By Anne Sattler
We’re happy to welcome Bloomington High School North intern Anne Sattler to the blog!
Anne has been working in the Marketing Office since school ended this year. She has become a trusted and invaluable member of our team and we appreciate this pop culture contribution to our classical summer!
Anne says that while some teenagers think they don’t like or won’t understand Shakespeare and Jane Austen, what they might not realize is that a lot of teen movies and rom coms they already like are adaptations of these famous works. “While some might be older, cheesier, or better than others, they are always able to show a classic differently and to make you smile!” So here is Anne’s list of Shakespeare and Jane Austen classics that have been adapted for the teen and the screen:
O, directed by Tim Blake Nelson
Based on the play Othello, the movie takes place in a high school setting where the main character, Odin, is a star basketball player. The movie follows Odin as he struggles to deal with the truth and lies as he is manipulated by his teammate Hugo. To compare it with the original Shakespeare, it has the same overall plot and very similar character names, just modernized because it takes place in 2001. This is darker than other teen films because it deals with situations like rape, drugs, and abusive behavior.
This movie stars Mekhi Phifer as Odin and Josh Hartnett as Hugo. Other cast members include Julia Stiles, Andrew Keegan, and Martin Sheen. You can watch O with a Cinemax subscription, or with a purchase through YouTube, Google Play, Amazon, and iTunes.
Lizzie Bennet Diaries, directed by Bernie Su and Margaret Dunlap
This Pride and Prejudice adaptation takes place in 3-7-minute weekly update videos, vlog-style, as Lizzie Bennet talks about her life story to the camera, with the help of her two sisters, Jane and Lydia, and her best friend, Charlotte. The weekly updates of the life of graduate student Lizzie Bennet is the focus of series. Lizzie has to conquer the hardships of relationships, not knowing what to do next with her life, and dealing with her annoying mother. The story follows the Pride and Prejudice plot and maintains the characters’ names throughout the show, with some changes to last names. The series shows what Pride and Prejudice would’ve been like if it had taken place in 2012.
This YouTube show stars Ashley Clements in the title role, along with, Julia Cho, Laura Spencer, and Daniel Vincent Gordh as William Darcy. This web series is available on YouTube.
She’s the Man, directed by Andy Fickman
One of the most popular adaptations, She’s the Man, takes on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The 2006 movie is about a girl named Viola who takes her brother’s place at an elite boarding school after her previous school has cut the girls soccer team. Throughout the movie Viola, now as her brother “Sebastian”, has to tackle life as a boy. Compared to the Shakespeare play, the adaption keeps the same names of the main characters, and has the basic plot and concept.
The movie features a young Channing Tatum as Duke, the roommate and love interest of Amanda Bynes’ character Viola/Sebastian. Other cast members include Laura Ramsey, Robert Hoffman, and Alexandra Breckenridge. This movie available for purchase through YouTube, iTunes, and Google Play
Bridget Jones’ Diary directed by Sharon Maguire
Another Pride and Prejudice inspired movie introduces Bridget as she attempts to tackle single life at age 32. The story follows her as she tries to turn her life around and change herself in hopes of finding the man for her. The story has a lot of similarities to its inspiration — Bridget’s love interest is named Darcy, her mother is obsessed with finding her a man, the two female leads from both stories are pressured by society to marry up, and while at first Darcy seems arrogant and selfish, he deeply cares for Bridget (or Elizabeth) deeply.
This movie stars Renee Zellweger in the main lead, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth as the two love interests and you can find it on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes.
Shakespeare in Love, directed by John Madden
There is one movie that seems to wrap most of Shakespeare’s works into one story. Shakespeare in Love. This Academy-Award winning film references a lot of Shakespeare’s works and Elizabethan literature, including, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Two Gentleman of Verona, The Merchant of Venice, and Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 130.
The plot focuses on Shakespeare writing Romeo and Juliet, while he is having a fictional love affair with a women named Viola (name being based on the character in Twelfth Night.) And you also see many prop references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, through the use of a skull, and there is also an open chest, which recalls The Merchant of Venice. Dialogue that includes some of Shakespeare’s famous quotes such as, “A plague on both your houses”, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, (Romeo and Juliet), “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Sonnet 18), and “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” (Sonnet 130) are peppered throughout the film to help tell the story.
This movie stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola and Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare. Other cast members include, Judi Dench, Ben Affleck, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. It is available with a HBO subscription or for purchase on YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes.
Jane Austen Book Club, directed by Robin Swincord
This movie follows the life of six people who come together to start a book club in honor of Jane Austen. While this isn’t based on a specific Austen novel, the references and characters are enough. As the movie goes on, you start to notice how the characters are starting to express similar traits to the Austen characters. An example is that the character Prudie is similar to Anne Elliot from Persuasion, according to director, Swincord.
This movie features Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, and Hugh Dancy as the main six members of the book club and I found it on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Now before we discuss the last Shakespeare and Austen adaptations, it’s clear that this isn’t a new idea. Taking an old good play or novel and adapting it (and re-adapting it) is something that has been done many times before. For Shakespeare, some of those movie titles include, Forbidden Planet (The Tempest), Throne of Blood (Macbeth), My Own Idaho (Henry IV and V), Just One of the Guys (Twelfth Night), and the two most popular movies, West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet) and The Lion King (Hamlet).
West Side Story is one of the most popular of all Broadway musicals! It takes Tony and Maria, two people from different cultures that fall in love regardless of what other people think. And Disney’s The Lion King is an animated movie musical that follows, Simba, an African lion, who lost his father, for which he blames himself. Simba eventually returns to the animal kingdom, and takes on his uncle Scar for the right to the throne.
For Austen, a lot of her novels have had many straight film adaptations of the actual novels. Some feature famous actors and actresses such as Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Colin Firth, and Keira Knightley.
And now the final films on my list:
10 Things I Hate About You, directed by Gil Junger
Another of the funny, popular Shakespeare adaptations is 10 Things I Hate About You, based on The Taming of the Shrew. In this film, like She’s the Man, the characters keep very similar names. The film follows the same plot — of younger sister Bianca wanting to date. The father won’t allow her to date until her older sister Kat, starts dating as well. However, Kat isn’t a person who is viewed as appealing to men. Cameron, the guy that is interested in Bianca, hires Patrick, the school’s messed up bad boy, to date Kat so he can see Bianca. Truths and lies are revealed, and chaos occur throughout. 10 Things gives Shakespeare’s work a new look through the modern lens.
The movie stars Julia Stiles as Kat, Heath Ledger as Patrick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cameron, and Larisa Oleynik as Bianca. It is available on Netflix, or for purchase on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Clueless, directed by Amy Heckerling
Probably the most popular Jane Austen romantic comedy adaptation is Clueless, based on Austen’s novel, Emma. This 1995 film is about a girl name Cher who lives in a Beverly Hills mansion, where her dad is a successful lawyer. Cher has everything and anything she wants, but also has good intentions and good heart. The story follows Cher as she tries to navigate the life of a spoiled teenage girl living in Beverly Hills. Wanting to do a good deed, she helps out the new girl, Tai Frasier. Through the movie, Cher attempts to do good deeds, some which are successful, and some that go wrong. While Clueless has been modernized to be the perfect 90’s movie, it still captures the idea of the meaning of Emma.
This movie stars Alicia Silverstone as the lead role as Cher. Other cast members are Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, and Donald Faison. Clueless is on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Thank you for joining me on the trip down rom com memory lane. Check out these fun adaptations and be sure to see the ORIGINALS when you have a chance. You know the stories already!