Jane Austin and Jar-Jar Binks?

All is not lost, you teachers and parents of teenage boys. Simply look up the actors and actresses who play in popular sci-fi movies and stories and find out their more, well, highbrow roles.

By Michelle Martin
Published August 08, 2009

The weakness I possess for period dramas has become a source of mirth for my husband. That same weakness in my daughters is an object of hilarity for their brothers, who long ago began referring to the movie Sense and Sensibility (based on the Jane Austen novel) as Senseless Stupidity - which actually may be apt, considering that both Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant were a little long in the tooth to be playing the ingenue lovebirds Eleanor and Edward.

You'd think that his English degree would make Stephen a little more tolerant. With six daughters in the house, though, I suppose he's already had enough Regency and Victorian romance to last him a lifetime. Our youngest girl is only five and has already watched Pride and Prejudice with her big sisters - both the 1995 BBC adaptation and the 2005 feature-length film, so I expect it's with more than a little despair he and our sons contemplate long years ahead spent listening to debates about who makes a superior Mr. Darcy: Colin Firth or Mathew McFadyen?

Fortunately for the men of the house, there is hope on the horizon. Our oldest son Patrick (aged twenty one and old enough to know better) brought home a new best-selling period novel: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Stephen dove right into it with a relish. Apparently you can take the English graduate out of the adolescent boy, but you can't take the adolescent boy out of... oh, never mind.

Still, there's something to be said for any novel that provides discussion points at the back for your book club, even if they include questions like, "Vomit plays an important role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Do the authors mean for this regurgitation to symbolize something greater, or is it a cheap device to get laughs?"

It must be said that the author is faithful to the spirit of the original, as evidenced by the discussion question, "Does Mrs. Bennett have a single redeeming quality?" In fact, so faithful is he to Jane Austen's characters that poor Charlotte Lucas slowly turns into a zombie without anyone noticing. Of course.

And - oh joy, oh bliss! There is even a movie adaptation in development, which the guys (or at least those old enough to be allowed to watch it) await as anxiously as the girls and I look forward to our reserved DVD of the latest BBC version of Dickens' Little Dorrit to arrive at Kenilworth Library for pickup.

Speaking of Little Dorrit, even the boys would be hard-pressed to find any fault with Sir Alec Guiness' Academy Award-nominated portrayal of Mr. Dorrit in the 1988 version. What's more, any film that stars the man who first played Obi-Wan Kenobi is all right by them.

I'll do ya one better than that, even. Everyone's favourite Star Wars X-wing pilot, Wedge Antilles, turns up in the 2005 BBC production of Dickens' Bleak House, where he finds himself with a beautiful young ward of mysterious origin. And to sweeten the deal even more, Lady Deadlock (who may - SPOILER ALERT - figure into the mystery somehow) is played by Gillian Anderson from the X-Files.

So all is not lost, you teachers and parents of teenage boys. Simply look up the actors and actresses who play in popular sci-fi movies and stories on IMDB, and find out their more, well, highbrow roles. Once they've drunk the Dickens kool aid, there's no turning back. He deals in murder, mystery and mayhem like the best of them, and throws in some history and social commentary to boot - Circumlocution office, anyone?

Heck, even Harry Potter can lead both daughters and sons to one of Dickens' finest villains: the actor who plays Filch also plays Rogue Riderhood (Riderhood retrieves corpses from the Thames River and steals from their pockets in Our Mutual Friend, when he's not goading a pathetic and obsessed schoolmaster into committing murder). And this may have the reverse effect of interesting me, finally, in Harry Potter. So there you go-we've come full circle.

Meanwhile, my Patrick informs me that Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters will be published this fall, and he can't wait.

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton. The opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own.


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