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PBS’s ‘Sanditon’ Has Returned & Set Its Female Characters on a More Independent Path

sanditon returns to pbs due to fanlove

Period drama series Sanditon has returned to TV after initially being canceled, but then saved by a fan campaign following its success when it aired on PBS. The miniseries is based on the eleven chapters of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon that was not completed because the author died a few months after starting it. It remained unpublished until 1925.

Both the story and the show are set in the seaside town of Sanditon. Entrepreneur Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) is trying to turn it into a fashionable resort and has pumped a lot of money and time into the endeavor. During a trip to acquire a town doctor, they meet Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), a young woman from a farming family. She befriends the Parkers after their carriage crashes and she assists in helping them.

As a thank you, they invite her to stay with them in Sanditon. There, Charlotte meets Tom’s hot, moody, and rude-ish brother Sidney (Theo James) and learns about Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke), a young heiress from the West Indies, who is the first woman of color character in a Jane Austen novel.

With the series, it expanded on these conflicts, having a moody, brooding love story between Sidney and Charlotte, and dealing with the financial issues of Tom Parker being so deeply invested in the resort and Georgiana’s identity as a rich woman of color, who is both a subject of scorn and fascination due to her wealth.

I enjoyed the series a lot, especially Georgiana’s character, and was glad that all the efforts of the Sanditon Sisterhood, the fan group, came together to give the story a new life. Due to the initial cancellation, the main love story ended on a cliffhanger, and there were a lot of things fans were looking to see finished.

“The exciting thing about having an unfinished Austen novel was that we could keep the story going, and we set out to do an ongoing series,” Belinda Campbell, executive producer, told the New York Times. “We ended on the main love story not resolving because we hoped it would return.”

In the premiere episode of the second season, they kill off Sidney, and we see all our remaining characters return to find love. Charlotte, Georgiana, Alison (Charlotte’s young sister), and Lady Esther Babbington (Charlotte Spencer) all take center stage this season, and the series is balancing out this new reality for Charlotte as someone who found great love and lost it.

For me, my interest lies in where Georgiana goes throughout the season. Justin Young, the showrunner, told the NYT that this season will make sure she gets the attention deserved of a co-lead: “In the first series, we saw Georgiana through the lens of Charlotte and Sidney; now there was a real opportunity to make a character of color an equal protagonist.”

Clake shared that she had some initial concerns about coming back, but once she saw that the series was adding more people of color in front of and behind the scenes, it made her feel reinvigorated about the project. “Georgiana is questioning her identity, and the contradiction that her money, which allows her to have privilege and freedom, comes from the oppression of people that look like her,” Clarke explained to the Times. “Those ideas come up in Season 1, but they are really central now.”

For me, these are the things that make Sanditon an exciting project. The destination is uncertain, and it is not tied to one text. It can make a path for these female characters that are less about one great love, and all about their self-discovery as women trying to make a path for themselves.

What Sanditon proves is that the true power of Jane Austen’s work is its continued ability to engage readers and that its focus on women’s lives rings true and is only amplified when that definition of womanhood is expanded.

(image: PBS Masterpiece)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.