Pride and Prejudice (Usborne Young Reading Series), Adapted by Susanna Davidson, Illustrations by Simona Bursi – A Review

PandP Usborne 2011 x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Could you tell the story of Pride and Prejudice in 60 pages and make the world of Regency England come alive for a young reader? I pondered this question before reading the author Susanna Davidson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel. The Usborne Young Reading Series provides young readers with stories adapted from literature classics including works by Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Charlotte Bronte. Pride and Prejudice is a Level Three reader with an intended audience of young readers who are reading independently but are not ready for standard length books. How would a re-working of Austen’s masterpiece of complex social relations fare in this format?

Before I could turn my mind to this question, I was dazzled by the illustrations on the opening pages. Scenes of the Bennet family at Longbourn, Meryton quickly progressed to the Netherfield Ball where Elizabeth breaks her promise never to dance with Mr. Darcy. The soft, muted colors of the ladies’ gowns contrast with the scarlet regimentals of the militia and evening dress of the gentlemen. Earlier, at the Meryton assembly-room, the depiction of the entry of Mr. Bingley’s party is framed with architectural details from the walls and a chandelier hangs above the illustrated figures between the text. These elegant visual touches enliven the entire book. Lady Catherine’s Rosings glows with burnished gold and candlelight. Following Elizabeth’s rejection of Darcy, as she reads his letter, we see a facsimile of the letter above an atmospheric scene of the heroine out of doors. The illustrations evoke the emotion of many memorable scenes from the story. Many readers may note the resemblance of characters to the actors and actresses of the 2005 film adaptation. I particularly enjoyed looking for similarities and differences as I re-read the story.

Happily, the text retains several of my favorite conversations from the original. Mr. Bennet chides his wife about her much-overlooked nerves, “On the contrary, I know them well. They’re my oldest friends. You’ve talked about them for twenty years.” (5) Seated at the piano at Rosings, Elizabeth delivers a restrained but pointed critique of Mr. Darcy’s reticence with strangers, “That is because you do not make the effort. I am not talented at playing the piano, but I have always supposed that to be my fault, for not trying harder.” (29) And finally, the explosive scene between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine that ends with Lady Catherine declaring, “I am most seriously displeased.” (58) Continue reading

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Finale: Episodes 90-100

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

This week I am wrapping up my look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed watching these videos. They are light, bright and sparkling, just as Jane Austen describes Pride and Prejudice, yet they also have serious modern themes that are relevant today and make the story more accessible to younger generations.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Bing and Jane © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Jane and Bing (Episodes 90-92 & 95)

Bing comes back. He and Jane get a fresh start, yet Lizzie is still unhappy that Jane hasn’t made him beg her to take him back. Bing does try to make amends by bringing Jane snicker-doodle cookies (like she made him right after they broke up). Before their relationship really gets underway again, Jane gets a job offer from New York. Bing finds out about the job offer from Lizzie’s videos and seems hurt that Jane didn’t tell him herself. She was trying to spare both of them the pain that would be cause if he asked her to stay, yet Bing doesn’t ask Jane to stay. Instead he asks if he can go with her. He confesses that he quit medical school several months ago because he was so unhappy, so he too is looking to make a fresh start in NYC. Continue reading

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 85-89 and Domino Videos

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episode 85 Consequences © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

This week on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries I will be looking at episodes 85-89 and Gigi’s Domino videos. There was just too much to get through with the Lydia storyline to add in Jane and Bing, so I will save that for next week. These are emotionally packed videos, though a lot of the action happens off stage like it does in Pride and Prejudice.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia discovers George's video © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Lizzie and Lydia

Lizzie rushes home from her internship at Pemberley Digital, Darcy’s Company, when Charlotte tells her about Lydia and George Wickham’s website. George videoed an intimate encounter between he and Lydia and sold it to a distribution company. The website was advertising the count-down to the release of the video. When Lizzie arrives home she thinks that Lydia knows about the website. It is only after she confronts Lydia that she reveals she had no idea about the site. Lydia stares at the website in horror and disbelief. She just keeps repeating, “This is a joke right?” Yet Lizzie knows it is no joke. George sold the tape without Lydia’s knowledge and never returns any of Lydia’s text, calls or tweets. Continue reading

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 77-84

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

There are only 8 videos this week of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but they are packed full of important information and plot developments. Here are some of the highlights and my take on them from these episodes.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Gigi and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Meeting Gigi Darcy:

Gigi Darcy, played by Allison Paige, is a pretty big departure from her character in Pride and Prejudice. In the novel Georgiana is EXTREMELY shy. In the LBD Gigi isn’t shy at all. She is fun and outgoing, even if a little inexperienced.  She becomes a tour guide for the day to show Lizzie around and then seems to be confused by the fact that she can’t leave a school group roaming around Pemberley Digital by themselves. Yet it is clear that she likes Lizzie and wants to be friends with her. I love that Gigi seeks out Lizzie and watches her videos. Lizzie is a little hesitant about Gigi since she is Darcy’s sister, but the two do get along well from the very beginning.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Lizzie and Darcy Meeting:

I am biased, but this is my favorite video in the series. The meeting at Pemberley is one my favorite chapters in the novel also because that scene is so perfectly awkward in my eyes that it makes me cringe and laugh at the same time. So little is said, as described by Jane Austen, and no lines are actually given between Lizzie and Darcy, yet every reader fills in the lines for themselves.

“As they walked across the lawn towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also, and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road, which led behind it to the stables.

They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance, that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immoveable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.

She had instinctively turned away; but, stopping on his approach, received his compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome.” (chapter 43)

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The LBD version of the meeting at Pemberley Digital is equally delightful and uncomfortable, but in different ways. Gigi instigates the meeting instead of it happening by chance. I see why the creators did this. Perhaps it was so that it could more easily happen on camera. Perhaps they wanted Gigi to take a more active role in brining the couple together. Either way—I like it. Gigi‘s scheming is good-natured and well meaning. She seems to know her brother and Lizzie better than they know themselves because she sees that they are compatible. Gigi is able to give Lizzie and Darcy a second chance at getting to know each other and seeing each other in a better light. Gigi also seems to have a partner in crime for her scheming… Fitz! Check out their tweets to each other. They are adorable.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Bing and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Bing–Boring—Lee:

Bing and Lizzie have some AWKWARD conversations. She seems semi-hostile to him and he seems like a sad puppy that is looking for some sort of consolation. Either way this is not my favorite part of the series. Bing also looks like he has been constantly crying because his eyes look red. Lizzie makes the remark “he is a med student… shouldn’t he be in class at least some of the time?” Overall I was totally bored by the Bing videos especially when compared to the other videos from this section. Bing without Jane=Dull… he should figure that out SOON.

Gigi’s Story:

Gigi decides to tell Lizzie what happened with George Wickham on the videos. Lizzie tells her she doesn’t have to, but Gigi insists. Wickham took advantage of Gigi when she was in school and became her swim coach. They started a relationship and Wickham moved in with her. Wickham’s motives seem to have been revenge on Darcy and to get money from him, or at least to mooch off Gigi for a while.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Gigi and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

This is a particularly powerful episode since the story comes from Gigi herself instead of from her brother. Gigi explains her vulnerability when she says, “He said he needed me.” She was doped by George and taken in by his lies and promises. She dreamed that George really loved her and that she could convince her brother that their love was real. Darcy proved her wrong when George left so easily because of a check from Darcy. Gigi says she was drawn to Lizzie because nothing she said about Darcy comes close to what she has said about him to his face. She ends her story by telling Lizzie, “He [Darcy] really takes care of those that he cares about.” Gigi gives us a new perspective on Darcy and on George so that we can begin to see both of their true characters.

Lizzie and Darcy Development:

Lizzie, Darcy and Gigi spend the weekend sightseeing in San Francisco, and while there isn’t a video blog about their exploits there are their tweets!

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: San Francisco montage © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Lizzie and Darcy’s relationship seems to blossom while she is visiting Pemberley, but since she knows he and sister watch the videos, she does not give much personal feedback on how she is feeling about their changing relationship. I understand why she couldn’t/wouldn’t post a video with commentary about her time at Pemberley and her actual thoughts about Darcy and Gigi, but I do wish we could have a little more.

Lizzie interviews Darcy, as the head of Pemberley, about his company, but he actually turns the conversation to be about her video diaries. He complements them and Lizzie. Then they have an interesting discussion about the costume theater and whether it is mocking or not. Both Lizzie and Darcy say that they have been too quick to judge others, and they are now trying to see things from other people’s perspective. This is a wonderful video that shows both Lizzie and Darcy’s growth and how they are becoming more comfortable with each other. Darcy REALLY lightens up when he impersonates Fitz in the costume theater. It is wonderful!

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Bad News:

And then to the bad news… Lizzie gets a new phone because her old one has been messing up so much, so she has not been able to talk to Charlotte for a day or so. When her new phone finally finishes authorizing she sees that she has 7 missed calls from Charlotte. Darcy is with her because he came to ask her to the theater that night for a date. She says she would be happy to go… BUT, then she gets the news about Lydia. She had no idea Lydia was dating George because she has not been watching her videos and has not talked to her sister since Christmas. Lizzie blames herself. She says, “I could have prevented this.” She is upset and frazzled, but Darcy steps in and tries to calm her down. He is level headed and offers to get her home right away and to send her stuff along after she leaves. Lizzie is grateful and says thanks, but she does seem very uncertain of what the future holds.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Overall the Pemberley episodes are my favorite. We meet Gigi who is a wonderful addition and a great modern take on the character of Georgiana. We see Lizzie and Darcy getting to know each other again and starting to like each other, and we see how they handle themselves in a crisis. We can really see the chemistry between Darcy and Lizzie in these videos since they are together so much more. There are several episodes where they both look at each other and the looks on their faces are just BRILLIANT!!!

Next Week, episodes 85-92, and Gigi’s Domino Videos

Awesome Links:

Images courtesy © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; text © 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington

A Closer Look at The Lydia Bennet Videos Episodes 1-29

Image from The Lydia Bennet Videos: Lydia Bennet

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

We have been taking a closer look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries over the past few weeks. Lizzie has two sisters in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice: Jane and Lydia. While Lizzie is the main character of the novel, and this new series, her wild and outrageous younger sister Lydia often steals the show—so much so that she started her own spinoff videos. Today we will focus on LEE DEE YA and her own The Lydia Bennet Videos!

Lydia Bennet in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is one of the biggest deviations from the novel, and I think it is one of the reasons why the series seems so modern and original. Lydia shows up in Lizzie videos frequently, but it is through her own videos that we really get to see her development and spiral to be under Wickham’s control.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries gives a much more sympathetic look at Lydia because we get to know her so much better than we do in the book; we see more of her mistakes, and (spoilers) she is able to redeem herself in the end.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia Bennet

Mary Kate Wiles plays a wonderful Lydia Bennet. She was actually the first part the producers cast. I am so glad that Mary Kate got Lydia because she brought such energy and vitality to that role in the beginning and we are totally drawn in when we witness her decline. Rachel Kiley was the writer who did most, if not all, of the Lydia Bennet videos, and I think she did an amazing job. The writing of Lydia and Wickham’s relationship I find particularly terrifying because it seems so true to life. Continue reading

A Closer Look at the Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 35-50

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lizzie

From the desk of Virginia Claire

There is a lot to cover this week for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. One announcement before we get started; the series will be ending on March 28th with the 100th episode. (mass hysteria and sobbing ensues!). Sadness I know but the book does come to an end and so much the LBD.  On a happier note we are just reaching the halfway point of looking at the vlogs so there is still a more discussion to come. I also can’t wait to see which book the creative team of Hank and Bernie do next. I myself am voting for Emma, mainly because I want to see a modern Emma more than a modern Anne (I am huge fan of Persuasion, but Anne Elliot is just not a blogger the way Emma would be)

This week I watched episodes 35-50 and then Charlotte and Maria Lu’s spinoff from Collins and Collins. Lizzie starts off episode 35 by saying “and everything is as it should be.” This pleasant feeling doesn’t last long for Lizzie because Mr. Collins arrives and annoys her to no end. He offers her a job, which she refuses but which Charlotte then takes. Then Charlotte leaves for the job with Mr. Collin. Next Wickham comes and tells his story of woe at the hands of Darcy to Lizzie, which makes Lizzie hate Darcy even more. After Bing’s birthday party Bing, Darcy and Caroline leave for LA without telling anyone. Jane finds out about the move from Twitter. She is broken hearted and decides to move to LA for a job promotion and a change of scene. Wickham then takes a job with the Meryton Marines and goes off to flirt and party with other girls. Lizzie isn’t broken hearted over his departure but she does wonder, “why is everyone moving on but me?” Episode 50.  In Charlotte and Maria’s spinoff we see the reconciliation that will happen between the friends. Charlotte too misses Lizzie and her sister has her watch Lizzie’s videos to see how much Lizzie misses Charlotte. Maria’s videos are a cute spinoff that shows us a glimpse at Charlotte in a new light but I don’t think they are as funny as other spinoffs like Lydia’s and Gigis’; they seem more like a plot device then stand alone vlogs.

Now I want to look at some of my favorite moments and characters from these episodes.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Collins and Lizzie

Mr. Collin: Mr. Collins is by far my favorite character (other than Lizzie) in the novel and in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I find his so delightful obtuse yet verbose that he is irresistible to me in his ridiculousness. I interviewed Maxwell Glick who plays Mr. Collins and he was so thoughtful and wonderful that he sent me some wonderful answers to my questions. I am including a handful below.

How do you think you make Mr. Collins different or special?

Max-I wanted to bring something to Mr. Collins that took the perception of him as this rather repulsive character, and made him actually have more dimensions and real feelings.  I took the approach that he just “doesn’t get it” – not that he is a terrible person or intentionally says hurtful things.  He has poor social skills, but I don’t think his heart is in the wrong place. I wanted it to appear that everything he says is carefully scripted, albeit poorly, sometimes.  I also wanted to add a touch of humor to the guy.  After all, he is far from a boor. I wanted the audience to say “Oh I totally know someone like that.”

What do you think was the hardest aspect of Mr. Collins to adapt into modern times?

Max-Mr. Collins is a clergyman in the book, and that would be a tough storyline in modern times, so the way the writers made him a venture capitalist interested in online video, was just genius. 

I think the “first proposal” followed by the “your pitch needs work” episodes are brilliant in terms of Mr. Collins character. Do you have a favorite scene or episode?

Max-I have two favorite moments.  The Proposal where I keep bringing out an increasingly larger envelope is just hysterical to me. I love that.  Also I love my episode with Lydia.  This was one of the most fun times for me on set.  I got to bring out Collins’ incredibly uncomfortable emotions, as Lydia got closer to him.  That was just a blast. I wish I had some more episodes with her.

(hopefully I will get to post the entire interview at a later date because it is very interesting)

It was so wonderful talking to Max about Mr. Collins. He gave lots of insight into how he played Collins and how he thought about the character. Max is a hilarious guy. Check out his Flashback Friday Videos from his closet. These are adorable and entertaining videos where he sings top 10 songs from different years with no music. It is cute so check them out.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia and Collins

Lydia v Mr. Collins: Episode 37 is perhaps my favorite episode thus far. It combines two of my favorite characters Lydia and Mr. Collins. Lydia puts Collins in his place from the beginning and makes Mr. Collins increasing uncomfortable till he runs away leaving Lydia alone when she says “and that my nerdy older sister is how you properly get rid of Mr. Collins. BOOM!” Lydia wins and I love it.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Collins and Charlotte

Your Pitch Needs Work”: Episode 41 is pretty brilliant because we see Charlotte’s guidance of Collins and how she influences him. Charlotte is very subtle in her manipulation of Collins. She isn’t portrayed in a negative light but we do see that she is in control of the situation and “fishing for an offer” from him. I am not condemning Charlotte in the least because she knows exactly what she is getting into with Collins, and I think it is a very conscious decision on her part.

Charlotte and Lizzie: Charlotte is a voice of reason for both Lizzie and Collins, so when Charlotte chooses to take the job with Mr. Collins, Lizzie feels completely crushed. The girls get in a huge fight over Charlotte’s decision in episode 42, which shows a more selfish side. of Lizzie. It is only through Maria showing Charlotte episode 43 where Lizzie laments not talking to her bestie that Charlotte calls Lizzie and invites her to come, stay and see Collins and Collins.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Wickham and Lizzie

George’s Intro: In episode 45 we meet George Wickham! I am going to skip the Darcy v. Wickham story because it just isn’t as funny as George himself. George is looking at Lizzie bookshelf when he says “I have to make sure you don’t have any red flags like books on serial killers or anything shady or with shades.” Later in the episode Lydia runs in with a solo cup “accidentally” spilling water all over him, then casually suggests that he just takes his first off. I don’t know if this is a funny nod to the 1995 “wet t-shirt scene” but it is funny none the less. Lizzie and Lydia both get a little distracted by Wickham’s excellent body and abs.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia, Wickham and Lizzie

Snickerdoodles: On a more serious note episode 48 is very sad because we see Jane break down from her normal happy self to distraught and upset Jane who is just looking for answers from Bing. The viewers are in the same boat as Lizzie when she says “and if I could find Bing Lee and smash him over the head with a frying pan to knock some sense into him then I would.” At this point it is very unclear why Bing broke up with Jane and will not talk to her anymore, but we will find out more in later episodes.

Next week we will watch episodes 51-66. Enjoy!

Favorite quote of the week:What do you think it is? Maybe George has incriminating photos of Darcy. Maybe George has videos of Darcy in a boy band” Episode 44 – Lizzie trying to figure out the dark history between Darcy and George Wickham.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lizzie and Jane

Further Reading:

Images courtesy of © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; text © 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington, Austenprose

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 1 – 16

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: :Lizzie and LYDEEAH

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

Last week I wrote about my passion for the web vlog The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and introduced you to the concept of this new Pride and Prejudice adaptation and its main characters. This week I will cover Episodes 1 – 16.

What I love so much about these first episodes is that they really are all about the heroine Lizzie Bennet. We see her family, her friends, her thoughts, and her life, quirks and all. These episodes are really about her expressing who she is as a person in that moment, and it is delightful to watch.

Colin Firth dripping wet with sex as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

So often with Pride and Prejudice adaptations the focus goes right to the hero Mr. Darcy (1995 version) and I am not saying that is all bad; it is just a different view than I have of the novel. While we hear about Darcy in the early episodes, we do not see him, which gives us purely Lizzie and her friend’s viewpoints. I see Pride and Prejudice as a story about Lizzie’s self-awareness. In the LBD we are left to focus on Lizzie, which I think is Jane Austen’s whole point. Yes, Darcy is fine and dandy, BUT Lizzie Bennet is the greatest character to grace the pages of a novel (or grace a computer screen). Immediately in the vlogs we see Lizzie’s wit, charm, and personality, which is key to her character. We also see her ability to laugh and not take her self too seriously. Lizzie tells us in the second video that she loves rain, classic novels and Colin Firth movies (This tells me that we are really meant to be best friends, so move over Charlotte Lu!).

In the first few episodes we meet the Bennet sisters Lizzie, Jane and Lydia and Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte. Each is a delightful modernization of their counterpart from the novel, but they also stand alone as characters for the series even if you have never read Pride and Prejudice or seen one its many film adaptations before. The transformation from Regency-era to the 21st-century is so well done that I have very little to critique about them.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Laura Spencer as Jane Bennet

Laure Spencer plays Jane Bennet. She is the oldest Bennet sister and just as adorable as I ever could imagine the character in the novel to be. Jane is excessively sweet, but she doesn’t come off as fake. She is totally genuine, if a slight space cadet, and she is a wonderful sister to Lizzie and Lydia. She sees the best in everyone just like in the novel. Jane does come off as a bit naïve, but she sticks up for herself and her sisters when she needs to which I admire. She is also funnier than the Jane in the book, which is refreshing. In episode 15 she does a great impression of Darcy, and it is simply irresistible.

Julia Cho plays Charlotte Lu, Lizzie’s best friend and the video editor of Lizzie’s vlog project. She is a fairly dramatic departure from her character in the novel. We can see why she and Lizzie are drawn together. They are both smart, funny young women who obviously enjoy each other’s company and goofing off. Charlotte also pranks Lizzie several times in the editing of her videos, which is a cute detail. Charlotte is more pragmatic than Lizzie about the real world and her chances after grad school. Charlotte doesn’t have the “soon to be old maid” anxiety that she does in the book. Instead, her worries come from school loans and family financial problems. This is a pertinent modernization because it gives Charlotte the same urgency to find “stability and success.” In the novel she finds it through marriage to the odious Mr. Collins while in the LBD she finds it through her job. It is also very relatable for students today who are struggling to find security in their financial situations

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia says Man Banana

Lydia… Lydia… Lydia. Where to begin with Lydia? First off Mary Kate Wiles is the most engaging Lydia I have ever seen. We see her party girl ways in these early episodes but we also see how open she and how that could/will lead to conflict down the road. She loves life and seems to be enjoying every minute of it. Her bantering interactions with Lizzie are brilliant. They have a sisterly affection that has been lacking in many other adaptions. Elizabeth (in other adaptations) sometimes seems very aloof and judgmental of Lydia, yet they are sisters and spend huge amounts of time together, so they have to get along to some degree. While in the LBD, Lizzie and Lydia might not appreciate each other fully, they clearly care for one another and have a good time together.

They also are pretty hard on each other. Lydia is constantly getting on Lizzie for being “lame” or a “nerd” and Lizzie calls Lydia a “slut” several times and voices her opinion about Lydia’s poor life choices. I think these are some of Lizzie’s weaker moments because she is not seeing Lydia’s vulnerability. My favorite moment with Lydia is when she is hung over from a night drinking at “Carter’s Bar” and sleeping in Lizzie’s bed. Lizzie wakes Lydia up to help her with a video by blasting music in headphones. Lydia is a wild 20 year-old who is looking for a goodtime everywhere she goes. She just does not seem to see long term consequences of any of her actions. We also see her infatuation with Lizzie’s vlogs because she is always barging in and trying to give the camera her best angle. She seems to be seeking attention everywhere she goes. In the Q&A videos we learn that Lydia’s fake ID say “Mary Crawford” and that she is 26. This is a great little detail for Janeites who know the worldly and wild Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Lizzie: and Charlotte

While these are the only characters we actually see in the early episodes we hear about many more thought Lizzie’s “costume theater” where she dons hats and uses props to portray of characters important to the story. Through her we learn that her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, are an oddly matched couple, but I wish the LBD had more about their relationship. We hear a lot about Mrs. Bennet desire for her daughters to get married (this does seem slightly dated for todays world but I see why they had to do it) and Mr. Bennet’s ability to aggravate his wife. But I miss seeing these memorable characters in the flesh.

While I love all of Lizzie other impersonations, her take on her mother does bother me because she has a southern accent. As a young Southern woman (who has a fairly strong accent and a mother who has never tried her hand at matchmaking or stalking) I can tell you I don’t like the fact that Mrs. Bennet seems to be a “traditional Southern lady” and desperate for her daughters to get married (I keep thinking she is going to say she wants to go home to Tara but she never does). I do see the humor is Mrs. Bennet; I just hate that she has to be a “traditional Southern lady” stereotype because she sounds like a husband-hunting, match-making, coupon-cutting lunatic and most Southern women I know are nothing like that.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries E13 Lydia and Lizzie

Mr. Bennet is also lacking because we never get to see him, hear his cutting wit, or see his flaws as a father. Mr. Bennet is a wonderful and witty character in the novel, but in the LBD we just hear that he is cloistered away all day reading, enjoying his bonsai trees, or playing with trains instead of seeing him. Lizzie does tell us that he enjoys winding his wife up which sounds exactly like Mr. Bennet from the novel. In LBD, he seems like a jolly, slightly eccentric, model train loving man rather than the caustic, witty and negligence father that he is in the novel. Throughout the series there are no “adults” shown in the vlogs. Lizzie explains that since her parents are openly discussed in the vlogs, she would rather they not know about it. However, I really do miss Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.

Lizzie also tells us about Bing Lee his sister Caroline and their friend William Darcy. The Bennet’s meet them at a wedding, the modern interpretation of the assembly dance in the novel. In many respects the early encounters with Bing and Darcy parallel the book. One interesting thing is how similar Lizzie and Darcy sound in their personalities when she is describing the wedding events. Both are described as standing back from the crowd observing others rather than taking part in the festivities themselves. It is interesting that even from the beginning we can see how similar they really are even though our heroine can’t. Lizzie and Darcy are forced to dance together because Lizzie catches the bouquet, and Darcy catches the garter. Lizzie says that her dance with Darcy was the most awkward dance EVER, and she hates him even more after he slights her by saying, “Lizzie Bennet is decent enough.” She describes him as obnoxious, rude, snobby, and a douchebag. Really I can’t do Lizzie justice in this area so just go re-watch the video because it is hilarious.

Lizzie Bennet Diaries cast

Even though we hear a lot about Darcy and Bing in these early episodes, critics could say that they consume too many episodes, I think these vlogs are still much more focused on Lizzie than any other adaptation because we only get these commentaries from Lizzie’s perspective (and once from Charlotte and Jane who step in because they feel Lizzie isn’t telling the whole story). Of course Lizzie isn’t telling the whole story because it is her story with her bias of it. She is out narrative voice in the vlogs which I will talk a lot more about this in a later blog. We only have her as our guide, though I would argue she is a story teller and would follow her anywhere!

I will talk more about Darcy, Caroline, and Bing in later articles so don’t worry, we aren’t done yet. Next week I am watching episodes 17-26 where we meet WICKHAM and COLLINS!

Favorite Quotes: Episodes 1-16

  • “What if he is a gay serial killer?” (when Lizzie is thinking about Bing Lee)
  • “And what makes you think he has 500 teenage prostitutes?” (Lizzie talking to her mother)
  • “Are there any hot chicks that you want to slip your man banana into, Darcy, my homie?” (Lydia trying to reenact how Bing Lee might talk to Darcy – perhaps a cute nod to the fact that Jane Austen never had two men talking alone together in her novels because she didn’t know what they would say)
  • “Lizzie Bennet decent enough” (Lizzie telling us about Darcy’s slight of her at the wedding)
  • “There is still a Bennet sister with a longer track record of bad decision making” (Lizzie talking about Lydia)
  • “And the people in this town — enjoying top 40 radio, laughter and non-organic produce — so uncivilized” (Charlotte pretending to be Caroline)
  • “Mary Crawford… 26!!!” (Lydia’s fake ID)

Further Reading:

© 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington, Austenprose

Intro to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – A New Pride and Prejudice Adaptation

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012)

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: The Bennet Sisters

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 Lizzie Bennet Diaries opening

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 Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Jane and Bing

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.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia Bennet

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.The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia and Collins

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.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie

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:

  1. It built up the suspense for the audience seeing Darcy since we hear so much about him.
  2. 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.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy had fun once

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.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Fitz and Lizzie

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.

Further reading:

© 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington, Austenprose