Victorian Snark Theatre 3000: Vanity Fair (2004)

It’s time for another installment of Victorian Snark Theatre 3000! And this time we’ll be discussing Vanity Fair (2004). As you guys know, I watch a lot of shitty Victorian-inspired films with my good friend @VictorianMasculinity (whose blog can be found here) and we decided to turn them into blog posts.

Previous posts on VST3K include:

Dracula 2000

Let it be known that I absolutely adore Vanity Fair. It hit me at exactly the right time during my teens and I wanted to be Becky Sharp for the next three years. So this is more of a good-natured roasting rather than the wild-eyed, horrified laughter that Dracula 2000 prompted.

Let’s get started!


Meet Becky Sharp, the daughter of a talented artist, Francis Sharp, and his French opera singer wife:


You can tell she’s our heroine because she makes the adults in the room laugh, and also she has great hair despite being POOR.

Also, you can tell she’s poor because she lives next to pigs.






That’s right, it’s Gabriel Byrne, i.e. the Marquis of Steyne, who is all kinds of fabulous. He is a major collector of artwork, especially Becky’s dad’s paintings, and it’s really sad because you know he’s just going to go home and burn that coat after it’s been worn near poverty.

The Marquis of Steyne is like, “Sell me that painting, you talented fucking plebe”


and Papa Sharp is like, “Huzzah, we can eat again!”, but little Becky is all like, “Hold up, son. The woman in that portrait is my dead mother. We’re not letting it go that cheaply. Bitch better have my money.”


So the Marquis pays a ton more than he would have, but he thinks, “I ain’t even mad, because little Becky is cute and feisty as shit, and I’m almost definitely going to try to tap that when she goes through puberty.”


Papa Sharp has died of . . . plot . . . (look, he’s poor, I don’t know—scurvy? Sure. He died of scurvy) and Becky has been shipped off to Miss Pinkerton’s Academy of Pandering to the Middle Classes and Child Labor, Inc., where she is going to “get an education”, by which they mean she is going to be a slave and maybe on occasion get to read a book or something in return for scrubbing enough floors.


Scrubbing floors must be good for the bust-line, because Becky grew up hot and sassy and, it must be said, with rather improbable hair.


The only person who’s been nice to her in all these years was another student, the wealthy merchant’s daughter Amelia Sedley, played by the delightful Romola Garai.


Here’s the thing, though—I kind of want to push Amelia Sedley into a volcano. As much as I love Romola Garai, I don’t think Meryl Streep could make sweet-faced, doormat Amelia a likeable or interesting character. It can’t be done. She’s all purity and innocence and gentle spirit and stubborn loyalty and I hate her.

Becky has a job as a governess for a baronet’s daughters, but first she’s gonna go chill at Amelia’s house before her job starts. Becky is grudgingly given a dictionary by Miss Pinkerton, as it is the traditional present for girls leaving the Academy.

She hops in Amelia’s sweet-ass carriage, throws the dictionary out the window, and starts screaming insults in French as she rides away in style.


I love her.

People who do NOT love her include: Amelia’s be-ringletted mother.


The Sedleys are NEW money, and they can’t have little friendships with someone as lowly as a GOVERNESS getting in the way of their social climbing. Also, Mrs. Sedley rightly suspects that Becky has her sights set on her son, Jos Sedley, who looks like a leprechaun and is rich from doing things with EMPIRE:


You can tell he’s been playing at EMPIRE because every single color in India has thrown up on him. Also he has an Indian servant name Biju, who spends every scene he’s in rolling his eyes at the pretentious-ass white people, and hockey-checking butlers out of the way (seriously) (Biju is probably my favorite character, and he has 5 seconds of screen time and no lines).

Becky attempts to win Jos’s heart through the time tested magic of eating competitions




and Jos is ENCHANTED that this pretty young thing could like SPICY FOOD, begad! She’s a lass who would be perfect to bring back to India!


Becky spends a great week with Amelia’s family, and it’s clear that Jos is falling for her pretty hard. We also meet Captain Dobbin, a good friend of Amelia’s fiancé, George Osborne. Dobbin is very clearly in love with Amelia, but–being a decent guy–says nothing about it.


They all go party it up in Vauxhall Gardens, which is chockablock full off colonial wealth and for some reason everyone is barefoot and lounging about in decadent splendor like it’s the last fucking days of Rome.

This is where we get to meet Amelia’s fiancé, George Osborne, played to moody perfection by Jonathan Rhys Meyers:



There are a few things you need to know about George Osborne.

  • Boots like that need to make a comeback. He’s like walking porn.
  • He styles his hair with antigravity, clearly getting tips from David Tennant
  • His father is a new-money merchant, just like Amelia’s father
  • Their dads are business partners, so this is kind of an arranged match between him and Amelia, but they like each other well enough
  • George has a HUGE chip on his shoulder that he’s new money and wants to hang out with all the aristocratic kids
  • George is a fucking asshole

He meets Becky and is thoroughly unimpressed by her poorness and chides Amelia for being friends with someone so disgustingly COMMON. Poor, stupid, naïve Amelia tells George that she hopes Becky will marry her brother Jos, and George goes, “A governess for my sister-in-law? I don’t fucking think so.

Meanwhile, Becky and Jos are flirting in the oddest possible way:




Jos more or less proposes to Becky, by which I mean he calls her “dearest” twice, squeezes her hand, and gives her an engagement parrot.


But George Osborne is having none of this, and he tells Jos that if he marries Becky, he, George, will not marry Amelia. Jos succumbs to peer pressure, the engagement parrot flies away symbolically (seriously), and  Jos goes back to India without Becky.

Becky packs up her shit, gives Amelia a painting her father had made back in the day (it’s the only thing of value that Becky owns, and wants to give it to the only person who’s ever been nice to her), and she departs for her job as a governess.

Becky arrives at the manor house, Queen’s Crawley, and this place is a goddamn dump.


Right, time for the Queen’s Crawley dramatis personae:

This is Sir Pitt Crawley, who is cheerful and friendly and has very dubious hygiene.


He spends his time not giving a fuck, and also lightly sexually harassing Becky.


Sir Pitt has a care-worn wife, whom we almost never see:


A couple of bratty daughters, whom Becky teaches:


And a son, Pitt the Younger, whom Becky says has “the charm of an undertaker and the humor of a corpse”:


Sir Pitt also has another son and a sister, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Becky quickly endears herself to the whole family and goes full Hector Elizondo on Queen’s Crawley and gives that place the goddamn makeover of its LIFE:



Also, that joke works on two levels, because Hector Elizondo gave makeovers in both Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries.

ANYWAY, Sir Pitt’s family is kind of poor, even though they’re aristocratic, but Sir Pitt has a rich-ass sister, Matilda, who comes to visit, and hates everyone:


I love her.

I say she hates everyone, but she doesn’t. She absolutely loves Sir Pitt’s younger son, Rawdon Crawley, because he’s fun and also he is played by James Purefoy and who wouldn’t be all over that shit? Aunt Matilda plans to leave all her money—ALL OF IT—to Rawdon because he’s the only one of them who doesn’t suck:



Matilda’s arrival also brings the arrival of Lady Jane Sheepshanks, who is engaged to Pitt the Younger, and her horrible mother, the Countess of Southdown, who is really just Miss Marple/Mortianna from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, who has allowed herself to go on a hell of a shopping spree:


They’re also aristocrats, but much like Sir Pitt, they’re poor. Lady Jane is okay, but her mother is there purely to try to ingratiate herself to Aunt Matilda in the hopes that she might leave some of her money to Pitt the Younger, instead of just to Rawdon.

Aunt Matilda is unimpressed.

However, true to form, both Aunt Matilda and Rawdon are impressed by Becky—Aunt Matilda for Becky’s wit and intellect, and Rawdon for Becky’s super-fine booty. Becky plays hard to get with Rawdon and it works like a goddamn charm.

At dinner, everyone else has anaemic-looking soup, except Aunt Matilda, who gets a lobster. BUT THE LOBSTER HAS ITS REVENGE, OH YES, given in the form of highly dramatic squits:


Everyone freaks out and calls the doctor while Aunt Matilda loudly shits herself to death upstairs. Only she doesn’t die, and Becky takes care of her and entertains her while she’s sick, and Matilda’s like, “Right, I know you’re here as a governess, but I’m going to steal you and take you to London to be my companion, and also to hang out with Rawdon, who is also my companion, and oh, did I mention that I absolutely LOVE imprudent marriages where men go to the deuce for a woman and have romantic, dramatic elopements? I LOVE THAT SHIT. Also, I really hope Rawdon manages to run away with someone, someone who is very clever, I don’t care if she’s rich.”

Becky goes, “No. You hadn’t mentioned that. Duly noted.”

So Becky abandons her pupils and fucks off to London for some scheming:


Rawdon isn’t wasting any time, and when Aunt Matilda falls asleep in the carriage, we are treated to erotic fingernail rubbing:


Becky still plays hard to get.

Matilda invites Amelia Sedley and George Osbourne over to hang with Becky. They all play cards, and George Osbourne is still a snobbish little shit who is like, “Becky, you’re poor, how did you manage to weasel your way into Matilda Crawley’s companionship?”

And Becky is like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, wasn’t your grandfather a big ole nobody? So don’t be up in my face with this classist shit, you fucking twerp,” and George seethes, and they would have AMAZING hate-sex:



Things go well with Matilda for a while, but Rawdon’s getting more forward in his attentions: BUT BECKY AIN’T NO FOOL. You make that soon-to-be-rich soldier-boy-playa MARRY YOU before you hand over the goods.


Rawdon says that even though Aunt Matilda talks about being okay with imprudent matches, she’s actually very conservative in her beliefs and would be PISSED if they got married.

Becky doesn’t think so, and takes a calculated risk:


Soon thereafter, Sir Pitt shows up while Aunt Matilda is in an elaborate bath:


His non-entity gray wife has up and died, and no one gives a shit, except now HE CAN PROPOSE TO BECKY:


Aunt Matilda overhears this and is very surprised. This is not the nude scene I was hoping for:


Becky says she can’t marry Sir Pitt because she’s already secretly married. Aunt Matilda LOVES this and says that she’ll set up Becky’s husband in business and take care of everything, and oh! how romantic!

Becky then reveals that she married Rawdon. It does not go over as well as she expected:



And she is kicked out in the street. Then she and Rawdon have some sweaty sex. Rawdon is out of breath for about 20 minutes afterward, due to Becky’s magical vag. Becky says, “It’s all good, bae. I’m pregnant, and if a sweet little baby doesn’t put us back into Aunt Matilda’s good graces, nothing will.


And she’s totally right—that would have absolutely worked. EXCEPT that that officious little fuck-fish, Lady Southdown, does some digging on Becky and finds out that her mother was a French opera singer. She smugly tells Aunt Matilda, and apparently that is just going TOO FAR. Her mother sang opera? FETCH THE LAWYER! Aunt Matilda changes her will and leaves it all to Sir Pitt, instead.



Shit may be going poorly for Becky, but shit is going significantly less well for Amelia. Her father and George’s father have some kind of disagreement in the Patriarchal Square of Respectable Housing:


and then Mr. Sedley comes home and reveals that he’s lost all of his money and they’re poor now and Mr. Osborne won’t have anything to do with him. His wife is—understandably—devastated.


ME: At least his wife will no longer be able to afford hideous headdresses.

VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: Yeah, silver lining.

George has also been ghosting the now-poor Amelia. She keeps writing him letters, and this is what he does with them:


This pisses Dobbin off something fierce, but he’s also a doormat and does and says nothing, and just lets George go on being an asshole to the woman that he, Dobbin, loves. You know, Dobbin, you actually tell this to Amelia or something, so she stops wasting her time on George, who clearly doesn’t respect her. But no. You have to do the whole “silent dignity, hope this all works itself out naturally” thing.


The bailiffs auction off everything in the Sedleys’ house and Becky and Rawdon go check it out. Becky sees Dobbin buying Amelia’s piano and she knows immediately he’s going to send it to Amelia, to give her some small comfort over on skid row.



Becky also sees her father’s painting (that she had gifted to Amelia) go up for sale, but the Marquis of Steyne is like a bloodhound for Francis Sharp paintings and grabs that shit up.


VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: That is a *lot* of crushed velvet for one man. He looks like the evil mayor in a bad cowboy porno.

ME: A bad cowboy porno, or the best cowboy porno?

Amelia, meanwhile, is over in her poor house. You can tell it’s poor because they can’t afford colors:


VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: India has been stripped from the scene! It has been stripped with great prejudice!

Dobbin shows up at Amelia’s sad-ass crib with the piano, and Amelia inexplicably thinks that GEORGE has bought it for her, because she’s apparently never met her (ex?) fiancé before or something. She gets all sobby and all, “GEORGE STILL LOVES ME, HE STILL TOTALLY INTENDS TO MARRY ME, HURRAY” and throws herself on the piano:


Dobbin is heartbroken but doesn’t say anything.


You know what, Dobbin? You are enabling this abusive, unhappy relationship from both ends. I have no sympathy for you, even if you are kind of hot.

So while Amelia is hyperventilating over her piano and probably setting up a shrine to St. George, George is actually courting another woman. Kind of.

His dad goes, “Those Sedleys are poor and gross. You’re not engaged to Amelia anymore. You’re engaged to Rhoda Swartz, now. She is from Jamaica and has millions, because colonialism.”


Diamonds? In daylight? TACKY.

Rhoda lays things out pretty clearly to George: your dad and my guardian want us to get married. I’m filthy stanking rich, but I’m not fully white, so I can either marry an impoverished aristocrat, or a rich middle-class person. If I marry a rich middle-class person—let’s say for the sake of argument, youwe can then afford to buy ourselves a title. Wouldn’t that be great?”

And poor little George, oh, how his snobberies conflict. Because 1.) Money and title, whoopee! but 2.) SHE’S A BROWN PERSON, EW

So he goes whining to Daddy: “I DON’T WANT A BROWN ONE, DADDY, I WANT A WHITE ONE.”

What, you mean like the quivering, angelic, porcelain little marshmallow you just abandoned?


Yes. Exactly like that. But rich.

But Papa Osborne says, “You need to forget about Amelia, money is more important, look, you’re only a tradesman’s son, you’re never going to get everything you want. Take Miss Swartz as your wife and get over yourself.”

Only George fancies himself as more of a gentleman than his father. His father loves money, but he knows nothing of breeding. Of honor. They get into a big tiff and George decides “Fuck this shit, I’m a gentleman, I gave my word to Amelia, I’m going to marry her anyway. Because that’s what true gentlemen do.”

Mr. Osborne says that if George marries Amelia, he’ll cut George off without a penny.

But George has already left the building. Good day, sir! HE SAID GOOD DAY! He and Amelia get married and this will in no way be a total and unmitigated disaster for all concerned. Nope.

Mr. Osborne gets out the family Bible, as you do.


VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: *narrating Mr. Osborne’s internal monologue* “Thou shalt not kill…” Dammit! I can’t kill him. I guess I’ll just have to cross his name out.

MEANWHILE, WAR IS HAPPENING and all the men folk are going to get shipped off to Belgium, so all the outcasts come to hang out in bohemian bliss for one last hurrah:


Becky is 27,000 months pregnant and rocking it out. She and Amelia decide to follow their husbands to Belgium, Amelia because she loves George, and Becky because there is some seriously amazing socializing to be done there (read my post on the Duchess of Richmond’s ball).

And, sho nuff, the night before Waterloo (sort of, read my post for details), there is a swank-erific ball full of Duchesses and Viscounts and Archdukes and White Wizards and Chosen Ones and, of course, BECKY, whose amazing hair is only outmatched by her stupendous pregnancy tits:


VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: Dear god! Her head! She’s sprouting like a bad potato!

Uhhh, look at this boss. I think you mean the baddest potato.


Rawdon goes to do some gambling and wins a ton of money. Then Amelia starts puking at the ball, revealing that she’s PREGNANT, TOO! Then George gets mad because Amelia is sick and is too mealy-mouthed to try to climb the social ladder, like Becky.

He abandons his newly pregnant wife who gets ill all over the damn place and runs off home, so he can dance with Becky, on whom he has developed a crush. He gets all up in her bi’ness:


But before anything can happen, an announcement rings through the crowd: Napoleon’s army has stolen up on them in the night. To war!



VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: My god. This is the most exciting Brussels has ever been.

In a moment of true marital tenderness, Rawdon gives Becky all his money and leaves her all his stuff, so she can sell it later. He fully expects to be killed in battle and wants to provide for her as much as humanly possible. He talks to her belly for a while, and it’s actually very sweet. ILU, Rawdon.


Becky starts crying, but that’s probably just the pregnancy hormones. Or the fact that her only security in the event of her husband’s death is some broke-ass old army equipment to pawn.

The men go off to war and all the non-army people flee. Becky has petty revenge on some snobby bitches who were rude to her at the ball by refusing to sell them her horse, WHICH IS THE ONLY HORSE LEFT IN ALL OF BELGIUM. Awwwww yeaaaaaah, lucky horse break! Fuck you, Lady So-and-So! Wish you invited me to play whist with you now, don’tcha? Say hello to Napoleon’s bayonets for me!

Meanwhile, Amelia is having a goddamn nervous breakdown, trying to find George marching through the ranks so she can say goodbye:


Becky wrangles her and they go to safety until they can hear the outcome of the battle.

Rawdon comes home alive. George does not.


VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: His hair isn’t dead, it’s just sleeping!

Amelia goes back to the poor house to have her baby, little Georgy. Dobbin says he’s considering going off to India, like Jos, to make his fortune. Unless . . . you know . . . Amelia would rather he stay.

Amelia would not rather he stay.

I gotta be honest, Amelia, you’re kind of sending Dobbin some mixed messages wearing tops like that when he visits.


Becky and Rawdon are doing much better. He’s making it rich as a gambler and they have moved into a spiffy new London house.

VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: You know what I just realized? This film is entirely without matte surfaces. Everything is shiny.

They have a little boy, who Rawdon is completely enamored with, Little Rawdy. Huh. You’d think with all that money they could afford a better name for their kid.


VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: Shake the baby! Offer it to the sky gods!

They also live near the Marquis of Steyne, who pervs on Becky having a Cleopatra moment while she moves a carpet:


Becky’s life is turning out great, and all is well, and full of joyous laughter on carpets in the street.


Much like the riches-to-rags second act in Show Boat, Rawdon’s gambling has gone from successful to not. His boots are very moody:


VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: I like big boots and I cannot lie!

Becky is still desperately trying to break into society, but with their dwindling income, which has put them on the brink of debtors prison, she is spinning her wheels. One day the bailiffs come and start repossessing the furniture. Who should come to the rescue but the Marquis of Steyne and his phallus of authority:




VICTORIAN MASCULINITY: “May my penis make a suggestion?”

He’s all like, “Hey, baby baby, I’ve noticed you,” and Becky plays her ultimate trump card: “Oh, I don’t know if you knew this, but I’m Francis Sharp’s daughter, and I charmed the shit out of you when I was a child and you wanted to buy that portrait of my mother.”

The Marquis of Steyne goes all (♥_♥)

And there’s this whole subtext where he’s the ultimate Francis Sharp collector and now he wants to add Becky to his collection, blah blah. They quickly become BFFLs with the not-so-subtle subtext of “maybe sex one day?”

Becky suddenly finds herself back in society and, to compound it all, Sir Pitt the Elder dies. Becky decides to ingratiate herself with the rest of the family, since Sir Pitt the Younger now has all the money. She does this with great ease, not because she is a stellar manipulator, but because they are naïve AF.

Also, it should be noted that Sir Pitt the Younger and Lady Jane Sheepshanks have long since married, and have a very sickly little boy about young Rawdy’s age. They have loaded Chekov’s sickly child. We’ll store that away for later.

The only problem with Becky’s new friendship with Lord Steyne is that literally no one else in high society wants her there. He tells his wife and his two daughters-in-law to invite Becky to some big shindig they have coming up, and they almost whorf their breakfast back up at the suggestion.

Only the Marquis of Steyne is a reaaaaal mean motherfucker and delivers some pretty cold ultimatums:

To his wife: “Do what I say or shit is going to go really badly for you.”

To his first daughter-in-law (and this is verbatim): “You’re here to have children and you’re barren! My son is sick of you! There’s no one in the house that doesn’t wish you dead!

To his second daughter-in-law: “You’re not exactly well-born, either. You purchased my second son with your money, because the whole world knows he’s mad and no one else would have him”.

VICTORIANMASCULINITY: Damn, son. This is a breakfast of hard truths.


Amelia’s life is fucking shitty and she spends her whole time wearing grubby earth tones and rooting around for potatoes. Little Georgy has inherited his father’s shithead genes and taste for velveteen foppery. He’s all like, “MUMMY I HATE OUR CLOTHES AND I HATE OUR FOOD AND WHY CAN’T WE BE RICH”. I don’t advocate slapping children, but I very much advocate slapping this one.

The narrative fairies, however, have heard his plea and have gone, “Wish granted!” because Mr. Osborne is finally through his cooling-off period and comes back to Amelia with “a proposal”.

VICTORIANMASCULINITY: An indecent proposal?

Alas, it is not.

Mr. Osborne wants Georgy to give up living in poverty and have all the advantages of being rich. But he can’t see his mother any more, because she might taint him with her penury germs. Amelia, wanting Georgy to have the best things in life, accepts, and he goes off to become even more of a snot-nosed little turd.

Amelia also receives a letter from Jos, telling her that Dobbin is out in India, and he’s engaged. We are suddenly swooped away to magical Indiaaaaaaaaaa!

Dobbin looks like he joined the Beatles:


He’s grown dodgy facial hair and has a new hairdo of character development, so we know he must have been there for a while, working shit out.

Amelia writes to him and is like, “Aww, I was kind of jealous to hear that you got engaged.” (AMELIA, FOR FUCK’S SAKE, EITHER SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT. DATE HIM OR DON’T, BUT YOU ARE STRINGING THIS GUY ALONG).

Dobbin, who is most definitely NOT engaged—Jos got his wires crossed—is about to do some very homoerotic wrestling when he gets Amelia’s letter. He’s so pissed that she’s heard he’s engaged, he almost accidentally kills a dude:


He decides he’s been in India too long and is going back to England. Subtext subtext, going native, falling prey to baser instincts, subtext subtext.

I think the thing that kind of pisses me off about this scene is that it feels like 80 pages of slow character-building that they crammed into 30 second. This is like the early “finding myself in foreign climes” montage from Batman Begins, but kind of pointless and shitty.


The Marquis of Steyne has his big fancy party and you don’t have to be a genius at reading costuming choices to see that Becky doesn’t fit in.


She gets snubbed really hard, but—surprisingly—the Marquis of Steyne’s wife takes pity on her and says that she’s seen too much cruelty from her husband to want to inflict it on anyone else. Awww, bless. She asks Becky to sing for them all. Becky does:


VICTORIANMASCULINITY: Is that a song-version of Tennyson’s “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal”? That shit was written in the 1840s. This is set roughly in 1820. Oh, goddamn it, you guys.

Becky rocks out her song. It turns out that being popular in high society has the exact same rules as being popular in high school in Never Been Kissed: as David Arquette teaches us, all it takes is one popular person to vouch for you and you’re in.

Becky is now tolerated in high society, if not exactly the most fashionable person in their ranks.

The Marquis takes her success to mean that he can get real weird with shit now. George IV comes to visit, and what better gift for an over-sexed imperial monarch than a sexy Orientalist “ballet” performed by the highest ladies in the land, choreographed by the Marquis of Steyne himself!


I didn’t realize the Marquis has such strong dance credentials.

But it’s not just high-born ladies, oh no. The STAAAAAR of the show is, obviously, Becky, wearing the world’s fiercest makeup.



VictorianMasculnity and I are sorely tempted to try this ourselves, but my fear is that I’ll end up looking like the Dread Pirate Roberts. Or some kind of fucked-up panda.

Anyway, look, just watch the video. It’s weird and fabulous and I love it and hate myself for loving it at the same time. All I know is, Reese Witherspoon looks like a million freaky, culturally-appropriating bucks.

Becky eye-fucks everyone in the room and George IV is most definitely in her blast zone. He is like, “Everyone reshuffle the fucking dinner table, dis bitch sittin’ next to ME!” And other people get all butt-hurt about it, but they can’t do SHIT, because he’s the king.

Rawdon, as the video shows, is less than pleased that his wife is belly dancing in public before his family and everyone in society. It also doesn’t help that she is clearly the muse of the Marquis who—let’s be fair—may not have Rawdon’s sexy boots, but DOES have some bomb-ass coats. Men should always be threatened by men who have better coats than they do. A good coat is like catnip for the biddies.


Rawdon leaves the party early only to be pinched by the bailiff and thrown in debtors’ prison for owing 100 pounds. Shitty night all ‘round for poor Rawdon.

This was clearly done at the Marquis of Steyne’s orders, so Becky would be alone for the night. She and the Marquis retire back to her place. She gets a note from Rawdon saying please come spring him from Shawshank, but the Marquis says, “Eh, he can wait a night. It won’t kill him.”


Then he pounces on Becky:


It’s unclear how much she was expecting this or is even into it (this seemed to be Becky’s end-game, but when the time came I think she got cold feet?), because at that very moment, Rawdon unexpectedly bursts in! He was rescued very quickly by his sister-in-law, Lady Jane Sheepshanks, before his note even reached Becky.

He is unamused by the scene he finds. Becky tries to explain that she’s innocent, but the Marquis is having none of it. The Marquis reveals that he’s been buying Becky jewels and clothes this whole time, AND has given her a thousand pounds that she has stashed away in her desk.

Rawdon is heartbroken and says, “A thousand pounds? You might have spared me a hundred, Becky. I always shared with you.” He rips off Becky’s ill-gotten jewelry and throws the Marquis down the stairs.



The Marquis leaves, fed up with this waste of time: Becky is too much work to get as a mistress, and he doesn’t want to invite any more scandal than he already has.

Rawdon faces his wife and says, “You better listen up, because I’m about to drop some shit like a pigeon!” I might be paraphrasing.

Rawdon’s sick of her shit, too, and he’s leaving her and going to go do army stuff in the colonies somewhere. They have a Rhett and Scarlett “What’s to become of me”/”I don’t give a damn” moment and then, startlingly, Becky SCREAMS FOR ALL HER LIFE IS WORTH, and everyone in my house jumped about five feet in the air:


VICTORIANMASCULINITY: Jesus Christ! I thought someone skewered a porpoise!

Rawdon takes young Rawdy to be raised by Sir Pitt and Lady Jane Sheepshanks, whose own sickly son has died for reasons of convenience. They raise little Rawdy as their own (in the deleted scenes, older Rawdy is played by Robert Pattinson, which is super creepy because a few years later he and Reese Witherspoon went on to play lovers in Water for Elephants).

Anyway, Rawdy is gone to be raised by better people, Rawdon disappears to the colonies with a sexy hat of imperialism:


And Becky is left to roam the streets sadly for the next, what, ten years?



Rawdon has died of a fever out in the colonies. Young Rawdy has inherited the baronetcy from Pitt the Younger and is now all rich and powerful, but doesn’t want much of anything to do with Becky who, to be fair, was kind of a shitty mother. Becky is working as a croupier in a German casino, and also she is probably a prostitute. She hasn’t let poverty dim her fabulous sense of dress, though:


She has some men with truly abominable facial hair proposition her for sex, but she’s not in the mood to party.


She gets called away to deal the cards and who should she run into but THIS asshole:


Don’t recognize him? Well, the hair and the shit-eating grin should be dead giveaways. He’s young Georgy, all grown up and douchebaggier than ever. She tells him she knew his mom and dad, but before he can gamble away the family fortune, Dobbin swoops in like a disapproving hawk on a fuck-face mouse and sweeps Georgy off.

Dobbin’s also had another hair change, after his late-Beatles Indian psychedelic phase. Now he has a bob of respectability.


Dobbin reveals that he’s traveling with Georgy and Amelia. Amelia is apparently still leading Dobbin on, being all like, “Oh, come and be the traveling companion for me and my son, you know, almost like we’re a real family, and it’s kind of scandalous because I’m single and you’re single and if we keep traveling together it’s going to start rumors—but no, wait! I am faithful forever to my dear sainted husband George, and could never marry you!”

Becky rolls her eyes at this 20-year continuation of Amelia’s bullshit, as do I. As do we all.

Becky is like, “Okay, enough of this shit” and goes to see Amelia. She tells Amelia that she’s acting herself a damn fool, and needs to get with Dobbin ASAP. Amelia’s all like, “Don’t you come up in here and tell me what to do with my life, you tart! You danced with my husband and got your boobs all up on him the last night of his life, and I will never forgive you for that! You stole my last night with my husband!”


(in case you forgot, she did, indeed, get her boobs all up on George)

But Becky goes, “Okay, 1.) You know how you thought George bought you your old piano? Well it was Dobbin. I was at the auction. George didn’t give a shit about you when your family lost all their money. 2.) Yeah, I danced with your husband right before he died, but he slipped me this note asking me to run away with him because he was already sick of you. Look at this note. This is his handwriting. Is that the sort of man you want to worship forever? He was a total twat waffle.”

And just like that, Amelia gets over all her nonsense, and runs to Dobbin, and they’re together now, so yay.


Becky goes back to her casino and is having a rough day, but WHO SHOULD WALK IN but Jos fucking Sedley, otherwise known as Deus Ex Easily-Manipulated Man, looking–if possible–even MORE as though India threw up on him.


Why is every character in the story traveling to Baden-Baden at the same time, you may ask? Because of plot convenience. We’re two minutes from the end, let’s not worry about it.

Becky has him wrapped around her finger in 10 seconds flat, and the next thing you know…


You can tell he made an honest woman of her, because she’s wearing virginal white, and also a hat of the utmost respectability.

Yay! Becky wins in the end! There is wealth and color everywhere, thanks colonialism! And you KNOW she is going to be the toast of colonial society. Also, she gets to ride on an elephant, and that’s always fun. Huzzah!

Just so you know, in the book, she and Jos don’t get married. She gets him to take out some life insurance with her as the beneficiary, and then it’s heavily implied that she poisons him. Everyone knows she did it, but no one can prove it, so she’s fairly wealthy but shunned by everyone.

The film is a better ending, in my opinion.

In conclusion, VictorianMasculinity and I have decided that if people spent half as much time working an actual job as they did finding random shit to put in their hair, everyone would be a lot richer. Let this be a life lesson to you all. GOOD DAY.

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BizarreVictoria Update

Hi, all! I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging in the month of October. This semester is really busy for me and I don’t want to burn out. I would also rather give you a couple of good posts than 10-12 shitty, phoned-in posts.

With this in mind, I will probably be putting up the below two posts in October:

October 14: Victorian Snark Theatre 3000’s review of Vanity Fair (2004), with friend and collaborator @VictorianMasc.

October 28: Bad Book Covers post on Vanity Fair.

I always hate taking time off from blogging, but this blog was specifically created as a way for me to have fun and to  introduce my research and interests in a silly, unprofessional way. The day this blog starts to become work is the day I will no longer write posts.

Right, I’m off to handle all the shit in my planner. See you back here full-time in November!

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Crush, Texas

I heard the following story on an episode of QI (series J, episode “Journalism”), but I’ve supplemented it with some research of my own.

Apparently a good way to promote new railway lines in the nineteenth century was to stage train crashes as publicity stunts.

In 1896, an agent of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, rather aptly named William George Crush, decided to hold one of these such events. It was free to the public, train tickets were offered on a discount, and 40,000 people showed up to watch two trains crash into each other head on.

Before the crash at Crush.

Before the crash at Crush.

The gathering was so big that it became a temporary city, known as “Crush, Texas”, and at the time was the second largest city in all of Texas.

The crowd was assembled and the trains were put on their end of a four mile track. They gathered speed and crashed into each other, as planned, with the crew jumping out far in advance of the crash. Unfortunately, not everything went to plan, since the force of the impact caused both engine boilers to explode, sending metal flying everywhere and causing the crowd to panic. Three people were killed and a further six very seriously injured.

The moment of impact, caught on camera.

The moment of impact, caught on camera.

The event photographer, Jarvis “Joe” Deane lost an eye to a flying bolt.

William George Crush was immediately fired from the railroad. He was rehired the very next day, however, when it was discovered that there was very little negative publicity about the event.


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I heard the following stories on an episode of QI (series J, episode “Journalism”). As they are only quick ones, I’ll list a couple of them here in one post.

1.) The longest obituary ever published in the Times was for Queen Victoria which is unsurprising, really, considering the length and breadth of her reign. What is surprising, though, is that her obituary was 60,000 words long.

My PhD dissertation, which took 3 years to write and is 250 pages long, is 90,000 words. They must have had a journalist composing her obituary bit by bit for years, just gearing up for the day she died. There is no way someone would be able to write this in a few days, let alone hours, after her death.


This shows what a journalism neophyte I am! Commenter Reynardo over on my livejournal sister-site writes:

“As the daughter of a long-time Newspaper person, I can tell you that yes, they have a library of biographies, ready to be trotted out when the person gets an honour, produces a child, or dies. While I’m not sure how far back they did that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Times started theirs in the 1880s or so. It’s a good task to put your new trainee journos on, to hone up their writing and investigation skills. (The rest of the time, they’re on the Shipping News and the Legal Notices.)”

2.) There is a rumor (totally unsubstantiated) that Alfred Nobel once read his own obituary (printed under the misapprehension that he was dead, when he wasn’t); this obituary supposedly referred to him as a “merchant of death”, due to his invention of dynamite, and he was so horrified that this would be his legacy that he founded the Nobel Prize.

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The Duellists

Just a quick one today. I’m reblogging this from Futility Closet’s blog here.

“In 1794, at Strasbourg, the French Hussar François Fournier-Sarlovèze challenged a young man to a duel and killed him. When his fellow officer Pierre Dupont de l’Étang denied him entrance to a ball on the eve of the funeral, the fiery Fournier challenged him to a duel. The two fought with swords, and Fournier was wounded.

“When he had recovered he challenged Dupont to a second duel, and wounded him. In their third meeting each inflicted a slight wound on the other. Finally the two agreed to a private war that would continue until one of them confessed that he was beaten or “satisfied.” They even drew up a contract:

  1. Every time that Dupont and Fournier shall be a hundred miles from each other they will each approach from a distance to meet sword in hand.
  2. Should one of the contracting parties be prevented by service duties, he who is free must travel the entire distance, so as to reconcile the obligations of service with the demands of the present treaty.
  3. No excuse whatever, excepting those resulting from military obligations, will be admitted.
  4. The present being a bona fide treaty, no alteration can be made to the conditions agreed upon by the contracting parties.

Over the ensuing 19 years the two fought at least 30 duels, each eventually rising to the rank of general. Finally, after a particularly savage meeting in Switzerland in 1813, in which Dupont ran his sword through Fournier’s neck, Dupont explained that he would be married soon and wanted to conclude the matter with a pistol duel in a nearby wood. Dupont twice tricked his opponent into firing at empty clothing, then advanced on him with pistols primed and claimed his victory. In The Duel, Robert Baldick writes, ‘Thus ended after a total period of nineteen years, the longest, friendliest and most mobile duel in history.’

“(This story is so absurdly romantic that I doubted whether it happened at all, but every source I can find confirms at least the essentials. Joseph Conrad found an account of the rivalry in a provincial newspaper and turned it into his 1908 short story ‘The Duel,’ and Ridley Scott turned Conrad’s story into the 1977 film The Duellists)”

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Pleasures of the Water Cure

I recently attended a conference where a paper was given on the idea of the Victorian Water Cure and discovered the below illustrations. In the Victorian era, water became a big concern when it came to health. This was especially true at the mid-century when the cause of cholera (i.e. diseased water) was discovered and as sanitation improved (the Great Stink of 1858 was enough to make anyone desire clean water).

Air pollution and the toxicity of dyes in fashionable wallpaper and cloth also lead to the mistaken assumption that sea air was just better for people, when in reality they were just getting away from an unhealthy environment for a while and perhaps bathing more frequently.

Whatever the myriad reasons, Victorians were obsessed with the purity of water and a great deal of their health fads and beauty regimes and spa treatments revolved around it. Much like today, some of these treatments were more akin to torture and seemed ridiculous to contemporaries.

Enter illustrator Thomas Onwhyn. At some point in the late 1850s or early 1860s (if someone has a more specific date, please let me know–I’ve seen 1858 and 1860 both listed), he gave us a very clear idea of what he thought about the “water cure” with his production of 12 illustrations entitled Pleasures Of The Water Cure: By A Patient Who Has Been Well Drench’d And Wrench’d And Restored To Health. They are as follows:

Water Cure 1

Image 1: “First morning at Water Cure. Bathman brings the Wetsheet. ‘But I am sure I shall get my death of cold.'”

Image 2: “Sitz [?] Bath & Wet sheet. 6 o’clock winter’s morn! ‘This is delightful. ‘Very!””

Water Cure 2

Image 3: “THE ASCENDING DOUCHE. Now, Sir, please to take a seat here.”

I cannot stop laughing at that one. “The ascending douche.” Give me a moment to collect myself.

Image 4: “THE FOOT BATH. Doing penance in the Stocks for past transgressions.”

Water Cure 3

Image 5: “Costume of the Establishment. ‘Doing Penance’ in the Wet Sheet”.

Image 6: “Preparing for the packing. ‘Why my nearest and dearest friends wouldn’t know me. I’m a perfect mummy.'”

Water Cure 4

Image 7: “THE RAIN BATH. ‘You must be shut in for 15 minutes, Sir.'”

Image 8: “The Douche. Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!!!!!!!!!!”

In fairness, a douche was just when something sprayed water on you, including showers and bidets and (possibly?) taps. It didn’t necessarily have the same vaginal connotations that it does today.

Water Cure 5

Image 9: “THE PACKING. ‘Now this is what I call being jolly.”

Image 10: “THE PACKING. ‘Don’t I look very like a Mummy.”

Water Cure 6

Image 11: “The Shallow Bath. ‘Ah! this and the water can is the best Doctor after all.'”

Image 12: “A patient at the Water Cure, getting drench’d, wrench’d, and restored to health.”

I don’t know about you guys, but I read every one of these picture titles in the voice of the Monty Python chapter title reader.


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Kiss the Bride

I found the following story in Fern Riddell’s A Victorian Guide to Sex, which not only reports on the facts or common beliefs found in actual Victorian guidebooks, but also mimics the various styles of these books. Riddell writes,

“A note here on the conclusion of the [wedding] ceremony. It has become the usual custom of those in the middle-class rank of life to allow the bridegroom, at the end of the vows, to kiss his wife in celebration. This practice is to be decidedly avoided, as it is never done by the people of the best society. Only  bride’s elderly relations are allowed to kiss her when congratulating her whist the rest of the wedding party, friends and onlookers may pass on their best wishes. There is no finer example of the purity of such actions than the Queen herself. On the Royal wedding day, the Queen was kissed by the Duke of Sussex [her 67-year old uncle], but not by Prince Albert [her new husband]” (57).

This custom has lasted quite a long time. It is my understanding that the first Royal wedding kiss was between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and that wasn’t even at the wedding, but rather after, on the balcony as they waved to the crowd. The crowd was chanting “Kiss, kiss!” so much that Diana suggested they just go for it. The second Royal wedding kiss was only with Will and Kate (again, not at the wedding proper). Things move a bit more slowly in Royal circles.

On a personal note, I got married in the UK and when the registrar pronounced us married and said we could kiss, she rather grimly and strictly added, “BRIEFLY.” Maybe kissing still isn’t done in the best circles in Britain?


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