The Crisis in “An Understanding” – a sort of continuation of my post on Sexual Mores


I think this episode really drives my earlier argument that Lydia’s “downfall” (or as I like to think of it) her crisis, is not the reputation damage of the sex tape. It’s her response to it. It’s her response to having all of her love and trust broken to pieces over money. And if Lizzie were as judgement as she had been at the beginning of the series, Lydia’s crisis would be intensely magnfied. 

Lydia uses Lizzie’s own words, that she was a “stupid whorey-slut again” when she describes what’s happened. She’s assuming Lizzie hasn’t reevaluated her opinion, and that Lizzie is going to blame her. That is a large part of the hurt she’s going through, that she is little more than the rumors say she is, and that she’ll never be worthy of her sisters’ respect…

I liked this whole post a lot, but I’m reblogging especially for this part:

Some people might find it problematic that Lydia’s consent to filming the sex tape had to be dubious in order to garner the sympathy of the audience. I agree that this highlights slut shaming attitudes in society, that we need the girl to be not ok with the sex tape itself for her not to be at fault when her boyfriend posts it on the internet. It’s so common for us to say “well if she didn’t want that picture of her tits texted to all her school, she shouldn’t have sent them”. So I can see why the authors would want to distance themselves from that critique. Because it is one that is painfully common in our society. In an ideal world we’d always blame the distributer who acted without consent. In a perfect portrayal, Lydia wouldn’t need to be victimized further by making the consent to even make the tape dubious and under the influence of emotional coercion.

But the writers don’t write in a vacuum. Lydia in the books is a victim, and the more Wickham aims at undermining her agency, the more victimized she becomes. Because that’s part of the pain of being a victim. And while those of us on tumblr who know it’s always the fault of the person who distributed without consent, a large part of our socieltal sexual mores blame women who record their sexuality regardless as to whether or not they ever intended for it to become public. And they have to work within that the way Austen had to work within the sexual mores that left women who’d had premarital sex impoverished prostitutes.  

Back during the Lizzie x Wickham episodes I noticed, and was confused by, the way the show seemed to be tapdancing around a bit on the question of whether or not Lizzie and Wickham had had sex. Then (if I’m remembering the sequence of events correctly) they explicitly told viewers that no, they hadn’t.

I remember thinking it was kind of odd, because as I watched the way Lizzie and Wickham were acting toward each other, considering their ages and cultural context, I assumed that they would have been having sex at that point. But I’m a product of a different culture than a lot of viewers, and I ended up deciding that the approach they were taking arguably made sense for who Lizzie was. It just wasn’t quite the way I’d been picturing her in my head up until that point.

The stuff in the last episode emphasizing that Lydia was pressured into making the sex tape strikes me as somewhat similar in tone. I’ve seen some of the criticism that argues that by even acting like the narrative needed to present Lydia that way, the show is perpetuating sex negativity and slut shaming. And I guess I see where that argument is coming from. In a perfect world they wouldn’t have felt like they needed to do that.

But I pretty much buy vexingly-verbose’s argument here. I think that just as Jane Austen was not explicitly endorsing the sexual mores of her time by constructing a narrative that lived within that context, the LBD creators are not explicitly endorsing our culture’s sexual mores in how they’ve chosen to present Lydia.

It’s more complicated, too, because our culture doesn’t have the kind of consensus on what those sexual mores are or should be the way I imagine Austen’s culture did. If you look at a recent US electoral map and at the extreme divergence between the Democratic and Republican parties’ positions on sex and gender issues, it kind or brings home how difficult it is to create a narrative concerning morality and sexual agency that will play in a satisfying way in both parts of the country.

I think I remember reading that Rachel was born and raised in a conservative Texas household, and that Mary Kate was born and raised in a conservative Arkansas household. I wonder how that background contributed to their choices in creating Lydia.

Reposted from

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