Amid all the debates about what defines the generational divide between Gen-X, Millennials and Zoomers, we all forgot one crucial factor: Which version of Mr. Darcy did you grow up with?
The Darcy Debate reignited on Twitter this week, thanks to a simple poll from @eisreading (aka Elizabeth.) Namely, are you fan of Colin Firth’s Pride & Prejudice adaptation, or do you prefer the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew Mcfadyen? And either way, how old are you? “I just wanted to show some friends that Gen X likes Colin Firth and Millennials like Matthew Macfadyen,” Elizabeth told the Daily Dot in a DM. But it turns out the results were a little more complicated than that.
Colin Firth (now 59 years old) is arguably still known as a rom-com hearththrob, although he’s actually done more dramas and historical movies than straight-up romances like Bridge Jones—which was itself a direct riff on Pride & Prejudice. For many people, his role in the 1995 miniseries is the definitive Mr. Darcy, and his popularity seemingly has little to do with age or generational divides.
Me on my way to tell you I prefer Colin Firth and I am 22 pic.twitter.com/21S7Db3OPf
— Snoop Doggy Dog (@Roe1Lauren) November 6, 2019
Meanwhile, the 2005 Pride & Prejudice remains Matthew Macfadyen’s most famous movie, and probably his biggest role as a romantic lead. These days, he’s better known to U.S. audiences as the buffoonish businessman Tom Wamsgans in HBO’s Succession, a darkly satirical comedy character who is about as far from Mr. Darcy’s brooding sincerity as you can get.
Elizabeth is planning to collect those Twitter responses in a spreadsheet, so you should check her account if you want details on the Millennial v. Gen X divide. In the meantime, we have a theory of our own: Your favorite Mr. Darcy has more to do with personal temperament than your age.
Tonally speaking, the old BBC Pride & Prejudice is a more direct adaptation, leaning into Jane Austen’s skill for social satire. It’s basically the perfect traditional British costume drama. The 2005 movie leans more into the romantic anguish side of the book and is generally a bit more of a tear-jerker. Both versions of Mr. Darcy display the same essential elements of repressed longing, but they’re different interpretations. For instance, Colin Firth’s most iconic scene is him swimming in the lake in a white shirt (ie. a brief moment of blatant sex appeal among all that prickly repression), while McFadyen’s is either the rainy proposal scene (peak romantic anguish!) or the shot where he flexes his hand after helping Elizabeth into a carriage. Details matter! The two Darcys are appealing in different ways, and that has less to do with the viewer’s age than you might think.