"Come on sweetie, smile for us": In defense of Jane Fairfax, and a girl’s right not to be bubbly and cute to be respected:
So Emma Approved was back this week, with the eagerly anticipated arrival of Jane Fairfax, the frequently mentioned, but never seen, highly accomplished niece of the loquacious Maddie Bates.
I think she’s one of the most normal people to ever appear on the show. Emma Approved, with the exception of Caroline Lee, has been a show where all characters love and adore the main character, Emma Woodhouse. Emma’s domineering personality has clearly been fostered by growing up in an environment where everyone does what she tells them to. It has lead to a somewhat delusional belief in her own abilities- that she has only recently become aware of with her first professional setback (the Elton-Harriet incident).
That incident, while making Emma slightly aware of her own limitations, has done nothing to suppress the classic Emma personality of being aggressively optimistic, grandiose, and needing to control everything and be considered the best. A style that works well with Harriet- who adores her, and Knightly, who is in love with her and will go along 99% of the time.
Jane Fairfax, doesn’t adore Emma. And for that crime people seem to think she is super rude. Which worries me because it perpetuates the idea that women need to be bubbly and cute like Emma. All women. It is the sentiment implied when construction workers tell women to smile.
Jane Fairfax hasn’t said a single rude thing. She is respectful of her co-workers and does her job well. Knightley wouldn’t have said she fit in well there if she wasn’t a good co-worker. She is enthusiastic about her own part of the job. What she doesn’t do- is play along with all of Emma’s insane ideas- like recording the office 24-7 for her own personal use. (Let us not have illusions- none of the taping at Highbury is being used for promotional materials to grow the business, or help it in any way. Emma has never expressed a plan to use them in such a away. Emma has used the tapes so far to meddle in Harriet’s life and record her achievements so future generations will adore her. That’s it.)
Asking questions and expressing discomfort with the idea of your co-worker recording you for her own uses is not being “super rude”. It’s being normal. Jane has a different personality- she’s not the bubbly outgoing on-camera girl we are used to seeing on a Pemberly Digital show- but being reserved is not being rude. Not everyone wants to be a vlogger/documentary focus. And that should be OK. We should not be acting like quiet people, people who have their own viewpoints and respectfully stand up for them, are in some way “unlikeable” characters because they aren’t focused on self-promotion. Jane isn’t trying to entertain anyone, she shouldn’t have to.
Jane’s the person getting Highbury group partners, which means that just as she is,she is successful at social networking and making connections. She doesn’t need to change. The problem is that Emma, once again, believing herself to be always right, refuses to listen to Jane.
Jane tells her she finds being recorded in Emma’s office strange and uncomfortable: and Emma installs a camera at Jane’s desk.
Jane tells her she is happy with her desk just the way it is: Emma ignores her and makes plans to re-decorate it.
Despite all of Knightley’s urging to listen to people, Emma has fallen right back into bad habits. And it seems she’s taken some of the viewers along with her.
But not me. I like Emma a lot. But I like Jane as well. And frankly, this whole - “Oh just go with it”, kind of reminded me of when the Department Chair kept telling me to “Smile more”. I applaud Jane for not smacking anyone.
And I hope she somehow manages to sabotage that camera- or conduct her work where it can’t record her. Because it is totally creepy.