Ricky Collins (Maxwell Glick), Charlotte Lu (Julia Cho), Lizzie Bennet (Ashley Clements), and Lydia Bennet (Mary Kate Wiles) at the final celebration, courtesy of Pemberley Digital
It’s been almost a year since Lizzie Bennet introduced herself to the internet through her video blog, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. With twice-weekly video updates serving as a voyeuristic window into Lizzie’s personal affairs, viewers were effectively invited to take up digital residence at the Bennet household. After spending so much time getting to know Lizzie’s family and friends, watching the final installment of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was like saying goodbye to old friends.
Of course, in many ways it was saying goodbye to old friends. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s much loved novel Pride and Prejudice, which recently celebrated its 200th anniversary. Over the years, I’ve witnessed Elizabeth Bennet fall in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy countless times, complemented by everything from Bollywood dance numbers to zombie attacks. With The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, co-creators Hank Green and Bernie Su sought to re-imagine the classic love story through the modern lens of YouTube.
To modernize the story, the team took more than a few liberties. While Mrs Bennet’s blatant maneuvering to secure husbands for her daughters remains as comically anachronistic as it was in Pride and Prejudice, her notions are not completely out of circulation even two centuries after Austen brought them to light. The family businesses did receive an update, evolving into online production companies like Collins & Collins and Pemberley Digital that serve as bases of operation for some of Pride and Prejudice‘s original suitors that assume roles that are just as important as the Bingley mansion at Netherfield.
Surface-level changes were made to many character names, but it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to connect the dots between Charles Bingley and Bing Lee, or Georgiana Darcy and Gigi Darcy. Even Mary Bennet and Kitty Bennet, who were excised from the core Bennet clan, still find their way into the narrative. The major changes arose through the challenges faced by the lead characters. For Lizzie, Charlotte, and Jane, the prospect of creating a life independent of marriage is an ever-present and essential reality, and the three finally realize that goal in new and interesting ways that challenge their relationships. While Lydia’s narrative arc still thrusts her into scandal, her character’s reaction to that scandal takes a different turn.
Lizzie Bennet’s mother wants the best for her three daughters. Unfortunately for Lizzie, her mother’s antiquated impression of what is best involves settling Lizzie and her two sisters down with the first rich, eligible bachelors to come along. She even printed out a motivational tshirt for poor Lizzie, broadcasting that “[i]t is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” As a graduate student living at home and pursuing a Masters degree in Mass Communications, Lizzie is taking out her frustrations at her mother’s overt attempts to control her life over social media for a class project she’s calling The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, with a little help from her best friend Charlotte Lu. Sound familiar? No? Maybe this will help: the Bennet family’s new neighbor, Bing Lee, is best friends with an abrasive socialite named William Darcy.
That’s right, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, with a modern twist. Lizzie unabashedly assumes the role of unreliable narrator in the video blog (“vlog”) series recounting her various adventures that serves as the crux of the experience. While Charlotte and her sisters occasionally take over the vlog, the cast is purposefully minimal, forcing Lizzie, Charlotte, and her sisters to don over-the-top costumes while mimicking their parents, William Darcy, and even each other in a format that should be very familiar to frequent YouTube viewers. These videos offer a powerful platform for the sisters’ disparate personalities to shine through, allowing the plot to serve as a pleasant afterthought supporting a steady stream of sisterly bickering.
Since the YouTube videos themselves center around Lizzie’s highly biased take on the story, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries provides its on-screen and off-screen talent with social media outlets suited to their sensibilities, allowing viewers to gain a better sense of the story. While Jane’s fashion-centric Lookbook account and Lydia’s animated gif-heavy Tumblr do little to add to the plot, twitter accounts for Bing Lee, his sister Caroline, and William Darcy provide a parallel view of events that does an admirable job of complementing the vlog entries. While these elements are by no means necessary to the story, many of the show’s most amusing moments are either told (or remixed) over these side-channels.