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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 8, 2016

Confessions of a period drama junkie

By Steph Tahtinen

By STEPH TAHTINEN

Mt. Pleasant News

We’ve definitely been experiencing April showers around here. All of this rain has made it the perfect weather for spending the day curled up under a blanket watching movies.

I love movie days. It’s what my friends and I did for fun in college. Instead of going out on a Saturday night like most of campus, we would gather in one of our dorm rooms and watch a few movies. Over the years, I’ve gained a rather eclectic taste in movies. I own everything from Star Wars to Disney to chick flicks to Charlie Chaplin films. I’d have to say my favorite genre, though, is BBC period drama films.

I’m a bit of a period film junkie. Give me a four- to seven-hour adaptation of a classic British novel and I’m hooked. I absolutely love Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, the Bronte sisters and, my personal favorite, Elizabeth Gaskell.

It’s not just that I watch them, either. I’ve become somewhat of an encyclopedia for them. I’ll be watching a movie and will shout something along the lines of, “Sandy Welch is the screenwriter for this? She’s the one who did North and South!” or “Hey! That’s David Morrissey! He plays Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility 2008, which in my opinion is a much better version than the 1995 version, and he’s also in Our Mutual Friend where he plays that creepy schoolmaster!” At moments like these, Mom usually asks how I can remember all of these things. I respond, how can I not?

Some have called it an obsession. I personally like to think of it as my passion. I once watched four versions of Pride and Prejudice in 48 hours, trying to determine which version was the best. In case you’re interested my results, if you’re going for book-to-movie accuracy, the 1987 version starring David Rintoul is the best, though it is harder to find and the production quality is not that great. Cinematographically, it is hands down the 1995 Colin Firth version that made him a star and took the world by storm. Well, at least the period drama world, that is.

I am not the sole citizen in this world. There are actually a lot of us, and there are website and groups online for period drama junkies. That’s the nice thing about the Internet. I can discover that there are others who love the same things I do. People who take quizzes titled, Which Jane Austen character are you? or Which movie is this cravat —an old-fashioned necktie — seen in?

Why are these period stories so popular? Well, a lot of it probably has to do with the love stories in them. Most of the obsessive fans are women, after all, who bemoan the scarcity of men like Mr. Darcy in this world. I’ve seen enough discussions about swoon-worthy heroes to know that the romance is a major part of the appeal.

For me, though, I also like losing myself in their world and becoming a part of it for a few hours. I think it’s a form of nostalgia for a way of life I’ve never known. Now, I’m not saying that I want to be confined to a corset, hoop skirts or the societal expectations that women faced in those days. But, I can’t deny I have a certain longing for that way of life: Calling on your neighbors and acquaintances, spending the season in London, attending balls and dancing those group dances that everybody knew how to do (and I’m not talking about the Macarena or the chicken dance).

These period dramas present a fairy tale world that is so different from the world we know today. They give us a world to escape to. But, we at least get to experience it while wearing jeans, enjoying modern plumbing, and not needing to worry about the size of our dowry.