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!).