“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Or so goes the classic line from Jane Austen’s most well-known novel, Pride and Prejudice. But maybe you're thinking: a classic novel from over two-hundred years ago? Who cares? Bring me the Internet! Bring me technology! And for Pete’s Sake, bring me a flushable toilet!
Well, Amanda and Jaime are here to bring you the best of both Austen’s world and our own through The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an interactive, transmedia, modern adaptation of Austen’s novel of Pride and Prejudice. Basically, Lizzie Bennet is a young lady in the midst of grad school, vlogging about the adventures of her life and the craziness of her family. But it’s not just vlogging. It’s re-telling Austen’s novel with a modern twist, which allows for the story to be told through YouTube “vlog” videos, tweets, Facebook posts, and the like. The story is told by bringing together the wonders of social media on the Internet to create an experience never done before. It’s technology at its finest while keeping intact the same message about social class, love, and family interactions from the two-hundred year old novel. It’s the best of both Austen’s world and our own. And it’s fabulous.
1. It's one the best adaptations.
Jaime: For me, book-to-movie adaptations are super important. I want to support them in the movie-making business, but sometimes I can be super picky about how they turn out. (Some changes are completely unnecessary and do ruin the concept of the book.) There are many, many film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. When I say many, I mean many. There’s one from the 1940s, there are several from the 80s-90s era, and there’s probably one too many from the last decade.
I’ve seen many of them; I’ve enjoyed most of them (Some are just terrible and Austen would hate them too). There are always changes to different parts that I can be somewhat uptight about. But when it comes to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I’m sold. The changes make sense when they’ve adapted the story to the modern world of Youtube and web diaries, technological companies, and the social classes we have today. For me, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is one of the best (if not the best) adaptation I’ve ever watched. It hits every important part of the origin tale in a creative, interactive way. It keeps the overall message of pride and prejudice, social class, reasons for marrying, etc. but fit it into terms we, today, understand. Would Austen have loved it? I don’t know. But it does a dang good job of taking a two-hundred year old story and making it fun, entertaining, and true to the story.
Amanda: “Best” is a hard term to prove. After all, we all know that the 90’s adaptation is the best, right? (Which I actually haven’t seen.) But I can say that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is definitely my favorite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Everything is captured so well and nothing seems out-of-place. Everything feels like Pride and Prejudice actually would be like in a modern setting. Lydia would throw crazy parties. Lizzie would be a huge nerd. Their mother would be crazy and Southern. It makes sense.
I’ve always loved the concept of “throw well-loved characters in a modern setting and see how they would act.” And The Lizzie Bennet Diaries takes this and does it so well.
2. The concept is original.
When The Lizzie Bennet Diaries first released in the spring of 2012, nothing like it had been done before. Sure, people have taken classic stories and modernized them before (A few have even been done for Pride and Prejudice). This concept wasn’t new. What was new was the format: a web-series on YouTube. Not only was it easy to access the episodes on various YouTube accounts (and it was free), but the characters felt like real people in the world. They had Twitter accounts, Pinterest pages, Tumblrs, and Facebooks. Things were posted outside of the YouTube videos to help tell the story in a transmedia, multiplatform experience. It wasn’t just “another” adaptation to watch. It was an adaptation to interact with, to live in.
Lizzie felt real--like she could be a girl sitting in her room making web diaries about her life. The camera set-up, the storyline’s movement, and the characterization, it all felt real. This gave a whole new twist on the Pride and Prejudice we know. I remember watching it “live” (aka as they posted videos and tweets) and being able to visit the scandalous website of the Incident (it’s currently unavailable if you go to the URL). It was crazy how in-world they developed the story and characters.
I loved every moment. Every interaction, every piece of the puzzle that came together to tell this classic tale (Also, you can follow the entire story on the Pemberley Digital website as it originally went down)
I didn’t start watching until quite a while after it was over, and I think I watched the whole thing in...2? 3 days? It’s that good. This was like nothing I had ever seen before, and at first it might sound kind of crazy. A modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? In the form of a vlog? How is that even going to work?
But it did! And it’s one of the coolest and original things I’ve ever seen. They pull it off so well without it being over-the-top or anybody seeming out of character and I just love it.
3. The sister's relationships are so realistic.
Since I have a strong relationship to my sister, I think realistic sister relationships in fiction are important. In fact, they’re one of my favorite things to discuss when it comes to fandom. It’s well-known that Pride and Prejudice, as well as other Austen novels, perform a variety of sister interactions, specifically between the five Bennet sisters. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is exceptional at keeping the important sister relationships in the adaptation.
While The Lizzie Bennet Diaries adapt the five sisters into three (with one cat named Kitty and one cousin named Mary), it still works. Today, most families have 2-3 children. Having five children would have been a stretch for most of society to relate to. In addition, keeping it to three kept the number of characters and interactions in the web diaries to a minimal to avoid confusion and chaos. Plus, in a way they combined Lydia and Kitty in the way Lizzie treats her throughout the entire series. I think it was a smart and effective change to the adaptation.
But the sister relationships are the center of the web series (as they are in the novel). Their interactions, familiarity with each other, and overall arc of their relationships are wonderful to watch unfold. It felt real; it felt like how I interact with my sister. The dynamics worked so well that I want to re-watch the adventures of the Bennet sisters over and over again.
Since I don’t have any sisters, I’m probably not the best person to answer this, but I do have brothers and I think there are parts of any sibling relationship that stay the same. They feel like real siblings. They fight and they argue, but there are times when they have fun together. And I think the end really shows that they care so much about each other. When the Incident happens, Lizzie comes home with no second thought, even though her relationship with Lydia has been very rocky. They all truly love each other, which is what I think all siblings really do beneath the teasing and the arguments.
4. The secondary characters are vivid and quirky.
Another aspect that is fantastic is the secondary characters. Most times, secondary characters are pushed to the side and forgotten easily in movies or books. But The Lizzie Bennet Diaries keeps secondary characters at the forefront of the action. They made them distinguishable from the other characters and they made them important. Fitz is a lovable best friend to Darcy. He’s his own character outside of Darcy’s. Gigi (Georgina Darcy) helps Darcy track down Wickham and Lydia, which provides more emotional depth to her own character. She’s not just Darcy’s little sister anymore. She’s her own character, she makes her own friendship with Lizzie, and she has her own story. Even Charlotte Lu is more important than simply marrying (or becoming a business partner with) Mr. Collins. She’s Lizzie’s best friend; she interacts with everything Lizzie is doing in the story.
I always love when characters like Fitz or Mr. Collins show up in this story. They’re so much fun and so larger-than-life, as a lot of Jane Austen’s characters are. They also play a bigger role in this story. Fitz is hardly in the book, but in the webseries they flesh him out and make him believable and funny. It’s so easy to tell that he and Darcy are really good friends, even if they are rarely, if ever, shown together on-screen.
My other favorite secondary character is probably Bing Lee (Mr. Bingley). They capture his fun-loving and sweet spirit so well, that it becomes a joy to watch him whenever he comes in. Especially his interactions with Jane.
5. The costume theatre is a unique way to develop characters.
The costume theatre is truly unique to the Austen adaptation. It not only brought lots of laughs to the vlog and helped add more dimension, but it built up the suspense. We get to see the Bennet sisters from the start, we meet their close friends like Charlotte and yes, even Wickham, within the first few episodes. We even see Mr. Collins’ face early on, for Pete’s Sake. But it takes some-60 episodes until we meet the “robot” Darcy.
The only way they could have pulled off not revealing main characters like Darcy or Bing Lee (or even their mother) was through the costume theatre. It helped reveal the pride and prejudice of Lizzie with her own faults of judging someone because we didn’t get to see Darcy outside of Lizzie’s perspective until her perspective begins to change (Plus, the moment he’s revealed is just so perfect, I squealed). It also shapes how the three sisters view each other, which is not only hilarious but essential to how their relationships grow and change over the course of the story.
The costume theatre is one of my favorite things about this webseries, and it’s probably what really got me hooked on it. It’s so interesting to see the characters' style when they portray other people. (I think my favorite might be when Jane impersonates Darcy.)
Not only do I love it, but it really adds more dimensions to this series besides just being comedic relief. It’s a way of getting around the limitations that a vlog has in terms of storytelling, and it also really helps us understand Lizzie, Jane and Lydia’s perspectives of the other characters that don't show up as much.
6. The acting is genuine despite the cast being new faces.
With any adaptation, a big struggle comes with finding the right people for the well-known parts. A lot of fans will get angry if their favorite character isn’t cast correctly. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries cast all-new faces for the roles of the well-known characters. Some of them had minor roles in other pieces before, but for the most part, this was the biggest role any of them had been cast in.
This could be a great idea or a serious failure. Fortunately, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was cast brilliantly despite the new faces.
I felt every single actor did absolutely splendid in creating the modern version of their character. Darcy was stiff and formal but still able to be loved by the end of it. Lydia had the frivolous actions yet you could see she knows what she’s doing; she’s not some empty-headed girl, she’s intelligent. Jane is sweet and lovable. Lizzie is her opinionated, stubborn self.
Everybody did so well. Perfect casting helped make the adaptation work.
It’s nearly impossible to find perfect casting for an adaptation. Even in really good ones, I see myself finding at least one actor not being quite right. Maybe this was me just being picky, but I didn’t find myself saying or thinking this about anyone in this adaptation. The casting was fantastic.
And not only was the casting perfect, but the acting was amazing as well. These actors may be newcomers, but they know their stuff. I could really tell that they all cared about their roles and worked hard at getting them right. I’m really looking to seeing what they all do in the future!
Have you seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? If you have, what do you think?