Articles by " Sam Russell"
24 Feb
2017

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Pride & Prejudice for a New Generation

It is a rare occa­sion that I give even a moment’s thought to the ques­tion “Is this adap­ta­tion even close to as good as the source mate­ri­al?” So it is dur­ing the­se rare occa­sions that I must put a spot­light on the adap­ta­tion in ques­tion. Few sto­ries are able to reach the­se heights. Aside from the focus of this blog, the only adap­ta­tions I can think of in this cat­e­go­ry are Matil­da, Har­ry Pot­ters 1–3, and Spi­der-Man 2, the movie and video game. To fit this cat­e­go­ry, an adap­ta­tion should not sim­ply be a word-for-word recre­ation of the text, nor should it stray too far. It is, to me, most impor­tant to cap­ture the ener­gy and feel­ings evoked from the work. This cri­te­ria is what makes The Lizzie Ben­net Diaries one of the strongest adap­ta­tions ever.

The Lizzie Ben­net Diaries is a retelling of the Jane Austen’s Pride and Prej­u­dice, using vlog­ging as the plat­form. It aired from 2012–2013 on YouTube. Pro­duced by Hank Green, this adap­ta­tion tack­les both the love lives and careers of a stream­lined three Ben­net sisters—Lizzie, Jane, and Lydia—and Char­lot­te, Lizzie’s best friend. In mod­ern day, Lizzie and Char­lot­te are media grad stu­dents enter­ing their last year, while Jane works as an unpaid intern for a fash­ion line, and Lydia is fin­ish­ing col­lege. They all live at home, some­thing very sym­pa­thet­ic to this blog­ger, and one of the small things that makes Pride and Prej­u­dice an eter­nal sto­ry.

At its core, P&P is a sto­ry about fam­i­ly, love, life, and social advance­ment. The­se don’t change when you add in a series of jump cuts and char­ac­ter twit­ter accounts. The social media and vlogs start­ed by oth­er char­ac­ters add to the sto­ry in ways that oth­er adap­ta­tions sim­ply can’t. As she comes to learn through­out the plot, Lizzie is a hor­ri­bly stub­born char­ac­ter who can’t reli­ably nar­rate her way out of a social for­mal. Because this is a mod­ern sto­ry, oth­er char­ac­ters are able to give their opin­ions and thoughts on the hap­pen­ings sur­round­ing them. We get a fuller per­spec­tive on what’s going on as char­ac­ters like Gigi Dar­cy enter the stage much soon­er through their social media pres­ence than they actu­al­ly appear on screen.

A great aspect of this sto­ry is the time given to indi­vid­u­al moments. The orig­i­nal release had mul­ti­ple episodes com­ing out every week for a year, rang­ing from three to ten min­utes each. The result is the longest adap­ta­tion of Pride and Prej­u­dice ever, in bite-sized pieces. It is easy to lose hours watch­ing the series. “Just one more” only means anoth­er four min­utes, but as you get lost in the South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­an lives of the Ben­net sis­ters, you quick­ly for­get what you were plan­ning to do after you fin­ish “just this episode.”

Although the love sto­ry of Lizzie and Dar­cy, dubbed “Dizzie” by fans (I kind of hate name-smash­ing as a ship name. What­ev­er hap­pened to the good old days of MSR? And why can’t peo­ple be fine with a sim­ple slash or x between names? I digress.), is still quite the pres­ence, it’s not the dom­i­nat­ing sto­ry line as it is in many takes on the tale, and in people’s minds. Dar­cy is, of course, still the incred­i­bly prej­u­diced, but incred­i­bly lov­ing, social­ly-awk­ward, hot dude he’s always been meant to be, but more of the plot is ded­i­cat­ed to explor­ing the dynam­ics of four young wom­en striv­ing to advance their lives and careers. I cried more over the fights and argu­ments between the girls than I ever did over the heart­break and love lives, and I’m sure most view­ers did the same.

I implore you, dear­est read­er, whether you have loved Pride and Prej­u­dice for a long time or have nev­er even thought about pick­ing up the book (as I had not before watch­ing this web series), to watch The Lizzie Ben­net Diaries. As for my orig­i­nal ques­tion, I don’t know that The LBD quite stacks up to the pow­er of the orig­i­nal nov­el, but no adap­ta­tion tru­ly can. It is a wor­thy adap­ta­tion all the same for being able to even start the con­ver­sa­tion, and it is my favorite adap­ta­tion of Pride and Prej­u­dice for the same rea­son. The Lizzie Ben­net Diaries is patient and kind when the title char­ac­ter is less than so. It loves its char­ac­ters and wants to tell everyone’s side of the sto­ry even when she does not, and espe­cial­ly when she can­not. You can start with episode one, fol­low­ing along with all the asso­ci­at­ed social media in chrono­log­i­cal order by fol­low­ing this link (click it, click it please!).