Recently came the news that “Pride and Prejudice” and other all-time classics would be receiving an erotic makeover. But I’m sure you’ve seen advertisement around, or happened to see these weird pictures of a nineteenth century woman with a zombie look too. Well, it’s the book cover of a series of parodies ranging from “Pride and Prejudice and Zombie” (leave Jane Austen alone!) to “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter“, by author Seth Grahame-Smith.
This prompted me to think about us as a society. Why do we feel urged to look at our past and intervene, rework, reinterpret? Have we lost the ability to seek out for new characters, new stories, whatever feels new? Don’t be fooled by the term “reinvention” because everything is relatively reinvented since the dawn of times. It’s values, myths and morals that keep spinning around us, as a society. This is something we can never get rid of (it’s a good thing), because it’s the never-ending quest of humanity to discover where we’re headed and the meaning of life altogether. To speak of reinvention does not seem right when mentioning literary operations such as the ones which have been brought up as examples: it’s not a take on that character or the other, it’s not just an interpretation. It’s to keep most of the storyline as it is, but with a twisted addition.
Why do we need to mess with our history, with our achievements, with our literary treasures in our specific case. I’m not talking Abraham Lincoln or Queen Victoria, who were “mashed up” by the same author of “Pride & Prejudice and Zombies” with questionable zombie or fantasy characters and storylines. The question is: what else is new? The more important question, however, is (again): why do we need to mess up with our past? Because we’re not able to live up to it anymore. We live in an age where we our imaginations are overcome by reality and we do need to look back and see it our way, the ‘contemporary way’. Perhaps, this attitude makes us believe we can do anything, and technology often backs this approach.
To be able to comprehend this automatism means that we can stop doing it. Let the rewriting experience be constructive, let the old tales and great classics rest in their perfect status. We can do more, we deserve more than vampires and wizards. We also deserve more than old classics turned into sex books or turn fiction of the past as a contemporary thing. Let’s stop looking back, for there is a great invisible world that is up to us to conquer and colour.