Last week I blogged about why we love a good hero after watching Far from the Madding Crowd, a Victorian era story based on the book by Thomas Hardy. This is just the most recent in my long list of beloved period dramas–you know, those movies (usually based on novels) where the men wear cravats, the women defy conventions of the time, and two people who shouldn’t, most definitely fall in love.
Perhaps the most famous of these is the more than five-hour version of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth as the brooding Mr. Darcy. (When I was in college, students could request the university library to show a movie from their selection on one of five campus channels set aside for just that purpose. P&P was ALWAYS playing. And I was only requesting it once a day or so.) Other Jane Austen adaptations are on my list of favorites–the new Emma starring Jonny Lee Miller, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion (be still my Captain Wentworth-loving heart). But there are many more. BBC’s North & South. The Moth. Wives and Daughters. The Inheritance. And I could go on and on.
So why do I love period dramas? I’ll try to limit my list although I could go on and on.
1. As mentioned above, the women often defy convention. The confines of the time and their status usually left women with few choices, but the women of these stories refuse to settle. Take Lizzie Bennet for example. Her mother promises to all-but-disown her if she won’t marry the terrible the Mr. Collins. Yet Lizzie refuses him for his ridiculousness. When Mr. Darcy offers for her, she refuses him as well because he is too proud and she does not love him. Yet. These stories are filled with strong women, who stand up for what they believe in.
2. Each of these movies features a man worthy of the women mentioned above. They aren’t perfect, and they don’t always start off deserving. (Again, I offer Mr. Darcy as an example.) But these are men of strong moral fiber. (I’m sure I’ve heard that line in a period drama.) Men who love and honor these strong women.
3. These films don’t rely on crass scenarios to spell romance. A single glance, a brief touch of hands can make your heart pound with delight. Take BBC’s North & South for example. For almost four hours, the hero and heroine dance around their attraction for each other. At the end of the miniseries, after all that’s happened, I’m always overwhelmed when Mr. Thornton snags Margaret’s arm and then reaches for her hand. THEY ARE HOLDING HANDS! And then. Then she kisses his knuckles. AND THEN! As if it could get better, they KISS! It’s almost too much to handle. Literally, everyone is fully clothed (save for Mr. Thornton’s conspicuously absent cravat), and it’s the most romantic moment in film history (in my opinion). Period dramas remind me that great love can be pure and innocent.
And just for a fun, here’s one of my favorite period drama mash ups.
Do you love period dramas? Which is your favorite? Why does it make a great love story?