Fandom merchandising has taken a turn for the bizarre since the millennium. Or perhaps it was always weird but I was too young to really be tuned into it. More likely the advent of Internet shopping has made the niche strange items more generally available. So when I tried to think of what my answer for this prompt would be, I was initially stumped. I am actually not that into fandom merchandise. Visiting Harry Potter Studios last year, I wanted to buy some kind of souvenir but walking around the huge shop of things, I really struggled to find something I wanted. I ultimately bought a Knight Bus keyring and within a month most of the paint had chipped off. Which was kind of what I was concerned about in the first place. It’s often not a market where quality is the key ingredient. This may surprise regular readers but my way of showing I am a fan about something is that I buy books about it. If I really like it, I may also buy postcards. Because of this, most Austen merchandise seems a bit strange to me. Strangest of all though? Well … see if you agree …
There are multiple places across the Internet via which one can purchase for one’s beloved friend a pendant with this beautiful quotation on friendship:
There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not in my nature.
Lovely, lovely words. So touching. Spoken by a hypocrite. Come on Internet seller people, keep up! Northanger Abbey‘s Isabella Thorpe says this to Catherine Morland early in the book when she is trying to manipulate her into being her little sidekick. Despite the fancy talking, Isabella Thorpe would not so much as wiggle her little toe for a friend if it did not suit herself. As soon as a better offer comes along, she not only drops her fiancé like a hot potato but she drops his sister too. This oh-so-beautiful quotation gets parroted in the strangest of places as if Jane Austen was some sentimental writer piffling away about female friendship whereas what it actually means is that a selfish little madam talked rubbish and another silly girl believed her. It even got used in the television show Orphan Black, again as if it could be taken at face value. Jane Austen was an ironist, this statement was ironic because Isabella Thorpe could not be trusted. Not only is the statement not true within the novel but also, let’s be honest, who really comes out with statements like this?
While I accept that the two characters in question were teenagers and that teenagers talk rubbish, it’s a really vapid thing to say. The whole reason why it is in the novel is to illustrate that about Isabella’s character. The friends in life who are actually there for you do so without question or fuss or declaration. I can think of the friend who used to ring me in the mornings on her way to work when I was off work for a few months a number of years ago. It was a small thing but it was consistent and made a huge difference. Three weeks after my son’s birth, a friend spent one of her days off accompanying me into town so I could buy new nursing bras. More recently, I was in hospital having surgery and a different friend dropped everything when I had forgotten part of my breast pump to make sure I had what I needed. None of these people would buy me a necklace to say that they were my friends. I would not do so for them. It isn’t needed. When I was up against it, they were there. If someone is buying you a necklace with a vacuous quotation about friendship, remember what Jane Austen was actually using this quote to demonstrate: real friends don’t need fanfare, they just offer fellowship.
NB – I haven’t wanted to shame any particular sellers by offering areas where these necklaces are available (as you can see below from the images available when I Search Engined it, there are a lot who offer variations on jewellery with this quotation) but I did just want to share a laugh that the one in the image above has not only used this quotation but has also written on their pendant that the words originate in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen wept!
For the rest of my Austen in August Fan Challenge – see here