Why I Hate “Clandestine Classics”

Photo Credit: Ronn Aldaman (Creative Commons)

When I first saw this post on The A.V. Club, I thought it was a joke.  I hoped it was a joke.  I desperately clung to the notion that it might be a joke even as I realized it was true.

E-book publisher Clandestine Classics is adding smut to classic literature.  To masterpieces like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice.  Somebody somewhere held Pride and Prejudice and Zombies next to 50 Shades of Grey, and then a lightbulb appeared over his head and his pupils turned to dollar signs.

And do you know what really makes me sad?  These “books” are going to sell.  They will probably sell quite a bit.  Clandestine Classics is going to make buckets and buckets of money off of this and there’s nothing that can stop them – oh, the glory of public domain and the free market.

As a lover of literature, this depresses me.  Does it really take adding salacious sex scenes to get people to read great works of literature?  Are there so few people out there who value the beauty of the written word on its own?  I read and love plenty of contemporary and fluffy literature, but I forget the details of most of them once I’m a few more books down the line.  But Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre?  Those works live inside me.  They are part of me.  I would not fully be me without my desire to have Jane Eyre’s courage and Jane Bennett’s sweetness and Elizabeth Bennett’s wit.

As a lover of people, this makes me want to weep.  Are we really so broken and lost that we feel the need to add sex to everything?  I mean goodness gracious, I’ve made it almost 26 years without spontaneously combusting; can our culture really not manage to read a book without it?  I’m as guilty as any of letting my view of love and romance be warped by books and movies (I am a Disney princess, thank you very much!), but this just seems like too much.

Part of the genius of these classic romances is that they have actual romance.  According to Wikipedia (I know, I know), the word “romance” usually refers to “love emphasizing emotion over libido.”  In these classics, the story is not about who is going to sleep with who.  The story is about who these people are and whether they are going to be together and whether or not they should be together.  To add sex to these stories is to completely undermine the characters, the stories, and the time periods in which they take place.

And that’s why this bugs me a whole lot more than adding zombies.  Zombies are completely fictional, which means you can add them to any time period and it just makes it funny.  In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the characters are essentially the same, they just kill some zombies on the side.  There are still misunderstandings and prejudices and revelations of character and all things that make Elizabeth Elizabeth and make Darcy Darcy.

Adding sex is completely different.  Sex existed in Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë’s time, but not in the way it does in erotic fiction.  How does Jane Eyre remain Jane Eyre if she sleeps with Mr. Rochester?  The whole basis of their relationship is that she is pure and righteous and he is not.  If she were to act in a way that was completely frowned upon during that time period, the essence of who she is would cease to exist.  And oh my goodness, what if they have her sleep with St. John?  That whole idea is absolutely ludicrous!

The slow burn of Elizabeth and Darcy, the torturous relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine, the tension between the world views of Jane and Mr. Rochester would all be ruined by adding sex.  It’s unnecessary.  It’s ridiculous.  And it makes me very, very sad.

*Photo Credit: Ronn Aldaman (Creative Commons)

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  1. That is sad! My goodness…

  1. Why I Pray for Leaders (She Shares Week 2) « Why I…

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