Every Jane Austen Novel If They Were Gay and Also Historically Inaccurate

graphics by Heather Hogan!

Northanger Abbey

northanger-abbey

When naive, bookish, kind of goth tomboy Catherine goes on vacation to Bath with her family friends, she’s psyched to immediately meet Helena Tilney, who is cool and interesting and also loves books and knows all the good parties in town. Through her friend Isabella, Catherine also meets Joanna, who is sort of fun but also has auditioned twice to be on Bad Girls Club and really thinks the third time is gonna be the charm. As the summer progresses, Catherine watches Isabella break hearts all over Bath, while trying to avoid the increasingly exhausting attentions of Joanna and also getting weirdly into her beloved true crime novels. Catherine finally turns down Joanna, who does not take it well and vows to talk shit about her to all their acquaintances, and alienates Helena when she gets tired of Catherine’s true-crime-fueled suspicions that everyone around them is an axe murderer, which are really weirding out Helena and her whole family. Dejected, Catherine begins the journey home after Joanna turns pretty much everyone in Bath against her — before Helena catches up with her and says she’s sorry, she loves Catherine even if she is a morbid weirdo, and that they can make collages of The Craft and Wednesday Addams together. They live happily ever after and throw really good Halloween parties.

Sense and Sensibility

sense-sensibility

Unmarried sisters Marianne and Elinor take to the countryside, having lost the favor of their wealthier brother and his sister-in-law. There, Marianne meets Brandalynn, a country gentlewoman who enjoys cigars and complicated cocktails, but spurns her because she thinks Brandalynn’s too old for her and that her successful career as a large animal vet is unbecoming. Instead, Marianne is drawn to Wenda, a dashing and urbane young woman with the most fashionable of undercuts, who she meets while on a walk and who woos her with smoldering harpsichord ballads that she writes herself in the style of Chris Pureka. In the meantime, Elinor is getting closer to the enigmatic Edwina, who she’s super into until she finds out that she’s still living with her ex, Lucy Steele, who she doesn’t have feelings for anymore but they share a dog and their apartment is rent-controlled and if Edwina moved out Lucy would probably have to move back in with her mom, and Lucy’s mom is a total bitch. Marianne’s heart is broken when Wenda ghosts and moves to Portland to become a craft brewer, but decides to give Brandalynn another shot when she sees her on Tinder and finds that actually they really click. Edwina is suddenly single when Lucy moves out because she’s met an up-and-coming fashionplate model, and she and Elinor are finally able to make it work.

Pride and Prejudice

pride-prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet lives out in the country with her parents and four sisters, of whom she is closest to the oldest, Jane. Their world is turned upside down by the arrival of wealthy bachelorettes and close friends Ms. Charlene Bingley and Ms. Fiona Darcy. Charlene and Jane hit it off immediately, bonding over being generally very kind and good-looking and a little bit boring. Unfortunately Fiona is a stuck-up monster, and Elizabeth is annoyed she has to put up with her if she wants to hang out with Jane and Charlene. As they keep bumping into each other at social gatherings, Elizabeth begins to realize that Fiona is more just kind of awkward than a jerk, but still isn’t a huge fan. Then, when Elizabeth’s younger sister Lydia gets a really ill-advised courthouse wedding with her annoying on-again-off-again girlfriend without consulting anyone first in the heady rush of the recent same-sex marriage legalization, Fiona, surprisingly, steps in to utilize her degree in family law to help them quickly negotiate a legal separation the next day with a minimum of drama. Fiona also confesses her love to Elizabeth, and says that being a total weirdo is just how she lets girls know she’s interested. Although she’s initially skeptical, Elizabeth is eventually won over by how Fiona helped Lydia, and also her sweet vinyl collection. Eventually, the two have a small ceremony on Lake Michigan the weekend after Charlene and Jane’s extremely Pinteresting treehouse wedding.

Mansfield Park

mansfield-park

Insufferable uptight raw vegan Fanny Price has been raised by her rich aunt and uncle, because her immediate family is poor and does not have the money for the Vitamix and fruit dehydrator she requires. Fanny hates all of the relatives who are housing and feeding her except for Ellen, who is very polite and likes to help Fanny make crackers out of leftover juice pulp. Fanny actually thinks she has feelings for Ellen, which is weird because they’re cousins but pretty normal in the Regency era, I guess. Hot upper-crust sisters Hazel and Mary move into town, and Mary immediately locks her sights on Ellen while flirtatious Hazel begins breaking hearts left and right. Mary is a little disappointed that Ellen’s only aspiration in life is to be a sustainable urban farmer, and works on convincing her to aim higher, like starting her own line of high-end ethically sourced cotton underskirts. Hazel gets bored of partying and decides to emotionally manipulate Fanny’s heart, but it backfires when she finds that Fanny is so emotionally unavailable and aloof that Hazel ends up obsessed with her. Ellen realizes that Mary never truly saw her and her zucchini plants for her, and just wanted to be trendy; Hazel goes on an incredible tear of two-week-long relationships to rebound from Fanny, confirming Fanny’s suspicions that she dodged a bullet. Fanny and Ellen are left free to consummate their boring and gluten-free love, even though they are, again, first cousins, because that was a normal thing to do, apparently.

Emma

emma

Emma had a ton of fun at her friends’ recent wedding, and tells her best friend Georgia Knightley that she’s going to make sure their whole circle of friends is paired up by the end of the year so she can keep going to parties with open bars. Georgia points out, correctly, that this is a terrible idea, but Emma won’t hear it. First, she persuades her friend Harriet to stop seeing Rita, who she’s been on three dates with and is super into, because Rita isn’t marriage material. She tries to set Harriet up with Philippa, who is a rising star in the Regency-era social sphere, but Philippa fashionably elopes with Augusta instead. Hot new it girl Jane Fairfax crops up in their social circle, and Georgia thinks Jane’s going to start dating Frances, but Emma is too focused on being weirdly jealous of Jane to agree. Philippa is being a huge bitch to Harriet, who is already sad that Emma convinced her to stop seeing Rita for what turned out to be a terrible reason, so Georgia steps up and starts hanging out with Harriet a lot more. Georgia turns out to have, again, been right, and Jane and Frances have a whirlwind romance and are super in love. Surrounded by romance, Harriet confesses to Emma that she’s fallen for Georgia after Georgia was such a good friend during her recent rough times; upon hearing this, Emma realizes that she actually has feelings for Georgia, which is a super cold thing to do to Harriet but makes sense because Georgia has been right about everything since page one. Emma tells Georgia how she feels, and Georgia is like duh, you idiot, and asks her out. They’re grossly cute and happy. And! Harriet is able to get back together with Rita, finally. Jane and Emma even manage to make up, and Emma learns an important lesson about chilling out a little.

Persuasion

persuasion

Anne and Faye dated for like five minutes in school, a fact which most people don’t know because it was so brief, but which Anne still kinda thinks about sometimes. They haven’t seen each other in years when Anne’s family moves into Faye’s neighborhood because they’ve taken a financial hit. Anne goes with Faye, her sisters and a few friends on a beach vacation, where Anne attracts the attention of local rich hottie Willa Elliot. Seeing this, as well as how much of a babe Anne is hanging out on the beach, Faye remembers why she liked Anne back in the day. After the beach weekend, Willa continues to flirt with Anne, although Anne is a little weirded out that Willa doesn’t seem to have any other friends, or any social media accounts, and still uses hotmail. Shockingly, an acquaintance reveals that Willa’s interest in Anne is likely more opportunistic than romantic, for financial reasons that mostly involve primogeniture laws and therefore do not translate very well to f/f storylines. When Anne writes an impassioned and typo-ridden screed on Instagram about the importance of only keeping people around you that you can trust to be real with you, Faye realizes in the twenty minutes before Anne deletes it how much Anne really means to her, and sends her a DM to tell her so. The two of them get brunch the next morning and agree to see where this goes, keep it casual, before adopting three rescue cats together and moving into a tiny house.


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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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46 Comments

  1. 0

    Hit Mansfield Park and came down to note:

    I understand that in the contemporary US it is considered odd for first cousins to be romantically involved (and am personally quite familiar with the logistical reasons it is a Bad Idea) but this child of first cousins is kind of tired of seeing it treated as totally freaky.

    There are many people for whom cross-cousins are considered the best marriage partners.

      • 0

        Hey it’s okay for this person to express how they’re feeling and how your responses was kinda mean. The majority of societies around the world condone first cousin marriage, it’s just in the west where there’s a huge stigma, and this is actually the legacy of eugenics (look it up if you like). It would be really hard living with this stigma and it should be fine for someone to bring that up without being shutdown here.

        • 0

          There’s a stigma for a reason, repeat inter familial reproductive pairings have a higher chance of yielding genetic disorders in offspring.
          Eugenic itself promotes inbreeding by virtue of reducing genetic diversity to some narrow idea of perfection. Purity is a toxic idea for many reasons.

          But humanity we survived and rose to great number by taking care of each other not killing off the “weak” or denying help to those that need it. We adapt and support each other or learn to live with what we got.
          There’s skeletons of Neaderthals and early homo sapiens that were amputees that lived for year after initial amputation, or had such severe dental issues another sapien would have needed to pre-chew or specially prepare food.

          A little first cousin reproductive pairings here and there shouldn’t be problem. Only when it’s something dumb like holding to power like the Habsburgs or abusive like the polygamists who marry 14 year old niece to 40 year old uncle/cousin on 2 sides is there a anything resembling a a problem.

          While yes the what I started with was opposite sex assumed opposite gender pairings reproductive reasons some of taboos of consanguinitous unions being social mores will of course carry over to same sex assumed same gender sexual/romantic pairings.

          And in someways I’d have to say endogamy in the sort of circles Jane Austen wrote about is also about preserving power, not to the extent of the Habsburgs.
          Perhaps that is another factor in why consanguinitous unions in the West have a bad rep. Association with holding on to power in a group and not just ruralness.

    • 0

      First: as stated am familiar with the genetics research into repeated consanguineous reproductive pairings (thanks for going through it below, Lex). As Lex laid out, when it happens over and over there can be elevated risks for inheritance of certain genetic issues but the occasional first cousin reproductive pairing (unless both partners are carriers of particular genes) is typically not an issue. And there are many societies which have valued cross-cousin marriage, which in some cases has long-lasting genetic effects on the population.

      Second: Thanks, Max. I didn’t yell at Rachel or state I never wanted to read Autostraddle again or that I even hated this piece because of this inclusion – just that I get tired of the concept of my existence and my parents’ marriage treated as a punchline or totally freaky and unfathomable. I didn’t ask for edits or changes to the piece.

      The dismissiveness is irritating but whatever.

      • 0

        My background culture is has a rather benign opinion on cousin marriage and I too find it wierd that it’s such a big deal in the US (for awful and completely constructed historical reasons). If it makes you feel any better, Jessica, there is an upside to this: you can join the rest of the world snickering at wierd XoJane-type articles written by US people completely freaking out after having kissed their fourth cousin 🙂

      • 0

        I’m kind of puzzled, if anything, by the horrified reaction in this country to first cousin marriages, given that I realize how common it was in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries and earlier — not just among Habsburgs and the like, but among Jews in small communities in rural areas in German-speaking lands. Like my own family. Why? Because there wasn’t that large a pool of available Jewish marriage partners. Plus, it was actually supposed to make it more likely that the couple would treat each other well, and not abandon each other or run off with each other’s assets — keeping it all in the family, as it were.

        There’s a photo on my wall of my great-grandfather and his parents, taken in a town in Pomerania in 1859. His mother Lina and father Lesser were first cousins. Not only that, his mother’s parents were first cousins, not only to each other but to his father’s mother. Not only that, his mother’s brother Salomon was married to his father’s sister Caecilie. Not only that, Lesser and Lina had a daughter who married a son of Salomon and Caecilie — a double first cousin marriage. And their children, my grandfather’s first cousins, had only 6 different individuals as great-great-grandparents instead of the usual complement of 16. I’ve seen photos of those cousins, and each of them had only one head apiece. They all lived long, healthy lives, except for the ones who were murdered in the Shoah. So, first cousin marriages? Not a big deal to me!

    • 0

      Ditto on Fanny Price! But some of the best moments of Mansfield Park are when Austen jokes at her perfectly virtuous heroine’s expense, so this killer line seems perfectly in keeping!

  2. 0

    For financial reasons that mostly involve primogeniture that doesn’t fit well in f/f storylines.

    That is tres hilare and I’ve always had a soft spot for anodyne Anne and feeble Fanny.

  3. 0

    This is great–especially the Mansfield Park synopsis! I love the cover/quote pairings and the way these takes give us bad female love interests to match ever bad male one in Austen!

  4. 0

    This is fantastic. Reminds me how much I want period books about female romance.

    On a side note, I’m so glad this pointed out how weirdly gross the Mansfield Park “romance” was. Not only were they first cousins, they were also raised as siblings, which… ew.

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