I feel like we lost a little bit of something with LBD, in never really getting an apology scene between Lizzie and Darcy. I loved the little bit of post-kiss talk that we got from them, don’t get me wrong. And I understand that we were never going to get to see every little thing we wanted to see. They had to make narrative decisions, and the story worked for me as a whole, so I don’t want to focus too much on the many things that got left out because they weren’t priorities to the creators.
That being said, I still want to talk about this.
Here’s the thing. I see a lot of romanticizing of Darcy. Of course, he’s dreamy. I love the guy. He has consumed an embarrassingly high percentage of my waking moments recently, and if I had control of my subconscious then he would be consuming the sleeping ones too (read into that what you will). I devoted most of this post to rapturously singing his praises. So yeah, I romanticize the heck out of him, and he deserves a lot of it. But I see a lot of talk about how badly Lizzie treated him on her vlogs before episode 60 (A LOT, I totally agree, she was waaaay out of line), and not much about how he actually kinda deserved a lot of her bad opinion of him (if not the public mocking), and how incredibly insulting he was when he first declared his love.
I feel like a lot of people explain his early bad behavior away by saying that he was just so horribly shy and socially awkward, so he acted like a big doofus around her. And certainly that is some of it. But the thing is, he was also arrogant and prideful and didn’t think that it was worth his time to be nice to people. One of the things he comes to love about Lizzie so much is that she forces him to face that unpleasant truth about himself and strive to be a better person. He was always a good man underneath, and the fact that he took all of Lizzie’s criticisms to heart and decided to make a change shows that. To me, that’s one of the best, most romantic things about him, actually. But in the book he acknowledges that the change was needed. He probably does behind the scenes in LBD as well, and it’s vaguely hinted at onscreen a couple of times, but I wish there could have been more of an onscreen acknowledgement.
A couple of choice quotes from the book:
What did you say of me, that I did not deserve? For, though your accusations were ill-founded, formed on mistaken premises, my behaviour to you at the time had merited the severest reproof. It was unpardonable. I cannot think of it without abhorrence.
I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.”
I think this is why I tend to disagree with headcanons that have him immediately being attracted to Lizzie at the Gibson wedding, and just acting like an idiot because she made him so nervous.* Like Lizzie said in episode 99, he didn’t want to like her then. He didn’t want to like anybody in that little town, and so he didn’t even pretend to try to be civil to any of them. Yes, he is uncomfortable in social situations, and it’s not easy for everybody to mix and mingle and make friends. I have issues with social awkwardness and anxiety myself, sometimes, so I do understand this, and I don’t want to say that this wasn’t part of it. But I think that to say that that is all of it ignores a really important aspect of his character growth in the story, and an important part of why the two of them work so well together. Because they both start out flawed, and they remain flawed, but they make each other strive to be better. And I missed having them both acknowledge that.
*For the record, here is my own headcanon for his first impression at the Gibson wedding, pulled from my own commentary on a reblog of somebody else’s post awhile back:
My own theory on the “decent enough” comment is that while Lizzie is very pretty, what works to her best advantage is her expressiveness. She was feeling awkward and uncomfortable when they danced, so he probably didn’t see that. She probably was nervous because she thought he was good looking and was so caught up in trying to be pleasant that she was just bland and not her vibrant self. Then once she decided she hated him, she didn’t care what he thought about her, and being in his presence made her feel ornery, so all that vibrance and expressiveness that he hadn’t seen before was directed at him at full force and he didn’t know what hit him.
Sorry about the weird block quoting. I wanted to comment on this. a) I found it really interesting that Lizzie said that Darcy didn’t want to like her, which is a thing I had not contemplated until that moment, but that makes sense. If you think about the fact that Bing’s a med student, presumably in LA, why is he buying a $3mil home in a horrid little town (to Darcy and Caroline anyway)? Isn’t it your duty as a friend to try to talk him out of this weird quarter-life crisis? And if from day one it looks like he’s treating this less like a diversion and more like a settling down, and you think that’s bad news for him, you’d probably do your best if you think it’s your duty to do so to show him that this place and these people aren’t worth his time. So that’s interesting. And I really love that last paragraph.
But really what I want to talk about is Romanticizing Darcy. Because it’s not just the LBD fandom that’s guilty of this. (And I am superguilty of this; I carry a tote bag, a very beloved tote bag, that says I <3 Darcy on it. And I do. I heart him. I heart the shit out of him.) Romanticizing Darcy has been a pastime probably since his creation but at the very least since 1995 when Colin Firth gave us a super hot and smoldery Darcy with secret boners taking baths and fencing and writing letters by candlelight with the most aggrieved and tragic expressions on his face. Like at the very LEAST, that’s where we can start talking about this.
And you know why I think we love Darcy, in part? He’s rude and mean at hte beginning of the book, and if you’re Bridget Jones, that’s part of his appeal, that he’s this sexy douchebag. The short part of this answer is that we really love him because he really loves Elizabeth Bennet. We love him because he’s a man who loves a woman who heard his proposal and said FUCK YOU, YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE, DON’T INSULT ME TO MY FACE, YOU’RE THE RUDEST PRICK EVER TO EXIST. And she told him everything that was wrong with his behavior, and it was satisfying but also frustrating because he’d literally just poured his heart out to her, and we didn’t actually hear him say all the gross stuff he said. We read Lizzie hearing all the gross stuff he said. What weheard him say was “In vain I have struggled, it will not do. You must allow me to tell you how much I ardently admire and love you.”
That is some hardcore fucking romantic shit right there. That is swoon worthy, panty-dropping stuff.
That is immediately followed by all the ways that Elizabeth’s a bad choice, but still. His language. His ardent admiration and love. It’s so attractive.
I’ve given this a lot of thought lately. What makes us all sigh and start thinking of him as an ideal is that he loves, loves, loves this most amazing, lively, sparkling woman, this Elizabeth Bennet, who tells him all the ways he’s a terrible person, and his love for her overrides his natural inclinations to douchebaggery and he changes. And he changes without the thought that maybe he’ll see her again and get a second chance. He changes because he looks at who she says he is and who he thinks he is and compares it to who he thinks he ought to be, and he realizes there’s a great distance there. Because the person he thinks he ought to be is the kind of person who could be loved by Elizabeth Bennet. Think about that. Think about how powerful that is to you as a reader. It’s not just that he was a bad person and she redeemed him. This isn’t Richardson. This is a man who looked in the mirror, decided he could be better, and tried to be better not with the goal of wooing the woman who rejected him, but with the idea that she existed in the world and if he could he’d want to be worthy of her.
Do you hear me romanticizing him even as I describe why we love him? Do you? Because I am. Because he changes, he does. He becomes more personable, he becomes friendlier to people he might not otherwise be. He extends himself to her family. He does a huge, dramatic thing for her family, which he does out of a sense of propriety and obligation and, yes, love, but because he feels responsible for it. He does it because he believes it to be the right thing to do. That Elizabeth will benefit from it is gravy, I think. Would he have done it for a rando woman he didn’t know? Who knows. But even as he does all these things, even as he tries really hard to be someone that would be worth of this woman he thinks is the most incredible and fascinating creature on the planet, he’s still Darcy. He’s still not used to being teased. He’s still used to being able to influence someone like Bingley, even if it’s for his own good. He’s still the same man who came into the Meryton assembly and can’t be arsed to smile or dance because it’s fucking tedium, but he’s learning how to take a joke. Sort of. It’s going to take time for him to really take a joke.
I always get impatient when I see those “Keep Calm and Wait for Mr. Darcy” things. It makes me want to wave my finger in that person’s face and say OH REALLY? Because with that sentiment you don’t want Darcy at the beginning of the book. You don’t really want someone who’s going to insult you behind your back and then to your face while he’s telling you he loves you. You want Darcy at the end of the book. You want the guy who looks at you and decides, independent of his chance of ever getting to be with you, that he wants to be worthy of you. You want the guy who will save you and your family from social degradation because it’s moral and right and because he doesn’t want you to suffer. You want the guy who can come to you and say, my affections and wishes remain unchanged, dearest, loveliest one, you who have shown me the error of my ways and made me the man I should be rather than the man I was. You want to be loved the way that Darcy loves Elizabeth. Which is lovely, and it’s romantic, and it makes us want to look back at the novel and want him to be this person throughout, but he’s not. If you say you want your own Mr. Darcy, what you mean is that you want someone who will love you like you are the only person in existence who could make him who he wants to be.
Which, I don’t know, is that icky? Is that something we should aspire to? I do love the idea of Mr. Darcy. I love thinking about the inside of his head. It’s given me so much food for thought with the LBD. I think a lot about what carried over to William Darcy and maybe what didn’t. I like William Darcy for very different reasons; mainly, I love him because he’s a giant, flailing nerd with emotional reserves that are compelling and swoony in and of themselves. But I also love him for the same reason I love Austen’s Mr. Darcy: he really, really loves Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet. His love makes him attractive. It makes us romanticize him. It made me just wax poetic about him even while understanding that as much as he changes, there’s a stuck up dude inside that suit and all change takes time. But it’s nice to think on, because Elizabeth and Lizzie are our friends, our avatars. And Darcy is her match in the most essential ways.
And they love the shit out of each other. It’s hard not to romanticize that.