Wednesday, 16 October 2019

An ending that is not an ending

I am a Jane Austen fan,I love all her books. I also greatly enjoyed the Pride and Prejudice adaptation for BBC  made by Andrew Davies in the 1990s -  such great moments, how can one forget the Colin-Firth-out-of-the-pond scene?
So when it was announced that Davies would turn Sanditon into a drama for ITV, I was very excited.  Sanditon was the very last novel JA wrote and unfortunately never finished because death came in the way.  But she did manage to write enough as to have all the characters in place, the background clearly laid out and one or two storylines already clearly discernible.
Let us be clear on one thing:  JA wrote happy endings. Her heroines might have gone through plenty of trials and tribulations but in the end, all is well, and they marry their man.
But not in this ITV Sanditon.  It ended so badly, I was absolutely devastated. What? Charlotte Heywood does not get to marry Sidney Parker? Why on earth does he decide -  less than ten minutes to the end!!! - that the only way to help his brother is to marry that horrendously stuck up Eliza? What makes him so sure anyway that Eliza will allow him to get his hands on her considerable fortune? After all Lady Denham never did permit Lord Denham to scoop up hers!
It all happened - or did not happen - in the last 10 mins of the final episode, and we, the viewers, were left wondering whether we were being hastily set up for a possible Season 2. So much was left unresolved!
After a day or so of despondency, I pulled myself together. Not JA's fault, clearly. I have her unfinished Sanditon which ends with a description of Lady Denham's grand house, where her second husband's portrait, Lord Denham, is fully visible, hanging over the fireplace, whereas her poor first husband, who had owned Sanditon House, can be barely seen in a miniature facing the large portrait - JA always peppered her narratives with shrewd observations of this sort.

A bit of serious googling alerted me to the highly recommended 'continuation' by "Another Lady" which is, apparently, excellent and I ordered it from my library. "Another Lady" is the talented Australian writer Marie Dobbs, who used that nom-de-plume in response to 'A Lady', aka JA herself who began publishing anonymously.

I will return to the merits of Sanditon in another post , once I have read the 'continuation'. As for the ITV series, the acting was good (not always) but the adaptation very bad indeed, a patchwork of everything JA wrote, mixed with ridiculously gratuitous sex scenes and then no resolution at all.

But what is it about happy endings? Why do we want them? And is it a sign of inferior taste to crave them? I can only speak for myself here: it's not so much that the ending has to be happy but there has to be some resolution. A bit of escapism does not hurt but, the main point is that the ending no matter what has to be good, fit for the narrative. Does the author wish to punish her/his characters? Fine, but let it be done elegantly. You cannot end by simply cutting off and leaving everything hanging there. I know Sanditon was never finished, but there are other ways to match its fragmentary existence - and by the way, I do not think this was at one of Davies' concerns...

Picture: ITV

If one intends fleshing out the story it should not be done as clumsily as Davies' Sanditon,there should be some proper build-up, and an ending suggesting a forthcoming denouement.

So, are we to expect a Season 2? Maybe. If there is a Season 2, I know I will watch, if only to moan about it.

What can I say? I am hooked...


Friday, 4 October 2019

Body Beautiful: Diversity on the catwalk

I was in Edinburgh for a day for the exhibition Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk, on at the National Museum of Scotland until 20th October and for the round table discussion which took place last night with a host of activists and educators, among whom Sinead Burke.
She has carved a niche for herself as a high profile advocate of 'little people' in fashion and has lent her face and body to the poster created to advertise the exhibition, turning herself into a model.
I really wanted to meet her and this was why I decided to go - besides it's always nice to be in Edinburgh, even though yesterday was a rainy day. But Edinburgh is beautiful, and its greyness is part of its charm. 
Sinead Burke is very inspiring: what she has achieved for herself is not easy to match. She is a known face, a star in the firmament of fashion, always invited at fashion shows sitting Front Row, photographed by the very best photographers, Lindbergh among them, on the cover of British Vogue and of the BoF (alongside Kim Kadarshian). She has, however,  not yet appeared on the runway.
I asked her why. She feels that it is not the right time, it would mislead people into thinking that fashion has really become totally inclusive when, in reality,  it has not - and  'little people' would be duped into believing they can finally find commercially available fashionable clothes, suited to their body shape, when in fact there are none.  It would be tokenistic, she said.

I cannot disagree - but sometimes tokenism is a start. Winnie Harlow made vitiligo acceptable, and it could be argued that when she began, she was a token. But on reflection, apart from her complexion marked by vitiligo, Winnie Harlow conformed to all expectations of what a model should look like - tall and leggy, with perfectly symmetrical facial features.
Sinead Burke 's physique challenges those expectations completely - which is why, in my view, she or someone like her, should be seen not just sitting front row, not just in photoshoots about advocating diversity, but also on the runway,  modeling clothes. It would send a clear message of acceptance.

Sinead Burke's lack of height is the result of a disability, I am fully aware of it, whereas being short is not a disability at all, just a physical characteristic.
But fashion seems to have a major problem with a lack of height, so much so that shorter models, both male and female,  will do everything to appear taller, including fibbing about their height. It is something of a 'problem' for people outside the fashion industry too. Indeed there is a thriving industry sector, that of the elevator shoes, and many people around the world make use of them.
If someone as little as Sinead were to be seen on the runway it would seriously question the dominance of the height stereotype which is the most entrenched of all, hardly ever discussed.

My book Contemporary Indonesian fashion: through the looking glass is out on 31st October, published by Bloomsbury.
Order form Bloomsbury or Amazon