Posted by: valtyler | February 4, 2011

Do writers always know what they are writing about?

‘The way she chose a career over marriage is inspiring.’ This was said (or something very close to it) by American actress Anne Hathaway, any guesses who about? You’d be forgiven for not knowing because it’s total rubbish. She was speaking about Jane Austen. What, might you ask, is Anne Hathaway’s authority for pontificating about one of our national treasures? It was because she was playing Miss Austen in Becoming Jane. If you haven’t seen the film, don’t bother. If you have seen it may I offer my sincere condolences?

It might be unfair to castigate Anne Hathaway for having so little knowledge of the person she was playing (although proper research would have put her right) for she was only talking about a script, and so I ask how can writers have so little knowledge? Admittedly, we don’t know all that much about Jane Austen, but there is enough about her and her times to tell us she did not choose writing as a career and she certainly didn’t choose it over marriage.

Let me move to Oscar Wilde. Stephen Fry put in a marvellous performance, but was it Oscar he was portraying? Oh yes, Oscar Wilde was witty, intelligent, lively and loyal to those he wanted to be loyal too. He did, indeed, feel very sorry for himself and quite rightly too. He was badly betrayed by someone who was supposed to love him, but he was also a terrible liar, reckless, vitriolic and selfish beyond belief.

Forgive me to straying away from the literary, but did you see Young Victoria? Did you pick up her German accent? I didn’t. Her accent sounded very Standard English to me. Do the makers of these films believe no one will watch them if they portray real people as they actually were or do they simply not know the facts?

Ignorance is not only the preserve of film makers. I was reading a novel some time back when a character was described as being ‘as feisty as Fanny Price’. Excuse me? Feisty? Fanny Price? Blackadder would have described her as being ‘as wet as a wet fish’s wet bits’ (which is not quite fair, but maybe more of Fanny Price in another blog). Where did the novel-writer find such a strange opinion of the character? Oh yes, I remember, it was the film Mansfield Park with Frances O’Connor where Fanny was, indeed, feisty.

I can understand why an actress may be under the illusion that the scriptwriters got it right, but what about a book editor? Had she/he any literary knowledge at all? I know people make mistakes, but wouldn’t be nice if they knew what they were writing about before placing their work in the public domain?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Val Tyler




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