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.
Created by Bernie Su (creator of the Streamy award-winning web series Compulsions) and Hank Green (one half of the vlogbrothers duo), The Lizzie Bennet Diaries maintains high production quality in spite of its minimalistic staging and crew. In a video introducing the series, Green explains,
I wanted something that was a great story that I loved. And I wanted to make this kind of something that my wife would really enjoy, and I wanted something that was very dialogue-based and very character-based so that we could do it not as a big production with lots of sets and scenes and everything, but just as a person talking to a camera. It’s a work of fiction, adapted into a video blog.
The intimate format the team adopted has allowed the production crew to embrace Pride and Prejudice‘s often anachronistic nature through the series’ confessional recounting of a story already familiar to many of its viewers.
While The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is following the narrative path of its source material, fan contributions are frequently recognized across the story’s properties, including a Questions and Answers episode where Lizzie hints a trip to Anaheim in June for VidCon, a conference dedicated to the online video community, adding “I just wish I knew someone who could give me a ticket.” Lizzie Bennet wouldn’t be the first fictional character to attend a major convention. And considering VidCon’s principal organizer is the series’ co-creator Hank Green, Lizzie’s chances of getting that ticket are looking good.
Head over to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries Tumblr for a thoroughly satisfying peek into the lives of the Bennet sisters, and feel free to peruse the larger story across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Lookbook, Pinterest, and Google Plus if your interest is piqued by the main branch of the story.