Recent visual-culture scholars have sought to overturn the notion that a film adaptation should be “faithful” to its literary source. Yet fidelity aesthetics is a capacious concept that may not be theorized apart from cultural uses, historical situations, film production and distribution regimes, and the careers of dramatizers, directors, and stars. Focusing on the early twenty-first century adaptations of Jane Austen's novels, I argue here that the differing ways print and filmic media are packaged, advertised, and sold or exhibited to potential cultural consumers creates and sustains the millennial Jane Austen mania. Adapting Austen's narratives more freely than did the 1990s versions, these films hope to capture the same crossover, multigenerational, mixed-sex audience yet also seek to market Austen for a new mass cohort of teenaged girls. Updating the stars' images, repurposing the period look, and enhancing the novels' romance plots, the Austen franchise now attempts to reach a largely female audience across a wide range of exhibition sectors, including in ancillary markets. Indeed, the Austen boom has also gone global, as filmmakers incorporate and indigenize Austen's stories and heroines for national and diasporic South Asian spectators as well as Atlantic-community ones. Hardly an author of bestsellers in her lifetime, Austen has now become a product brand as her novels provide pre-sold content for a converged, synergistic multimedia entertainment industry across global markets.
Dianne F. Sadoff; Marketing Jane Austen at the Megaplex. Novel 1 May 2010; 43 (1): 83–92. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-067
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