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Everything Wrong With the Sanditon (2019) Adaptation

By Lauren Writes AustenPublished 2 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - October 2023

It must be hard trying to adapt an unfinished book into a series television show. Especially an unfinished book with only 11 chapters. But Sanditon (2019), I would like to believe, truly tried their hardest to make the most out of what Austen started more than 200 years ago.

The show started out very strong. The costumes, based on my limited knowledge of Regency era fashion, were good, accurate enough to fool me. The hair, specifically for the main character Charlotte, was a little lackluster- down is not accurate, or in this case particularly pretty. There are a lot of Austen tropes, and although that could be seen as unoriginial, I think it was nice, a reminder of where the story comes from. And even though it's a less adapted story the tropes really add a sense of familiarity that most Austen fans would love (I'm sure).

If you've gotten this far and are thinking, "these all sound like good points... why is this 'not what Jane would've wanted' (to quote the title)". Oh, don't worry, I'm just getting warmed up.

Everything Wrong With Sanditon (2019)

Let me preface this part of the review by saying: I did not finish the series because after clawing my way to the end of the first season I could not bring myself to watch the show anymore. So if it gets better after season one, although I doubt it after reading a bit on what happens post-season one, I don't know... shoot me?

First let's begin with a minor issue I had with the story. Later in the season we are introduced to an ex of the main love interest, Sidney Parker, named Eliza. The first scene when she meets the protaginist, Charlotte, they don't really talk or interact, but it seems that neither of them are really happy with the others presence. This would've been a great set up, showing that they don't like each other, that they are even jealous of each other perhaps, and then later reveal that Eliza and Sidney are just friends. Maybe Eliza even becomes a champion of Charlotte and Sidney's realtionship! Essentially, flipping the trope of two girls fighting for the same guy on it's head! But they didn't do that. They just made her a jealous bitch who wants Sidney back after breaking his heart years ago.

Now, of course, that is more an issue of personal taste, wanting a more 'unique' storyline, whatever. My next two issues with the show, however, will (hopefully) be popular opinion.

When I first read Sanditon I really loved the character Clara. She seemed like someone Charlotte could have a good, fulfilling friendship with, a sister of sorts, that Charlotte could lean on in this new place. And in the first episode they kind of start their relationship like that. Then they rarely interact as Clara goes on her own side quest: manipulating, lying, and having a sexual relationship with a man who is also trying to be with his sister (more on that in a bit). And really the worst part of Clara's character is that she lies about being sexually assulted. What message do you think people will get out of a show where a woman lies about being assulted in order to gain money, power, or to ruin a man? That all women do this? That there is now a reason we should dibelieve victims? And it's not like this show is super old and out of date. No, it was made in 2019! Spreading a message like this is incredibly harmful to women, and just people in general, so if we could just please not! That'd be great, thanks.

Anyways, if you're really wanting me to get to the point about the guy who wants to BE WITH his sister, we're arrived. The first private moment we see of the Denham siblings (who were introduced as siblings the first moment we saw them!) the brother is brushing the sisters hair. Okay, a bit weird but you know nothing out right bad- nevermind! they just started talking about being together... in... that way... If you've seen the show, you might say that in their defense they're actually step-siblings, but guess what, THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT ANY LESS HORRIBLE AND DISGUSTING. So yes, the main B-story for this show is these two siblings figuring out how they can be together (while also dealing with, seemingly, the devil herself Clara). I'm not sure what is wrong with so many books and shows nowadays that think it's interesting to make siblings also love interests... but I'd very much like to find out just so I could eradicate it.

They do try to save at least one character from this weird relationship, the sister, Esther. In the end they try, very hard, to make it seem like she was actually being manipulated into wanting this relationship by her brother. I do think that they do a decent job of this, there is one scene in particular where she talks with a different man who loves her (not related to her at all... I hope) where she says something along the lines of "I don't want to be a mans property", alluding the idea that she was when she was with her brother? But the problem is in the beginning she seems like the mastermind. I think we needed like a couple of moments in the beginning where we could see her mask slip slightly, to reveal someone who was scared and hurt, and then the ending coudl've been much more believable, and much more redeemable.

The ending for the main couple also sucks. They don't end up together, and then the season ends. In an interview with Vulture, one of the producers mentions how this was supposed to be the 'mid-point' of Charlotte and Sidney's story, but then they got cancelled. The show was brought back, which normally would give hope that they could find a way for Charlotte and Sidney to get back together. But no, Sidney marrys someone else and then is killed off-screen. It seems that this is the case because Theo James, who played Sidney, didn't want to come back? In which case, you don't have your main love interest, just don't do the show? Because in the end, not having the main love interest, not only not be together but marry someone else, is not what Jane would've wanted, and that I stand by!

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Lauren Writes Austen

A dedcated creator to all things Jane Austen!

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Comments (10)

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  • Abdullahabout a month ago

    Thoughtfull artical

  • Kavita Royal2 months ago

    really thoughtful!

  • Phil Flannery2 months ago

    Congratulations on getting Top Story. I appreciate your passion on this subject, Austen is a treasure not to be meddled with. I'm sure the writers were under pressure to spice things up for viewers and since the work was unfinished, they could do what they want. Not an excuse, just a suggestion. I didn't read Jane Austen until my girls read her in high school. Her writing suggested impropriety subtly rather than slap you in the face with it, which added intrigue. Unfortunately it is money that drives these decisions.

  • Naveed2 months ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story,

  • Jazzy 2 months ago

    I agree with you! Not what she would have wanted at all!!!!!!!!!!! Ugh!

  • A. Lenae2 months ago

    Thank you for putting into thoughtful and clear words why this show felt off and almost like a mismatched sock in comparison to the other movies and shows adapted from Austen's work. I really wanted to love it because the main character is so darn cute, and so is Theo James, but nah. Great knowledgeable and succinct critique - totally agree.

  • LEF2 months ago

    Though I loved the series, I had the same sentiments as this is not a Jane Austen, it was way more Andrew Davies style. Nothing about it felt like how Jane Austen represents her characters and never have I read her books and felt sex was a topic jet this serious put it in the most weird ways, like the siblings attraction, everything felt more built for non-Austen fans of he time era.

  • Sara Frederick2 months ago

    I too had a hard time with this series. Great article!

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Great work! Amazing!

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