Without prejudice

| 06 Sep 2012 | 01:04

    I don't remember why I finally decided to watch "Pride and Prejudice" on TV.
    It certainly wasn't because I liked the Jane Austen novel. I confess, I've never read it. In eighth grade literature we had a choice between that and "Moby Dick." I chose the latter because the illustration of Captain Ahab on the "Moby Dick" book jacket reminded me of the Gorton's fisherman, and I really liked fish sticks.
    Hey, I was 14. That is excellent logic when you are 14.
    Little did I know that I would marry a woman who enjoyed Jane Austen stories, and who would, through some extraordinary mystery of genetics, pass that affection on to our three daughters. So each new dramatization of "Pride and Prejudice" was greeted by the females at our house with the same enthusiasm my two sons and I generally reserved for important and consequential things like Super Bowls and March Madness – not necessarily in that order.
    Of course, I was always invited to attend the frequent screenings of the 2005 film adaptation or the six-hour (six hours!) BBC miniseries conducted by my wife and daughters in our TV room, and I always politely declined.
    "I'm sorry," I would say. "Not my cup of tea."
    I thought that was terribly witty, given the very, very British nature of the show. My wife, Anita, however, wasn't impressed.
    "How do you know it's not your cup of tea?" she asked one time. "You've never seen it."
    "I don't need to see it," I said, smiling condescendingly. "I just.. you know.. know."
    I should have known better. Anita responds to smug superiority like Usain Bolt responds to the starter's gun. One shot, and she's off.
    "Oh really," she said, coolly. "So tell me: what do you know about 'Pride and Prejudice'?"
    This was going to take some quick thinking, because the truth is, I knew almost nothing.
    "I know.. I know.. I know.. that they are both sins!"
    My daughters liked that one. Anita, not so much.
    "Very funny," she said with a tone that suggested only mild amusement. "I'm serious. You say you don't like it. So what is it that you don't like about it? I really want to know."
    I racked my brain for "Pride and Prejudice" facts and information. Fortunately, for me brain-racking requires very little time – especially when it comes to Jane Austen novels. There just isn't much to rack. I came up with the following: Mr. Darcy. That's it. That's all I knew – except I seemed to remember a Trivial Pursuit question that suggested that of the book's primary lovers, one was guilty of pride and one was guilty of prejudice. So I went with that.
    Anita was semi-impressed.
    "That's more than I thought you knew," she said after I stammered through a greatly embellished and exaggerated recitation of my impoverished collection of "PandP" particulars (if there's one thing I've learned to do after 22 years of writing this column, it's "embellish" and "exaggerate"). "So OK, if you don't want to watch, you don't have to."
    And I didn't. At least, not that time. But for some reason, about a year ago, I somehow got lost in a late-night showing of the 2005 film. And I really liked it. I liked the language. I liked the elegant manners and propriety. And I liked the story's ongoing struggle between pride and prejudice. I just liked it. Quite a lot.
    This seems to be a regrettable recurring theme for me. I hated broccoli – until I tried it. I didn't like Simon and Garfunkel until Janet Jenson made me sit down and listen to them. I was mistrustful of Muslims until I became good friends with a faithful and devout follower of Islam.
    I suspect I'm not alone. Prejudice is often rooted in ignorance. We don't like what we don't know. The scary thing is, sometimes we don't know that we don't know. We think our ignorant prejudice is well-informed, or at least well-intentioned. When really, it's just ignorant.
    The other day I was setting our DVR to record the BBC miniseries and Anita came into the room and started laughing.
    "So you've finally decided to admit that you like it," she said.
    I just smiled and kept pushing buttons on the TV remote.
    "You know Joe Jr. will be asking for your man card," she said.
    "And I will gladly give it to him," I said, smiling. "Without prejudice."

    To read more by Joseph B. Walker please go to www.josephbwalker.com.