January 2013 is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice and certain empire-lined corners of the female ‘chatterati’ are using this to celebrate Mr Darcy as the ultimate male; the man that females hanker for in their deepest darkest inner sanctums.
A quick precis for anyone who didn’t spent their adolescence swooning over Ms Austen’s witty observations of polite society: Heroine meets the very rich and handsome Mr Darcy at a ball – he remains aloof all night – she overhears him saying she’s not good enough to lick his boots (I’m paraphrasing) – heroine’s sister falls in love with his best friend – all meet up in a range of awkward social situations – heroine and Darcy blank each other – he starts to enjoy her feistiness – he persuades best friend not to marry sister – he proposes to the heroine – she blows him out in a ‘not if you were the last man on earth’ kind of way – he rescues one of her lesser sisters from certain reputational ruin – he wishes to be an anonymous saviour – heroine finds out and starts to think she might have misjudged him and possibly he’s the nicest man she’s ever met and they resolve to live happily ever after together.
Now we’ve all spent a certain amount of time hankering after a silencer to the cravings of our own deepest darkest inner sanctums and had drought periods when it’s easy to be seduced by the concept of Hollywood-style relationships: Those periods when we might tell ourselves that the man (or woman) who we thought was a complete cock on first meeting probably deserves another chance, was perhaps the victim of an overly-critical state of mind and almost certainly has hidden depths that we didn’t take time to find.
The majority of the time, it turns out though, that without an omnipotent and sympathetic author who can overwrite such deeply entrenched character flaws as arrogance, snobbery and cruelty with the fuzzy hues of shyness, misplaced loyalty and social awkwardness, your average dick-at-first-sight remains exactly that at every sight.
It is easy to blame the blockbuster film industry for the current unrealistic ideology for partnerships and the superficial basis of relationships and their inevitable subsequent breakdown, the truth is though that it has, just like a younger sibling, followed in the footsteps of an older mentor. Hollywood has simply observed the success of monsters such as Mr Darcy, removed some of the subtleties, updated the setting and given us a whole new generation of unrealistic partner patterns to follow, The formula may well be compelling but surely when the hormonal mists have cleared, we can come up with a better ultimate male partner role model than Mr Darcy can’t we?