After watching Sleepless in Seattle, I noticed something. Something that has been lacking in modern American cinema since probably the 90’s: the “nice guy.” The guy that is never a jerk, is almost always faithful to the female protagonist, but just can’t quite make the cut. Why is that? I imagine it has to do with the tongue and cheek comment of “nice guys finish last,” but why does this have to be so? Can’t you just respect a character, as opposed to putting them into the “winning” or “losing” box?
As far as “nice guy” characters and generally good human beings, I say Mr. Wisley from Becoming Jane has to be the most impressive one I have seen. He is intelligent, thoughtful, sincere, and has a general respect for everyone that he interacts with during the course of the film. Of course, he isn’t without his flaws. Despite his positive inner qualities, Wisley is gangly, painfully shy, awkward, and literally steps on Jane’s toe when they try to dance. But one thing is for sure: Wisley loves Jane, almost embarrassingly so. Sadly, Jane doesn’t return those feelings.
It is blindingly apparent that Jane doesn’t want to marry Wisley, due largely to the fact that her family is pushing it in favor of his vast wealth. Even Wisley’s haughty grandmother Lady Gersham tells Jane that marrying him is “her duty.”
Being dragged in so many directions and not allowed to speak up about what she wants, Jane falls in love with a rebellious lawyer named Tom Lefroy. Not only are they opposites in personality at first, but also are not matched economically. This doesn’t keep them from attempting to ask Tom’s uncle for permission to marry, which is rejected. This means if Tom were to go against his uncle’s commands and marry her, not only would Tom be disinherited but it would also leave his mother and younger brothers without any means of income. During an attempted elopement, Jane finds this out, and ultimately the two have to part ways for good.
Wisley shines the most after the community, including Lady Gresham, find out about Jane’s botched elopement. During this time period, any family member related to a woman who attempted elopement would be considered social poison, and would be ostracized from both family and higher socially upright friends as well. Lady Gresham makes it known that neither she nor Wisley will be socializing with them anymore. Wisley instead defends Jane directly to Lady Gresham’s face, and leaves her in her carriage to talk with Jane.
This is what breaks my heart: he respects Jane more than maybe even Tom did. He admired when she wrote, when she spoke her mind, when she rebelled and played men’s sports, and even when she left Wisley for Tom, yet he never judged her. Oh, did I forget to mention that she was technically engaged when she was gonna elope? Not only was Tom engaged to a rich girl, but Jane had spitefully accepted a second proposal from Wisley, only to leave in such a scandalous manner. And he never has ill will toward her.
He wants what is best for her, no matter what anyone has to say about it. At the end of the film Jane decides she will never marry, (which she never did) and Wisley doesn’t insult her with a third proposal. He just is happily resigned to let her be happy in whatever way she chooses. Now that is what love looks like.