‘Sanditon’ on PBS: Why Jane Austen would approve of the show so far
Jane Austen was a woman who knew what other women wanted to read about in a romance novel. She knew the rivals to lovers trope is hard to resist, even back in the late eighteenth century. Austen also knew romantic relationships founded on trust and mutual understanding is one of the sexiest things out there.
Jane Austen’s works have been adapted over and over again through the years because despite being literally hundreds of years old, her stories still speak to the hearts of women and men around the world. We think PBS’s version of Sanditon would have Ms. Austen singing its praises – provided it gets finished.
The romantic plot
The main characters Charlotte and Sidney are everything the leads in an Austen novel should be. They begin with a misunderstanding – the good-natured Charlotte finds herself completely astonished and resentful toward Sidney Parker’s cold and impolite mannerisms.
However, in true Austen fashion, over time they come to see the merits of one another. The two bond as circumstances force them to spend time with each other over and over again. Then, when we least expect it (okay, maybe we expected it a little bit) they fight again, and reconcile seems impossible.
Again, though, our reformed professional cold-shoulder-giver Sidney and our heroine Charlotte make amends and all seems to be barreling toward a happy ending until Sidney sacrifices his own happiness and Charlotte’s happiness (and possibly that of Eliza too) in order to save his brother from bankruptcy.
This heartbreaking turn of events would also be condoned by Jane Austen because it was only able to occur because Charlotte changed Sidney. He could barely stand to stay in the town of Sanditon for more than a day, and he had little desire to help his brother make a success of the place. It wasn’t until Charlotte opened his eyes that Sidney was suddenly willing to move heaven and Earth to help his brother.
Obviously, Jane Austen would not approve of the severe lack in a happily-ever-after the characters are currently facing, but if (when?) the TV show is finished, and the characters are given a proper celebratory wedding, then Austen herself would applaud the harrowing plot twist, which showcases immense character development.
Rich supporting characters
Jane Austen knew a story wasn’t just about the two main characters. She understood all her characters were important, and in order to make them feel real they all needed to be multifaceted. A great example of Austen doing this is, of course, the most famous of Austen’s novels, Pride and Prejudice. All the characters play a pivotal role, and we worry about and care about each one of them. From Elizabeth to Lydia.
Sanditon does a remarkable job of making every single character to grace your screen feel like a story unto themselves. We’re just as interested in what will become of poor Young Stringer or Esther as we are in Charlotte and Sidney’s relationship.
Steamy for the early 1800s
The book of Sanditon was, as we all know, the last of Austen’s works and was never able to be finished by her. This did not stop Austen from writing about moments which could have been considered racy or edgy at the time – eloping, broken off proposals, and being married at a young age (it really didn’t happen as often as new media would have us believe).
Sanditon manages to nail the tone of Austen’s stories, while not only being racy for the time period it takes place, but also a tad bit for our times. Charlotte accidentally comes across a skinny dipping Sidney, step-siblings are falling in love – except not really, it’s emotional abuse, and Edward & Clara have a tryst in the living room of their seemingly dying relative.
The scandalous nature of an early nineteenth-century story has been seamlessly translated into a rather scandalous twenty-first-century television series. It just goes to show that people have always been people, and we really haven’t changed very much.
Looking at Sanditon as a TV show which is only half finished, it’s pretty safe to say Jane Austen would be pleased with it so far. However, if the story doesn’t get finished, then it would likely disappoint her greatly.
Austen, herself, was unable to finish Sanditon, and it seems so tragic that this version may also remain half told.