Monday, 19 March 2007

The Eyebrows Have It

Last night, I was looking forward to the start of ITV's Jane Austen season.

Just before 9pm, I settled down in front of the television with a cup of tea and some chocolate and after hearing that the current series of the abominable 'Wild At Heart' had just finished, I was feeling extremely pleased.

I like a good period drama, and generally find myself able to watch them without the irritation some people feel at minor plot changes and exclusions, on the basis that they are adaptations of the books they represent, reworked for a different medium.

Small details don't affect my enjoyment. I am able to override my usually pedantic nature and just enjoy. Or so I thought, until the first time Billie Piper appeared on screen in Mansfield Park last night.

Immediately, she jarred my eye. She looked all wrong. She looked too present day. I sat pondering for a minute or two as to why that was; she was of course in full costume along with everyone else, so why did she look so out of place? I quickly realised I was entirely distracted from the storyline, and indeed the entire programme, by her appearance.

It took me some moments to realise that it was her eyebrows that were causing my dismay; they were as incongruous as two monstrous futuristic cyber-caterpillars in the early 19th century setting. They were a completely different colour to her hair. That, of course, was because her hair was very obviously bleached, in a very 21st century manner. This train of thought then prodded me to notice that she actually had dark roots creeping ominously through.

From then on, I just could not watch this programme and enjoy it. Every time she appeared, it irritated me to the point of desperately wanting Edmund to lock in her an attic and pretend she didn't exist, and then marry Miss Crawford instead. Yes, I know I'm confusing the plot with that of Jayne Eyre, but I just think it would have helped to borrow from it in this case. I would have been equally happy if the Tardis had appeared and David Tennent had whisked her off to annoy some Daleks, as long as he had taken the eyebrows as well. Actually, the fact that she looked as if she had one foot in the past and the other in the future actually made me expect this to turn out to be a surprise episode of Doctor Who. If it had been a BBC production, I think I would have been disappointed when he failed to appear.

I cannot comment as to how good or poor this was as an adaptation of Jane Austen's novel; I cannot even discuss properly what it was like as a piece in its own right, because I was so utterly absorbed in my pedantic objection of poor Billie's unfortunate hair and eyebrow anomaly that I eventually had to turn off the TV and do something less annoying instead.

All I had for consolation was the knowledge that next Sunday I can leave the television on after Coronation Street without being subjected to the rollercoster of emotion caused by Amanda Holden saying "Oh no, it's all gone wrong! We'll have to go back to England!" and raising my hopes, only to dash them to pieces again when they decide to stay in Africa for yet another tedious episode after all. Still, at least Jamie Theakston's not in it. You have to count your blessings.


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  2. oh you're so right about billy piper. I do like her, though, she has an undefinable sort of appeal to her but she's horribly miscast in 'period dramas'. That became obvious to me in the Ruby in the Smoke, when Hayley Atwell turned up and made her look very modern.

    You almost expect her to say 'Yo dude!' and break into a hip-hop number.

  3. I couldn't agree more! I am so relieved I am not the only one who found Billie Piper's incongruous, anachronistic black eyebrows so distracting that I could barely focus on the story.

    Why did the makeup and costume department not decide that, to make her look consistent with the Regency period, her eybrows should be lightened or - alternatively - her hair should be darkened.

    I really enjoy her performances in a period dramas. I think that her acting in both 'Ruby in the Smoke' and 'Mansfield Park' were very good. But, if she is going to be cast in period dramas, the makeup and costume people really do need to attend to her eyebrows.

  4. Great post! I just started watching the Ruby in the Smoke.. and I don't think I can tolerate it much longer.

    The eyebrows!!!!! This just in people. Your hair colour matches your eyebrows. Unless your hair is dyed. Why do they cast her in period dramas?

  5. Calm down, they're only eyebrows!

  6. hair colour doesn't have to match eyebrows. it's quite common to have either lighter eyebrows or darker eyebrows naturally... and really, if someone's eyebrows are throwing you off so much you can't concentrate on a good film, you shouldn't be watching it anyway. you clearly lack the maturity to absorb its message if you're picking apart the casts' looks. it's the stupidest excuse i've ever heard for dismissing a movie, honestly. her eyebrows aren't that bad. and besides, it's hardly the first time a movie wasn't perfectly historically accurate. oh, and "this just in", people have been lightening their hair since the roman times.