Straight Outta Pemberley


Hey, there! It seems that this semester's blog is turning into "Which T-Shirts Professors Wear." I didn't intend to keep blogging about my t-shirts, but gosh dang it I keep wearing t-shirts to work! The shirt I will talk about today was given to me by my MIL, Judy. One day a package arrived in the mail, and in it was this fantastic shirt.

The shirt is a mashup. It takes an image from pop culture and puts a different spin on it, thus referencing the "original" work--here the Straight Outta Compton movie poster logo--and blends it with a "new" work--oddly enough in this case a novel written two hundred years before the movie.

I will start with the novel and make my way to the film. OK, if you don't know to what Pemberley refers, then let me educate ya! It's the Darcy estate from Jane Austen's famed 1813 book, Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy's English estate is majestic, gigantic, and all that a gal could dream of. Also, Mr. Darcy, though seemingly prideful and prejudiced, is actually kind of a good guy. He cares about his sister a lot, and despite his intentions, he falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet and is willing to lose it all (well, not the estate but his rep-u-ta-tion, which is worth oh so much more, right?!) in order to spend his life with her. It's all so...romantic!

Let's fast-forward to 1988, specifically to California and gangsta-hip hop group N.W.A's famous album Straight Outta Compton. This album is known for its anti-authoritarian tone and for its graphic lyrics and imagery--totally the opposite of Austen, right? Mostly, yes. But not entirely. The irony of the comparison here is that Austen and her characters likely represent figures N.W.A. would dislike, maybe even hate, but Austen's own message is somewhat anti-authoritarian, though not violent.

Mind you, I do see that "author" is included in "authoritarian." Austen wasn't anti-author, but like N.W.A., she was doing some new and different (yes, people will disagree with my opinion here) in her novelistic stance on bucking the system; maybe this is kind of anti-author-itarian. Even though Elizabeth gets the cake and eats it in the end, Austen's treatment of inequality is not to be overlooked. Darcy is not the only character who disses Lizzie. In fact, he's the best of the worst. Let's not forget Caroline Bingley, Lady Catherine, and even Mr. Collins. As N.W.A. says in their song "Fuck tha Police," Austen might be thought to be saying "Fuck tha Elite." Somewhere in this argument--for both Austen and N.W.A.--is an attack on the patriarchy and white privilege.

Now, let's fast-forward to 2015 and the biopic that traces N.W.A's rise and fall. The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Dr. Dre--one of the N.W.A's members--released an album at the same time called Compton. The film's soundtrack was a hit, and so was the film. It made four times as much as it cost to produce the film. It is still considered the highest grossing biopic of a musical artist/group. Ah, look at that logo:

Hmm. This film is perhaps one of the most notable biopics ever made, and Austen's novel is definitely one of the most notable novels ever written. What a mashup!

Still, there is something else, again, something not exactly ironic but kind of playful, that I must address, and that is the message one sends her audience when wearing this shirt.

Here's what she's saying: Elizabeth Bennet is a badass, and I love her style. She's got mad skills. She says no when she needs to say no. She calls it like it is. She ain't taking no crap off anybody. Don't mess with that gal. :D I aspire to be like Lizzie. Hopefully you do, too. Be. Like. Lizzie. If you get a crazy big estate as a result of your awesomeness, hey, props to ya !

Until next time!