Okay… so I realise I’ve come very late to the party on this one – but I just discovered the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube and for a couple of shameful days, I did almost nothing other than watch it from start to finish!
And before YOU start shaming me too, bear in mind that I had a tough and unpleasant week last week so discovering something fun and enjoyable to watch was a nice, pleasant distraction (plus it cheered me up, big time).
So for those who are unaware, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a vlog-style modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I actually thought it was made by some girl who thought it would be a fun idea to retell P&P in the 21st century, but it turns out it was a professional production with real actors, a scriptwriter, director, producer, etc.
The setup: Lizzie Bennet is a 24-year-old student doing her masters in communications, with one older sister, Jane, and a younger sister, Lydia. Their mother is obsessed with getting her daughters married and, early on, news arrives that a wealthy young bachelor has come to town. So far, so accurate (minus a few characters – and the whole Lizzie is a uni student thing). After that it begins to take on a direction and flavour of its own.
Look, it wasn’t love at first sight, but I was engaged and mildly amused so I kept watching. There are about 100 videos (not counting the random ones featuring other characters), and even though they’re each about 3-5 minutes long, it was still a decent investment of my time.
By the time I got to episode 25 or so, I was hooked. To be honest it’s by no means perfect; the script is a bit awkward and forced at times and the whole series has some mildly feministic undertones which I could’ve done without, but overall it’s done remarkably well!
The actors are excellently cast, the script strikes the right tone and the modernised retelling captures the essence of the original while adapting parts of the story to suit our day and age. The creators also manage the tension perfectly. For example, even though Darcy is mentioned in almost every video, the viewer has to wait a long time before actually getting to see him (the “Darcy delay” as a friend put it). As such, the tension is building all the time, making it extraordinarily meaningful when you finally do get to see him.
Some other changes they made include substantially fleshing out the friendship between Lizzie and Charlotte, giving the latter a bigger role in the overall story, which I really liked. The relationships between the three sisters also play out a bit differently to the novel. What I really liked about all of this – and the series in general – was how believable it was. I felt as if I could easily meet people just like Lizzie, Jane, Charlotte or Lydia in real life (in fact, Lizzie and Jane in particular reminded me vividly of a couple of my friends), and the way the circumstances of the story play out affect the characters in very authentic ways.
I was amazed when I found myself tearing up at a couple of points – revealing how emotionally invested I’d become in the story. The actors have great chemistry with each other, and they continually surprised me with their ability to affect me emotionally.
Finally, watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries gave me a newfound appreciation for a story I’ve loved almost my entire life. I first watched Pride and Prejudice when I was seven or eight years old and have since seen virtually every adaptation ever made. However, when you’re so familiar with a story, it can become difficult to see it objectively.
Since watching the LBD I’ve been reflecting on the original novel and its enduring popularity over the centuries. What is it about this story that inspires so many adaptations, interpretations and retellings?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that Pride and Prejudice is a pretty near perfect book, taking into account the storytelling, pace, characterisation, originality and believability. It’s also incredibly well-written, humorous and deeply touching.
I’m really grateful to see it again through fresh eyes, thanks to the LBD – which I was so sad to finish I started watching again… (Don’t you judge me!)
So, when those rainy days come along, when life is getting you down or you’ve had a tough week, I recommend watching (or rewatching) the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It should cheer you up in no time.
Just remember it’s super addictive – you have been warned!