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The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

04 Feb 2013
Posted by Shannon

Mondays are infinitely more tolerable with the promise of a new episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlog series reinterpreting Pride and Prejudice for the Confessional Age.

This week we’re all waiting breathlessly for word of what will happen to Lydia now that George Wickham has used and abused her.

In December I wrote about the charming web series, which recasts the gentleman’s daughter in precarious financial circumstances as a SoCal grad student -- in precarious financial circumstances. Between student loans and the Great Recession devaluing her parents’ house Lizzie and her sisters are facing a crisis. And as her mother prattles on about averting disaster by finding rich husbands, Lizzie soldiers on gamely vlogging her life as her master’s thesis project in communications.

The series was already a big hit by internet standards – more than 140,000 subscribers -- and it’s getting a much-deserved boost with mentions in stories commemorating the 200th anniversary of P&P on January 28.  Episode 1 has more than 700,000 hits.

The modern updates show insight into Jane Austen’s gimlet view of her characters – Mr. Collins is now a babbling entrepreneur and Lady Catherine is a know-it-all venture capitalist – and the series is one of the few I’ve seen that is true to Austen’s perspective. The writers of TLBD understand the novel is a satire, not a romance -- a point that eludes every Hollywood producer.  I often wonder what JA would think of having her work reinvented to look like the cheesy romance novels of the day that she was mocking? Ah well, she'd probably just smile at the irony as long as she got a good percentage on the box office receipts. 

The LBD take portrays Lizzie is a bit of ditz. She's prone to foot-in-mouth disease; young, opinionated, and wrong as often as she’s right due to her lack of experience – just as in the book. Her younger sister Lydia is a fashion hauler with a hilarious case of attention deficit disorder – and wouldn’t Austen be amused by the whole concept of haulers and the fact that there’s now a name for Lydia’s condition. Kitty Bennet is an actual cat that follows Lydia around, and we learn of her via Lydia’s own vlog as she tries to compete with Lizzie for attention. There they develop the idea of Lydia as a neglected child, which comes through strongly in the novel.

In tone TLBD is closer to one of my favourite films, Clueless, another Austen update that understood that the book was a comedy and Emma was a bit of a twit. Maybe it just takes getting them out of those regency gowns for producers to realize what Austen was up to?