Centered around the reserved Anne Elliot and bitter Captain Wentworth, “Persuasion” tells the story of a rekindled romance between the unlikeliest lovers. Austen’s “Persuasion” grips readers with its complex characterization, mature social commentary, and timeless love. Netflix’s adaptation egregiously fails to capture the intricacy and brilliance of the novel.
Throughout the film, Netflix tiptoes the awkward line between a modern adaptation and a period drama. The conflict at the heart of Persuasion — Anne Elliot being persuaded to abandon the love of her life — is a quintessential 19th-century plight.
But in a misinformed attempt at relatability, Netflix forced modern values, slang, and perspectives into the film. From melodramatic declarations of heartache — “now we’re worse than exes, we’re friends” — to TikTok slang — “ if you’re a five in London, you’re a ten in Bath” — the film is littered with jarring, out-of-place modern references.
However, despite the countless cringe-worthy scenes, they aren’t the film’s biggest issue. The greatest flaw in Netflix’s “Persuasion” is its total misrepresentation of the heroine, Anne Elliot.
In the novel, Anne Elliot is a shy woman with unwavering kindness. She is level-headed and calm, acting as the peacemaker in a family of narcissists.
On the other hand, Netflix’s version of Anne is headstrong and opinionated, like a Frankensteinian combination of Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse. She is sarcastic and witty, “not afraid to speak her mind,” as Wentworth puts it. There is no room for her character to develop, and she does not seem like a woman who could be persuaded to abandon her true love.
On top of that, as a fruitless attempt at adding character depth, Netflix depicts Anne as a ‘relatable millennial.’ She drinks her heartache away, screaming into pillows like a teenage girl. However, these character quirks simply feel awkward and out of place in a story that is supposed to be about a shy girl discovering her self-worth.
Netflix entirely overlooks the brilliance of Austen’s Anne Elliot. She is a woman who hides in the shadows and manages to maintain her dignity despite being constantly disregarded. As the novel nears its end, she finally realizes her self-worth and gains the courage to pursue her heart’s desires.
By turning her character into a cookie-cutter Elizabeth Bennet, Netflix’s adaptation of “Persuasion” is not simply bad but indeed offensive because it sends the message that Anne Elliot is not interesting enough to be the heroine—that viewers like Anne Elliot don’t deserve to be the heroine.