Good riddance, Mr Darcy

Glenda Cooper bids a painful farewell to the star of her fantasies
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The Independent Online
"Look, it's not real you know," said an exasperated male friend yesterday. "I mean all this Darcy/Austen stuff. It's only a book."

To me, that sums up how blind men are.

As the BBC prepares to re-screen Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy in his Colin Firth incarnation has gone and got married, not to Elizabeth Bennet but to a perfectly horrible 24-year-old Italian student called Livia Giuggioli. I hope he enjoyed the ceremony because it's the last time he'll be seen in a starring role for some time. Certainly in my fantasies.

The illusion about the "all-fencing, all-swimming, all-taking-a-bath" Darcy has finally been shattered. He is no longer available and therefore he is no longer attractive.

Cursory knowledge of Austen means you just can't lust over a married Mr Darcy - particularly one hitched to a woman young enough to worry about not being taken seriously. The sex appeal has vanished and the Arsenal boxer shorts of Fever Pitch, the boringness of Nostromo and the nonentity in the English Patient have blemished the allure of Firth-Darcy for ever.

It is hard to believe that less than two years ago Darcymania was so great that rational adult women stayed in watching television on six consecutive Sunday nights. That 12,000 bought the video within two hours of its release. That we had our Darcy parties (watching the five-and-a-half-hour videos with special pauses and rewinds around the Darcy dip - yes you do remember it, don't pretend - the bit where he dives into the lake), the Darcy walks, Darcy weekends, and Pride and Prejudice balls.

It's easy to be snotty now but even the high-minded Woman's Hour invited him on for reasons that were given simply as "lust"; The Times was thanked over and over by grateful female readers for consistently reproducing pictures of Mr Darcy. Even his breeches on show in a Suffolk museum had to be put under guard after girls persistently failed to abide by the Do Not Touch signs.

I didn't like mentioning it at the time, of course, but Firth as Darcy had some flaws from the start. We managed to ignore the young son with Meg Tilly (all over and done with pre-Darcy) and the affair with his co- star, Jennifer Ehle (somehow it seemed right; anyone who could see Mr Darcy in those breeches in the flesh would want to do nothing but get him out of them as soon as possible).

But we have been betrayed. We did all this for a man who can now bleat: "It is the happiest day of our lives. I am the happiest man in Italy and she is the happiest girl." Hardly an epigram worthy of Austen. Then apparently both bride and groom were so overcome by the romance of the moment that they burst into tears. Yuk, yuk and triple yuk. Mr Darcy doesn't cry.

In Andrew Davies's version, Fitzwilliam Darcy was more than just a beefcake in breeches to most women, although as Firth once commented, "Darcy's just an animal". But he was an ideal posh bit of stuff with a large house, good taste and a fine line in smouldering glances. He was the ideal of what a man should be - a good-looking hero who finally got in touch with his emotions and fixed everything so efficiently that you knew you'd never have a problem getting a table in a restaurant. He was the sort of man who would see the best in you and not fall for very young and attractive foreign women. And he was just damn sexy - which isn't always a quality you associate with New Man. Feminism might not have delivered all we hoped for, men might still be from Mars and women from Venus, but Mr Darcy in a clinging shirt made up for all those dark November evenings.

Married, he is hardly likely to be jumping in and out of lakes in a wet shirt for our benefit - just changing the kids' wet nappies. He'll never take a bath in front of 10 million people again. And instead of Pemberley he's living in a flat yards from wifey's parents.

Firth has tried to escape from the Darcy model in the past. "I felt like a drug dealer who doesn't get high on his own supply. I'll peddle the stuff but won't use it. All I did was put on a costume and act," he whinged. Yeah right, but he's not above acting as Mr Darcy in real life when it serves his own advantage. Yesterday the bride's mother gushed: "My daughter has married an admirable English gentleman who treated his fiancee with the greatest of respect. In Rome, Colin would always bring my daughter back before 11pm and he would sleep in a hotel." If that's not Mr Darcy behaviour (if slightly boring), I don't know what is.

"All that smouldering. Lots of people told me not to do it and said everyone would get sick of me." I never thought I'd say it but I am. Come back when you're single, Colin. But bring the wet shirt, too.