Oh, period dramas. There’s nothing like getting lost in a romantic narrative about a plucky heroine and her brooding throng of potential suitors to make you mentally gloss over the realities of personal hygiene in 19th century Europe. I’ve seen multiple adaptations of all my favorites, and I’m not terribly loyal to any particular version. Shirtless Firth or MacFadyen in the fog, Mia Wasikowska’s quiet dignity or Ruth Wilson’s magnificent eyebrows–why choose when you don’t have to? Still, it can be fun to compare different takes on classic characters when you just can’t get enough of the exploits of emotionally repressed, sexually frustrated white people (although you could just come visit me in Upstate New York; there are a lot of us here). Prepare the fainting couch and butter your crumpets, because it’s time for a period piece showdown.
We’re diving right in with one of Austen’s most unwelcome house guests, Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Collins, played by Tom Hollander in the 2005 film and David Bamber in the 1995 BBC miniseries. My favorite Austen characters are those bit players, neither heroes nor villains, who are incredibly annoying in a way that instantly brings at least ten Facebook friends to mind, usually relatives you can’t unfollow in good conscience or former high school classmates whose adult lives hold a squeamish fascination. Just imagine how many times Mr. Collins would check into Rosings on Foursquare. How he’d tag all his status updates #Blessed and link to articles from The Onion in earnest outrage.
For those of us who have suffered the occasional (“occasional”) bout of social anxiety, Mr. Collins also represents a specific fear: Being That Guy. Intruding, talking too much, boring people, making fools of ourselves.
Worrying about such a thing implies humility and self-awareness, which almost guarantees that we are not, in a fact, That Guy, but the terrible possibility remains: if there’s no Mr. Collins on your Facebook feed, does that mean you’re the Mr. Collins? Probably not, but just to be sure, don’t make any moves on your cousins’ inheritance. Or on your cousins themselves.
So, which actor’s take on this usurper of family estates and total creeper reigns supreme? Let’s find out!
We’ll start with the likely underdog.
Aw, that’s not so bad! Sure, he’s come to lay claim to both a Bennet sister and all their property once Mr. Bennet kicks it, but he’s kind of cute.
…For a dude who thinks women are interchangeable. (Except for Lady Catherine de Bourgh, of course. Do you know Lady Catherine de Bourgh? Mr. Collins knows Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Did you know Mr. Collins knows Lady Catherine de Bourgh? Because he does. #MayorOfRosings #Blessed)
“Oh, someone already called dibs on the blonde? That’s cool, I’ll take the brunette.”
Oof. We’ve all been there, no? On both sides.
Still, he’s bearable, right? But I’d argue that it’s actually 2005 Collins’ relative inoffensiveness that makes the prospect of being married to him so depressing, because we’ve all had a 2005 Collins. We weren’t attracted to him (or her), we didn’t even like him, but he was there, and eager, and it seemed clear to us, in our darker moments, that no one better was coming along. We almost managed to convince ourselves that life with him would be fine, maybe even happy, and then he’d say something like “I’m not racist or anything, but–” or “I mean, you wouldn’t leave your car unlocked and expect not to get robbed, you know?” and we knew that settling for this person would mean the slow, steady death of our soul.
Pretty flower, though!
Referring to women as “females” and helpfully explaining why your disinterest in him is wrong: red flags in any century.
Also, yes, that is absolutely the body language of two people who are comfortable enough with each other to consider a lifelong partnership. How did this plan fail?
Oh, Charlotte. At least your children will be tiny and adorable, like wee little gnomes.
Next up: the big guns.
Mr. David Bamber does not play around, friends. He is here to lay it on, and lay it on thick.
The teeth, they go on forever. I feel his eyeballs on my skin.
Not being able to pretend you weren’t home when a distant relative or acquaintance showed up, expecting you to room and board their stranger ass, would be the worst thing about living in the past, apart from the lack of yoga pants and almost literally everything else.
But at least Mr. Collins understands the ladies! He knows all about the ladies. You might be interested in reading his series of pamphlets, The Delicate Art Of Seducing Elegant Females.
The topics include “Earning Her Gratitude By Reminding Her Of Her Lower Station,” “Name-Dropping To Increase Your Marriage Market Value,” and “No Means Yes, Unless She Really Means No, In Which Case Dissolving The Union Was All Your Idea Anyway Because She Is Clearly Is Unsuitable And Not Even That Comely.”
This is the face of a woman who’s been spared a lifetime of throwing up in her mouth.
So, which Collins is the best? (…Or worst. Most Collins-y?) Both actors clearly had a blast playing the role–and got paid for acting like clueless assholes; I really need to stop doing that for free–and they make me laugh and cringe every time. Hollander’s stiffness and Bamber’s oiliness suit their respective films, and it’s probably not fair to pit such different interpretations against one another. But who cares about fair? There can only be one winner, and for me, the choice is clear:
Congratulations, sir. Please accept this Photobucket sticker crown.
And Tom, good show, but you’re just too tolerable.
What do you think? Who wins the very important battle of Collins vs. Collins?
Theresa Couchman was born in Upstate New York, went to school in Upstate New York, and currently resides in Upstate New York. She has a pair of impractical Master's Degrees, a taste for the pointlessly weird, and is occasionally funny on Twitter.