We’re a predictable lot, us shy-girl period drama obsessive types. Give us lingering eye contact across a ballroom or a disheveled cravat, and we’ll simply swoon. And it’s been a banner few years for not only swooning but oozing all over the place—cunnilingus of questionable comfort in Bridgerton, secretive whispering behind fake walls in Emma, meaningful stares in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Still, no period drama scene has had us unlacing our corsets like the Hand Flex featured in Pride & Prejudice, the 2005 version with Keira Knightley.
Let the record show that Colin Firth was a hotter Darcy than Matthew Macfadyen, but Colin Firth didn’t flex his hand, so that once and for all settles the ongoing 2005 version vs. 1995 version debate.
The steaminess inherent to this scene has been entered into the record a thousand times over by TikTokers and tweeters, likely propelled by the recent appearance of a decidedly less dreamy Macfadyen in Succession. As Vulture said in a post last year dissecting the scene, “Pride and Prejudice Is a Subtly Horny Balm for Our Time.” In an investigative report into the Hand Flex scene, Insider claimed, “The 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is a film built on subtleties.” They’re right—the Hand Flex is subtle, and that’s what makes it hot. If you really want to delve into the unconscious mind of it all, you could say it represents all those times a person of romantic interest casually touched your shoulder or shot a glance your way. A moment which you convinced yourself either didn’t happen, even though it totally did, or wasn’t significant, even though you turned to the divination of tea leaves over it—and then you end up naked with said love interest down the line, proving you weren’t a complete loon for picking up on such a subtle expression of desire. Or something along those lines. We watch period pieces because we recognize some version of ourselves in them, however anachronistic, right? There’s also “the pandemic made us desperate for human contact” angle.
The problem is, when you oversaturate yourself in Hand Flex replays, whether on TikTok or HBO, the Hand Flex loses its edge. It becomes, to whatever part of your brain fires off sexual synapses, flaccid. I found this to be the case on my eight billionth viewing of P&P. Without my entire body wired to that scene and its outcome, I really focused up on the rest of the movie and realized that the rest of this movie is actually not subtle at all. It lacks subtlety. It is chock-full of sex. It is unbelievably raunchy. And when you’re cued into that raunchiness, all of the sudden P&P (2005) becomes laugh-tracked, in your head, to the sound of Seth Rogen chatting about boobs with Pete Davidson.
If you are not oversaturated by the Hand Flex, let’s briefly relive it so as to tingle in our pants just the littlest bit: Elizabeth, who is Kiera Knightly with bangs and brown bag dresses, très chic, hates Darcy, who is Macfadyen in a cravat, who hates her right back. Although hatred is akin to love, as any Nora Roberts romance novel will teach ya. Exposition! As Elizabeth goes to climb into a carriage after withstanding an onslaught of insults from Darcy—this is flirting, Lizzy—Darcy grabs her hand and, rising action, assists her up the carriage steps. She, astounded, whips around to look at him, but he’s already walking away. Then, climax, the camera flashes to his hand, which flexes in an achingly horny sort of way. Let us compose ourselves.
Right now, we have pig balls to discuss.
The pig balls first cued me into the raunchiness of this supposedly graceful-like-Keira-Knightley’s-neck film. In one scene featuring Mrs. Bennett out and about on the farm, she takes a moment to eye a hog’s massive ballsack, as if thinking, an eligible bachelor for one of my five unwed daughters? No, she shakes it off, because that is a pig.
In church, the moist Mr. Collins, up at the pulpit, lets slip in his very godly sermon that some virtues are “only to be obtained through intercourse…” before hurriedly correcting himself, “through the intercourse of friendship or civility.” An overt sex joke!
Another explicitly sex-laden scene features Lizzy walking around Darcy’s house, blatantly eyeing all the butts, balls, abs, and dicks on display in his statue gallery. Then there’s the gazebo scene, where Darcy and Lizzy gasp while w-e-t, eyeing each other’s lips, and the mirror scene, which involves heavy breathing and unbuttoned shirts. These aren’t funny, per se, unless you remember that this movie is attempting subtlety, in which case, they are hilariously unchill. Seth Rogen giggles to Pete Davidson in your head.
When I was in high school, my cool aunt put a copy of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife into my hands. In this fanfic sequel to Austen’s original text, Mr. Darcy and Wife bone all over Pemberley, as well as in carriages, in townhouses, and on the grounds. They get a mirror so they can watch themselves boning. It was what 50 Shades was to Twilight: derivative smut. I think P&P (2005) is closer to Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife than it is to Austen’s original text. It luxuriates in the sexual undertones, ratcheting up the raunchiness with indiscreet gags and moments of full-frontal yearning. Fan fervor has taken a second of film and built a cottage industry around its subtlety. Fuck subtlety! Where did subtlety ever get you?
You don’t have to search long and hard to find a hard dick on television, but the sex movie genre is in disarray. It’s all college kids with limp chemistry, straight women playing lesbians directed by men, and chaste romantic comedies. But to us shy girls who read too deeply into period piece romance, P&P can be like that meme of the woman getting hit in the face by a bunch of floppy raw hot dogs. This movie is explosively hornt.