From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern day online and immersive adaption” of Pride and Prejudice created by Hank Green and Bernie Su and a team of excellent writers. The 4-minute episodes are posted on Monday and Thursdays at 9:00 A.M. Pacific time (I can assure you I am waiting by my computer at that time for the next installment). They are slowly telling the story of Pride and Prejudice through online video blogs, twitter and other social media outlets. It is a very interesting adaptation of the story and look at the uses of social media as a medium of story telling. There have been 80+ videos posted to date so while this adaption is winding down there is still plenty of time to catch up before the end.
I cannot speak enough praise for this innovative new adaptation of one of my favorite novels. I have found it to be so entertaining and yet unorthodox at the same time. I am normally a Jane Austen purest, but I find this series to be hilarious, relatable, and intriguing. It is certainly geared towards a younger generation because the videos are uploaded to YouTube. It engages its viewers not just through the videos but also through other social media to make the characters truly come to life through their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. There is even a Lizzie Bennet Tumblr, and Jane Bennet even has a Pinterest page!
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries seems like the story of Pride and Prejudice transplanted in to the real modern world. Lizzie is a young woman searching to find a balance between herself, her family, her friends, her school and her work. (Who can’t relate to that?) Lizzie makes mistakes, and she has to deal with the misconceptions that she has made about people in her life including Darcy, Charlotte, Wickham, her sisters Lydia and Jane, and several of the other characters throughout the story. As the story progresses, Lizzie finds herself through her experiences and it is as beautiful to watch as it is to read in the novel. Pride and Prejudice to me seems like a coming of age story and a story of self-discovery. The Lizzie Benent Diaries allow the viewers to experience Lizzie’s life and feelings in a new and modern way so we too are discovering Lizzie as she does.
One of the highlights of this series is the cast behind the classic characters. I will talk more about the individual actors in later posts, so for now I will just tell you about the wonderful actress playing Lizzie who parallels the heroine Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice.
The very talented actress Ashley Clements plays Lizzie, a 24 year old grad school student who is studying mass communications. Ashley’s Lizzie is effervescent, witty and I instantly wanted to be her best friend. She is doing these vlogs (video blogs) as her thesis project for her graduate work. Young, modern, funny, and smart Ashley resembles the Elizabeth Bennet we know and love from the novel. We see some of Lizzie’s flaws in the videos as well. She is rather judgmental, sometimes harsh and even a little self-centered. These character traits however do not take away from her charm; in fact, they enhance her appeal by making her a more complex character. Elizabeth Bennet in the novel is by no means perfect, though sometimes I forget that because I love her so much. Lizzie Bennet has similar flaws and I appreciate her for them because no one is perfect and it makes her more thought provoking.
The other characters are also interesting and engaging. Lizzie’s sister Jane Bennet is a fashion buyer who is the picture of sweetness and wholesomeness. Her best friend Charlotte Lu (Charlotte Lucas) is Lizzie’s sassy, goal oriented BFF who also helps her edit the videos. Bing Lee (Mr. Bingley) is a shy but generous medical student. Fitz William (Colonel Fitzwilliam) is a fabulously gay businessman who should have his own show. George Wickham (Mr. Wickham) is a beautiful swim coach with a great body. He also just exudes Wickham because he is too good-looking, charming and funny for his own good. From the beginning he just seems too good to be true. Gigi Darcy (Georgiana Darcy) is a young graphic designer who instantly likes Lizzie because she watches her videos and actively tries to get Lizzie and Darcy together. Gigi is a delightful character though she doesn’t really resemble the tremendously shy character from the book.
Lydia Bennet, Lizzie’s younger sister steals the show in many early episodes. She is a wild child and is known for her marathon style partying, double jointed arms and super sassy attitude. Lydia gets her own vblog later in the episodes where we see her emo cousin Mary and her relationship with Wickham progress. Even Lydia’s cat “Kitty Bennet” has her own twitter. I will not spoil the brilliant plot twist that the writers and creators came up with for Lydia and Wickham, but I think it is the perfect contemporary twist on Lydia’s elopement.
Ricky Collins (Mr. Collins) is a personal favorite of mine. He is an owner of a big company who offers Lizzie a great paying job in language that makes you cringe and want to look way. Collins is excessively self-confident, rather incompetent and reliant on his investor Catherine de Bourgh for ideas and money. Charlotte and Ricky have great connection. Charlotte’s subtle manipulation of him is very well done. Catherine de Bourgh is never seen (along with the Bennet parents which is a loss) though Lizzie does reenact all of them in her “costume theater” which is one of the best parts of the vlogs.
And last but certainly not least, William Darcy (Mr. Darcy). Darcy is a hipster, well maybe not a full blown hipster but he certainly dresses like a hipster. He wears suspenders, red bowties or skinny ties, and Lizzie even calls him a “Newsie” (what is a great line!). I actually HATED it at first but after some reflection I think it is completely appropriate and a smart decision on the part of the creators. By making him a haughty hipster Darcy automatically comes off as socially awkward, stiff, and pretentious. Darcy is a character in name only until episode 59 (when we see his body but not his head). We don’t get to see Darcy really until episode 60, though we hear a lot about him. This might seem annoying but I think it does two important things for the show:
- It built up the suspense for the audience seeing Darcy since we hear so much about him.
- The first 58 videos focus so much on Lizzie, her life, her perspective and her views of Darcy that it puts the audience much more in her shoes than other adaptations where the audience sees Darcy from minute one and sees his growing attraction to Lizzie.
In the LBD we are just left with Lizzie’s view of him. This is a brilliant device by the creators who are battling the audience’s very strong preconceived ideas about Darcy. Darcy owns a big company in San Francisco called Pemberley Digital, which is coming out with a new product called Domino. I suspect Domino will play a major part in upcoming episodes to capture some of the final scenes.
Image from I h8 Everything Tumbler by Ginia
I am so invested in this story that I not only watch the videos; I read the tweets and view the Tumblrs, and Facebook posts regularly; follow Jane on Pinterest; and follow the actors on Facebook. What I am so intrigued by about this adaptation is that the creators designed the story to be so multi layered just like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. On the first viewing of the videos, just like with the first reading of the novel, a viewer will understand the story, but on further viewings, and investigation into the cross platform social media extravaganza that has been created, a viewer will get a more personal view of the characters and the ingenious subtleties of the plot. I have found this adaptation to bring the characters more to life then any other adaptation. I feel like the characters are relatable, engaging, and young which is so refreshing.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting a weekly article about groups of episodes of the LBD and some of the things that I love them. I will be talking more about the characters, themes, modernization, cute quirks and anything else that strikes my fancy about this entertaining adaptation.
Feel free to send me links, comments and responses all about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries because I think this adaptation fosters a wonderful conversation especially for a younger generations just discovering Jane Austen. So start watching right away, and if you are a dedicated follower take this time to re-watch the early episodes so they will be fresh in you mind.
- Webpage of Lizzie Bennet Diaries
- Lizzie Bennet Diaries first 10 episodes on YouTube
- The Daily Dot: “Lizzie Bennet Diaries” exalts the 200th anniversary of “Pride and Prejudice”
© 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington, Austenprose