Today marks the 200 year anniversary of the date on which Pride and Prejudice was first published. I have written about my love for this novel before. I can never quite do it justice, for it was one of those books that I feel helped to define me as a reader. I decided against a rereading of the classic on this particular date, because I am trying to limit my rereadings to once every few years. However, I have found a new way to relive the story a few months ago, which I admit has me quite as obsessed with the characters and narrative as I was when I first discovered Jane Austen’s wonderful novel: As most of my twitter followers might have realised because of my endless squeeing over the past weeks, I am, of course, talking about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in the form of a youtube vlog in which Lizzie Bennet plays the lead. The basic set up is that Lizzie is a master student who starts recording a vlog with the help of her best friend Charlotte Lu. On this vlog, she discusses her mother’s everlasting quest for husbands for her three daughters (Jane, Lizzie, and Lydia; Mary is a cousin and Kitty is Lydia’s cat), but she also talks about her efforts to finish her studies, her job prospects, and the interactions with her sisters and other friends. Some of these characters appear in real life (Lydia and Jane appear on-screen almost from the beginning) and others are impersonated by Lizzie, among whom are her mother and father.
It might surprise some that my title states that I will be talking about my new favourite adaptation, and that it is not the 1995 mini series. But honestly, LBD is definitely vying for that top position, and at this moment it is located firmly at the top of the list. No, it is not a costume drama (although there are a lot of costumes), it is not a period piece, and it is not 100% faithful to the book. Nevertheless, it manages to highlight all the things I so dearly love about this story, and also add in their own interpretation.
One of the strengths of this web-based series is its characterisation. Because it is set up as a video blog, in which Lizzie is often brutally honest, you truly feel you get to know the characters. Furthermore, a lot of them receive a more thorough characterisation than in the novel. Because Jane and Lydia appear on camera as themselves, because you see part of their day-to-day interactions, they become very well-rounded persons (something which is, as Ana mentioned in her post yesterday, always implied in Austen’s novel, but is in some ways more explicit here). Moreover, because of Lizzie’s brutal honesty, which does not necessarily spare anyone, the character growth of both Lizzie and Darcy (and Lydia and Jane!) is highlighted very directly. Lizzie makes mistakes on camera, which she then also has to fix (or grow into fixing) on camera. The character progression of everyone involved is really well-done, and very interesting to watch.
There is an added incentive to care about the characters which has to do with the fact that this is a web-based series. Part of it comes from the realisation that these vlogs are out there, and that the “characters” can watch and find them at any time. The characters themselves become more real because most of them have twitters and tumblrs and such, so that you can follow them as they do things and then compare/contrast this with the portrayal in Lizzie’s vlog. The show has engaged with this transmedia aspect of their production in very interesting ways which increases the realism of the story. I admit that I spent last Saturday stalking some of the characters’ twitters (don’t open them if you’re not up to date with the series), because it promised to have some very interesting story developments.
Because of the way different online media intersect in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, it has developed a very loyal fan base, and every time I open a video I always find it extremely interesting to see the reactions, the interactions, and the involvement of all these people. Yes, true, many TV shows have loyal fan bases, but because there’s the added illusion that Lizzie is there, somewhere in LA, recording her vlog every Monday and Thursday, the sense of interaction becomes more “real”. (And, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries wouldn’t be as amazing as it is if it did not also address these very illusions of reality in its own videos).
Last but not least is definitely the manner in which the story is translated to a contemporary setting. There are more movies who have done this, more or less successfully, but this one does a stellar job at updating the social issues caught in the book. Yes, class relations are a part of that, and I particularly enjoy the ways in which this is implicitly (and explicitly) made a subject. Moreover, as some of the minor characters receive more attention, they sometimes also receive more agency. Georgiana’s (Gigi’s) back story and its reveal is a good example of this. Most of all, I think this show might work particularly well for me because it involves characters who are at a similar stage in life. Lizzie’s impeding graduation, her fears about the job market, the way in which at times she’s not quite ready yet to take charge of her whole life, all ring very true to me. And then there’s Lydia’s story, which is now progressing on her own blog, and is very painful to watch because it has been updated in a manner that I think might hit very close to home for many girls who have experienced less-than-perfect loves. It is painful, and difficult, but I also find it extremely pertinent, well-addressed, and definitely very brave in this respect.
I could give you a lot MORE arguments why I enjoy this series so much, the first among whom would be a simple: just go watch it. The episodes are short (as it is in the format of a video blog most videos are around 5 minutes long), they are very entertaining, completely heartwarming, funny, and at the same time not afraid to tackle more serious issues. The fact that there are now over 80 episodes may seem daunting at first, but I admit I got hooked somewhere in the autumn and I caught up in a day and a half. Now, I struggle to keep patient for any new episode to appear. I am not afraid to admit that Monday’s and Thursday’s have become the highlights of my week.
Are you watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Do you think you might start to? Are you as obsessed as me? (Please tell me I’m not alone!)