the rest of the Bennett sisters and the Bingleys. The original Pride and Prejudice elements have been reduced to the interactions between Lizzy/Bridget, Wickham/Daniel, and Darcy/Darcy, which is, after all, the core of the story.

Reimagining - Mr. Darcy's Diary This is the original story "turned inside out." Generally, the plot and setting remain very much the same, but the main characters and supporting characters have been swapped, or the good and bad characters reversed, or the story is otherwise told from someone else's perspective.

Other, non-P&P examples include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (a reimagining of Hamlet) and Wicked (a reimagining of The Wizard of Oz).


The last two retellings are a bit different because they only retell or suggest part of the story. Also, I wasn't able to think of any Pride & Prejudice-based versions of these, so I'm going to switch to Cinderella, instead.

Trope - Ex.: dressing up as Cinderella for Halloween. This is the opposite of the Plot type. Where Plot is all about a different look with the same story underneath, Trope is all about a recognizable static appearance. (After all, the actions of Halloween are the same for everyone — go from door to door asking for candy — so the character has to be recognizable from the appearance and props, alone.)

This illustration of Cinderella by Michelle Gorski also relies on tropes (in this case, a ballgown, glass shoes, and a shoe left behind) to convey the identity of the subject.

Image - Only You This is a retelling that references an entire scene from the original story, but is, ultimately, telling a different story. In Only You, Faith loses her shoe as she runs through the streets of Venice. Peter finds it, and chases after her to return it. (He even shouts "Cenerentola!" after her.) You can think of Image as halfway between Trope and Reflex: More than a static image (as in Trope), but less than the full story (as in Reflex). (Personally, I find the term Image a bit confusing, since I think of it as as referring to a static picture, but I'm sticking with the terminology as I originally learned it.)


So, there you have it. One more way of organizing the world.


At September 13, 2009 10:46 PM, Blogger Mr. Fob said...

Do zombie retellings get their own category?

At September 14, 2009 8:03 AM, Blogger Katya said...

That's a very good question! I've thought about that book from a librarian's perspective (cataloging it would involve using my beloved 700 $t field), but not in terms of this paradigm.

At October 14, 2009 2:23 AM, Blogger Charly said...

Fob beat me to it!

I think it's somewhere between Bride and Prejudice and the Darcy retelling, because it uses more of the source material. Maybe more of a "parody," like a Weird Al song, or something?


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