Midweek Media: Jane Austen’s Fight Club

I’m going to encourage you all to break the first rule of Jane Austen’s Fight Club, and talk about the “trailer” for Jane Austen’s Fight Club. If you haven’t seen this YouTube meme yet, here it is, with transcription:

The vid opens on an idyllic mountain scene, which shifts to a field of flowers. Soft piano music plays. We see two women (I’ll identify them here as Fanny (Price, Mansfield Park) and Lizzie (Bennet, Pride & Prejudice)) walking arm-in-arm through a garden. They are wearing 19th century(ish) frock. Lizzie turns to Frannie and says (British accent), “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” Franny, confused, replies with a, “What?” The music changes to ominous and Lizzie looks severe as she reaffirms, “HIT me.” The screen goes dark and the voiceover (Franny) begins:

“Wait, allow me to begin earlier…”
Cue shot of three ladies who look bored, depressed and/or downtrodden.
“For all of us, life had become and endless surrender to propriety. A lady had her duties…”
A woman doing cross stitch.
“Her expected accomplishments…”
A woman playing piano one-handed, head lying on the keys, face looking sad.
“Her … polite affections…”
Woman (of color, it should be noted) exiting room as man enters. They pause awkwardly to acknowledge each other silently.
“And the primary objective to marry, or, for all intents and purposes, perish…”
Woman on settee with man kissing her hand, pan to a sole woman sitting with dog on lap. Dog leaps off her lap, she crumbles into herself, a hand to her face.
She changed everything.”
Shot of Lizzie coming down stairs.

We’re back to the garden scene, with Lizzie taunting and bouncing about like a boxer to, “C’mon, hit me before I lose my nerve!” Franny thwaps her weakly on the shoulder. Lizzie frowns and says, “Really?” The scene shifts to a gathering of pantaloons-clad women in a circle. Two are in the middle, fighting. Music in the background, back to ominous.

“It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue…”
Woman (Emma Woodhouse, Emma – the same woman with polite affections) raises her hand and says, “Can I be next?”
“She just gave it a name.”

Lizzie, shifting out of her dress, “Ladies, welcome to Fight Club.” We see shots of various women, still doing their duties, etc, but with noticeable bruises. “The first rule of Fight Club is one never mentions fight club.” Lizzie explains the rules to a row of women, “No corsets, no hatpins and NO crying.” She glares at one woman in particular. “If this is your first invitation to Fight Club, you MUST fight.”

Scenes of women (of all shapes and *gasp* colors) getting really into the fighting.

“After Fight Club, we were inclined to see the world differently.”
Woman pounding on piano (think Tori Amos), Lizzie at a social function, uhm, bumping and grinding against a man, Fanny at tea with a woman who sees droplets of blood on her dress and gasps, “Is that your blood?” To which Fanny replies, nonchalantly, “Oh … yes, some of it.”

Lizzie announces, “You are going to start a fight with a complete stranger.” We see Emma doing so. Another woman shoves another into the hedges. “And you’re going to lose,” Lizzie says. We see a woman being dragged across the lawn by another.

“We were no longer good society.”
The song Battle Without Honor or Humanity begins to play. We see all the ladies walking down an exterior set of steps, looking fierce and determined. Paint splatter effect and the text “In 1810”. Cut to Lizzie punching a woman in the face hard enough for “blood” to spurt. Cut to the ladies dancing wildly on the veranda and lawn. Cut to a woman (Marianne Dashwood, I think? Sense & Sensibility) pulling a man close by the tie. More paint splatter effect and the text “and 2011”. Another fight scene and the main players are introduced: Lizzie, who’s been knocked down by a punch that makes her smile, Fanny, who shoves her tea-companion’s face into a cake, Emma, who clocks someone with her handbag and the Dashwoods, Marianne seen flipping some woman and then a cut to still shots of them with hands up like boxers. Lizzie, wearing a leopard-print faux fur coat exclaims to Fanny, “In the end, you’ll thank me!” She dons a pair of sunglasses, gives a tough gesture and walks away.

Cue two society ladies, one of whom says, “I suppose they think this will throw them into the path of eligible young men.” Next shot, we see just that, literally, happening to Fanny. There are a few more shots of women fighting, shoving, etc. Cut back to Fanny and a young man, who says to her, “You’re very clever, aren’t you? How’s that going for you?” She responds, after we see flash shots of women being clever, “Splendidly.”

Next shot is Lizzie walking by two ladies standing in a gazebo. She knocks a teacup and saucer out of one of their hands, and walks away without missing a beat. Another blast of paint splatter and the title, “Jane Austen’s Fight Club” appear. Last shot is of Lizzie pumping a fist in the air.

[and cut]

I have one word for you: awesome.

What words do you have that you would like to share? I think there’s quite a bit to cover. :)


  1. Maria says

    I want to get that “You’re very clever aren’t you? How’s that going for you?” “Splendidly” interchange tattoed on my life. Note how it’s not fraught with sexual tension on her end, and the “point” of the scene isn’t him being into her. It’s her being clever with her girls.

    • sbg says

      *snicker* I can’t seem to not giggle at the “Is that your BLOOD?” “Oh…yes, some of it.” exchange and the dancing on the porch.

      I do think they could have upped the diversity, but just having a multi-colored cast at all in a production parodying Jane Austen is a thing of beauty. (I’ve read some of the YouTube comments and it is no surprise people are somehow offended by the historical inaccuracy…)

      • says

        (I’ve read some of the YouTube comments and it is no surprise people are somehow offended by the historical inaccuracy…)

        The entire point of the video is that Fight Club is a story about liberating MIDDLE CLASS HETERO ABLE-BODIED WHITE GUYS who, you know, have it so very very bad because they sometimes have to settle for dates who don’t look like supermodels and jobs where they aren’t top dog. POOR THEMZ!

        The video is about liberating a group who actually know what “bad” is: women, including those of color. I only wish they’d included a woman in a wheelchair with some kick ass moves.

        • sbg says

          The number of people peeved about the historical aspect of it are few and far between, thankfully. Most seem to understand the actual point of the vid.

          However, the ratio of people who spell it “Austin” versus “Austen” is alarming to me. Especially from those claiming to be big fans of her work. 😉

  2. Robin says

    This kind of pop culture mashup makes me really happy. :)

    The thing that strikes me as significant is that it’s the sort of movie that probably wouldn’t get made in Hollywood today with a modern setting and characters. We see a lot of badass women in films these days, but they’re generally not combined with the sort of exploration of personal discontent/ennui that sits at the center of Fight Club. Women in movies get violent because they’re damaged or threatened in some way, not because society is telling them they shouldn’t be and they simply require an outlet for their primal urges. That’s something I’d like to see done in a full-length feature.

    Here’s a question: Where’s Anne Elliot? I bet she’s got a lot of pent-up aggression.

    • sbg says

      Ooh, good point, Robin. There seems to be this belief that women don’t feel aggression for aggression’s sake, which I’m not sure is true at all.

      And Anne Elliot was … overlooked. 😉

      • says

        *raises hand* Can I be next?

        Everybody’s damaged. It’s just that when men want to be randomly violent, we assume that’s their Y-chromosome in action, and when women want to be violent, we assume something went horribly wrong somewhere in the space-time continuum! The assumptions are founded on absolutely nothing empirical.

        • sbg says

          Not going to lie, my violent urges usually have some motivation. My supervisor’s OCD – she has to tell me five times successively to do something I did not need instruction on even once, for example – makes me want to pick her up and literally break her in half over my knee sometimes.

          But I definitely feel that aggression.

          • says

            I don’t think *anyone* has truly random aggressive urges. Human beings are generally conflict-avoidant – most will take tremendous amounts of crap rather than start a conflict, and from what I’ve read in neuroscience it seems most of us are hard-wired this way and it’s probably an evolutionary advantage in most contexts. So what seems like a random aggressive urge is actually just pent-up frustration from taking so much crap over the years – that’s what FC is really about, and why people who aren’t white middle class hetero able-bodied dudes can still relate to it (if they’re willing to look past the irony of Dude Liberation).

      • Robin says

        I can personally vouch for the fact that women feel aggression for its own sake. If I weren’t raised in such a “proper society” myself, there would be a lot of people with black eyes in the greater Boston area. Particularly the ones on my morning commute.

        It seems like Hollywood thinks that men only assert their personhood through violent / dangerous actions, while women only do it by exploring their sexuality. It’s an odd kind of false duality that’s been created. Some women react to adversity with anger that’s expressed physically. Some men get mopey and withdrawn. But both of these behaviors are seen as unusual and undesirable in our entertainment, and that’s just weird. Represent people like me, dammit!

        Somewhat off-topic, but Anne and Fanny are definitely the Austen heroines I feel the most kinship with. And Lizzie is the one I aspire to be. :)

  3. adam says

    I would love this but some of the accents are so terrible that it’s like someone is scratching their fingernails down a black board for me. I can’t get past it.

  4. Jennifer says

    I love this so hard. This is the best mashup ever because you can think, “hey, deep down, this WOULD be really appealing for these poor bored proper girls.”

    Even funnier, in a way, is that this was made by Mormon girls. Or so BoingBoing said.

  5. Erin says

    Hm – I can’t actually decide if I think this is totally picking up on themes of Austen’s work or just missing/sidestepping the point – I just don’t get people who glorify Austen’s society as if she herself in any way liked or approved of it (or try to point out that contrary to the books it wasn’t that great – huh?). Someone offer me an argument for whichever side you believe (the first one, I take it), please?

    It’s also helpful that I had about zero respect for _Fight Club_ until I read an awesome post on here offering a view on it I’d never considered – I still don’t personally get anything out of the film, but I have a lot more respect for it.

    • sbg says

      Erin, I’m not sure it matters as much what the intent of the creators was, though as for me – I think they were picking up on themes rather than poking fun of the society Austen wrote about. That is, they took what Austen was able to do by way of Grrl Power (limited somewhat to those social trappings) and applied it to 21st century sensibilities. As if to say, “ha ha, isn’t this funny?” but at the same time kind of asserting that if Austen were writing today, her characters would be more demonstrably aggressive in their awesomeness. Because they are now allowed.

  6. M.C. says

    Why is this not a real movie?!

    Anyway, on girls and aggression: My university offers dozens of fight courses from martial arts to sword fighting and they are full of girls. (We even have Wing Chun Kung Fu, which was invented by a woman.)
    So I really don’t get how some people still think girls don’t get into physical violence.

    • JJ Shinnick says

      I think the impression is not so much that they don’t get into physical violence– it’s that it’s assumed girls who learn a martial art do so out of a desire to be able to defend themselves/others, where as men can be violent for it’s own sake.

  7. scarlett says

    Why am I not surprised that Lizzie was the main instigator? She always seemed like JA’s toughest, most opinionated heroines. Next, the damn bitch will be arguing for women to be paid the same as men.

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