Here's Why The Pride And Prejudice Hand Flex Makes You Feel Things
I need to talk about this.
It is a truth universally acknowledged (or, at least, it should be) that the hand flex in Pride & Prejudice (2005) was a cultural reset. If you need a little refresher and don’t feel like fast-forwarding to the 25:52 timestamp, immediately after Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden) helps Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennett (Keira Knightley) into her carriage, he flexes his hand. OK, OK, so that may not sound like the most romantic moment in the world, but hear me out.
Up until this point in the movie, Lizzie and Darcy have had an openly hostile relationship. (In their very first scene together, Darcy labels her as “barely tolerable.”) But over time, they start to find more common ground, and this moment perfectly encapsulates Darcy’s reluctant yet growing feelings for her. It’s also a rare, socially acceptable moment of physical affection for the era, and it impacts on both of them. Of course, per the courting rules of their time, they shouldn’t have actually had skin-to-skin contact. Still, without any gloves, Lizzie, for her part, looks shocked that he touched her. Darcy, for his, seems to be shaking off the contact and the feelings it brought up. As Macfadyen said during a Jan. 26 interview with NPR’s Fresh Air, “He’s so buttoned-up, he can’t show a thing.”
But there’s something specific about the way the camera zooms in on Darcy’s hand that just makes this scene and the story as a whole click. Although the film was directed by Joe Wright and the hand flex was improvised by Macfayden, it’s the epitome of embracing the female gaze and running with it. During the January interview, Macfayden recalled the BTS of the famous hand flex: “It’s credit to Joe, because he's — I think, he doesn't miss a trick, and he's so alive to things, and he saw me do it in a rehearsal take and I remember him just going, ‘Get that!’ So they just did an extra shot on the hand." (Everyone say, “Thank you, Joe.”)
Although this movie has been out for 17 years, the hand flex is only now getting the full attention it deserves now via TikTok (where else?). And the videos are pretty much all in agreement: There’s just something about that hand flex.
TikToker Mary Skinner rightfully captioned the TikTok, “panting.” And the comments section makes one thing clear: this specific moment gave pretty much everyone butterflies. One TikTok user exclaimed, “HAND HAND HAND” Another commented, “I think about this scene at least twice a day.”
In her own take on the Slow Zoom “Wildest Dreams” trend, TikToker Camila Cecile made it clear that this hand flex is worth a stop-and-stare moment.
Other relatable comments include:
- “ugh time to rewatch it again.”
- “ooh you have no idea how many times i played that back in 2005.”
- “this scene makes me go absolutely feral.”
- “HANDS when will they realize for us it’s the hands”
- “the yearning 🥵.”
- “Mr. Darcy is internally screaming.”
- “Literally CHILLS every time.”
- “My heart stopped in that very second.”
Not to mention, TikToker Hannah Gordon even got a tattoo in honor of this scene. In her own words, “Life is too short to not have this scene tattooed on [you] forever.”
Why Is The Hand Flex So Emotionally Provocative?
OK, so safe to say that the hand flex scene is a work of art, but why does it make so many people go ~absolutely feral~? Romance author Sarah MacLean explains the pant-worthy appeal. “That flex! Gah!” she writes to Elite Daily. “Of course, the appeal of Darcy is the buttoned-up, closed-off, stern hero who absolutely unravels in the face of the only woman he can't resist.”
And in this version of Pride & Prejudice, Macfadyen does an impeccable job of showing the slow unbuttoning of his buttoned-up exterior (Darcy would not settle for any less). “MacFayden’s hand flex is the physical manifestation of the moment when his transformation, his unlocking, by Lizzie begins. It’s a phenomenal emotional beat because we see that for all his broodiness, Darcy is affected by Lizzie,” romance author Adriana Herrera explains. “It’s a perfect example of what romance does best. It slows down and zooms in on a gesture, a look, a hand flex, to show us what is happening internally for the character.”
For Darcy, the hand flex — though it would be almost imperceptible without the camera’s zoom — equates to an “outrageous loss of control,” per MacLean. Herrera adds, “We see a chink in Darcy's broody armor. It's a small gesture, but from a man who is so guarded, it is infinitely satisfying.”
MacLean adds, “The best kind of unraveling is the kind that happens in slow, magnificent, almost imperceptible moments rather than all at once, and that hand flex is the absolute perfect moment. Barely there. Certainly, no one would ever expect it, and not from Darcy.”
It’s no wonder, then, why people are so drawn to this moment (and are inclined to rewatch it again and again). While viewers grieve the drudgery of modern dating — endless talking stages, ghosters who leave you hanging, and people who never commit — Darcy’s hand flex, as brief as it is, is a striking reminder that romance is supposed to be more than swiping on a dating app and making small talk over drinks. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting someone to unravel over you, even if it’s just a little bit and you can only catch it with a camera’s zoom.