I went to three Sundance screenings last year, and afterward people would come up to me to gush about the movie. The women all seemed pretty certain that they were going to love it, and unsurprised when that turned out to be the case. But the men were astounded. I had at least 20 conversations like this.
MAN: I loved that movie.
Me: Thank you!
MAN: No, you don't understand. I loved that movie. Like I laughed through the entire thing.
ME: That's awesome, thanks so much!
MAN: No, you DON'T UNDERSTAND. I LOVED THAT MOVIE. I don't laugh like that ever. And it was supposed to be a chick movie. And I laughed so hard I was crying. Like it was actually honestly one of the funniest movies I've ever seen in my entire life!
And he stares at me, eyes wide, willing me to understand that this is a shocking outcome that I really really need to understand.
And still months later I kept meeting people who saw Austenland at Sundance, and what they want to tell me is. 1. they loved it, and 2. their husband loved it so so much and can't stop talking about how unbelievably funny it was.
I think part of the shock comes from the costumes. Some of these men were not fans of the period dramas they'd been dragged to in the past and they're expecting that again, and when it turns out they laugh and thoroughly enjoy the movie, their minds are so blown they can't quite recover.
Jerusha and I from the beginning thought the movie would work on two levels: as a love letter to Austen fans like ourselves and a love letter to those who think Austen fans are funny.
And thanks to all who are buying the movie or checking it out from the library and not pirating it. I found this exchange on tumblr recently, and I really appreciate the person who runs this tumblr site for their thoughtful, kind response.
"Do you have a link to watch Austenland online??" Asked by Anonymous [EDIT: to clarify this question was posted before the video release, so the only online links would have been to illegal pirated copies]
Austenland Movie Fans tumblr: "You guys realize that watching movies online is stealing right? Believe me I understand the desire to watch things now, I live in America and love a lot of British shows. But rather than going and finding them online illegally I wait. Why because I want more shows like those. I want to say, yes I like this can we please get more. Don’t steal from what you love guys in the end you really end up robbing yourself."
Anonymous: "You realize how elitist and rude it is to tell people not to watch things online? Some people can't afford to go see a movie in theatres, some people will never have access to this movie at all."
Austenland Movie Fans tumblr: "I completely understand not everyone can afford to go see movies in the theater. But they can wait to rent the movie or borrow it from the library. It is not just rich actors you are stealing from, what about the make up artists, caterers, camera guys, and accountants. Stealing is stealing no matter how you try and justify it."
When I was in high school/college I knew people who worked parttime jobs just to earn money to buy music CDs. Now I hear of high school/college-age people who have never purchased an album (or even a single) in their lives. Why buy it when you can download it (illegally) for free? I wonder if those people have noticed how many groups produced one or two albums and nothing after. Because they didn't make enough money making music. Because people stole the music.
I find the argument interesting: "some people can't afford to see a movie." Some people. This person? I've had people argue with me that they pirate ebooks all they want because "what about poor children who can't afford to buy books and don't have access to a library?" Sure, if you're a poor child with no access to a library (but somehow access to a computer, internet, ereader, digital music player) then you get a free pass.
But for the rest of us, please don't be a user. Please support the arts. We do not have the right to have everything we want when we want it for free. We can be a part of art creation by supporting the stuff we like with our purchase money or library patronage. All the cool kids are doing it.