Some friends recently told me that I should watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
, and since I'd already heard the name bouncing around the internet I got curious.
What are The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
? you ask. (Or maybe you don't, because unlike me you actually manage to keep up with the cool things that are happening on the internet.) - Well. It's a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice
(as you might expect) that is being told on the internet through Elizabeth Bennet's video blog (and some sidebar video blogs by other characters).
And it shows exactly why I tend to like modern retellings of classic stories, sometimes better than the original.
Classic stories are classic for a reason. They're really good. And usually they're also really old. The really old part is where problems come in. Because writing styles, and laws, and values
change a lot over time. So P&P is a great story but when I read (or watch a good historical adaptation - like the BBC mini series) it's also a mental exercise - like reading tough Sci Fi - because I have to try and understand what the fuck the characters are thinking. When you read P&P you have to remember that women are not as important as men, that there aren't that many men around because there's a war on (this is the hardest to remember because Austen doesn't really mention it), and that Mrs. Bennet is not as crazy as you think - sure she's weird, but she's putting all her efforts into making sure her daughters are alright, which is quite noble even if her methods are suspect. (This is a point I have a hard time remembering.)
But modern retellings, when done well, take all the good story bits and make them easier to understand. And you can wallow in the characters and the plot without having to stop and retrospectively seethe for all the women in that time period who weren't allowed to be people.
But I digress.
The point of this post is that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
is AWESOME. And I love the way they tell the story because I feel like it shows off the characters better. I mainlined all the episodes they have so far yesterday, they're not quite done the story yet but they've gotten to the story equivalent of Lydia living unwed with Wickham (I won't tell you how they do it for modern day - spoilers!). And here are the things that I liked:
- Even though they're Lizzie's video blogs her faults and the narrowness of her views and opinions are extremely clear. Her portrayals of the other characters are so hilarious and over the top and the way that the other characters actually appear occasionally on the blog makes so much sense.
- Charlotte has real character development and is awesome! - And the way they do the Mr. Collins storyline is brilliant. BRILLIANT.
- Darcy is a Hipster!
- Everything about Lydia is amazing. Her whole storyline is so well done, with a great hint of meta. Because Lydia is awesome and she's talking about how she deserves what is happening to her ("and that's what everyone's saying, right?") which I think is how Lydia the character in the book is treated. Hell, that's kinda how I felt about her. It's so awesome to be called out about your opinions about a character!
- Lizzie is a Grad Student. Of course
- Somehow this weird format went from hilarious joking into deep emotional stuff without skipping a beat. My Heart!
- Bingley is actually a Med Student named Bing Lee. Which means that he's Asian. But also that his first name is Bing. Which is phenomenal for making jokes.
I feel like this only works in part because we know the story so well. Classics are classic for a reason and being able to have a whole video of Lizzie ranting mostly incoherently about what a dick Darcy is with very little hints to the context is a luxury that the producers can afford because we already know what happened at the ball when the Bennets first meet Bingley and Darcy. Instead of being confusing it's amusing and tantalizing because we want to know more about how it turned out in this version.
So yeah. It's weird because I'm pretty sure I like this better than I do P&P, but The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
couldn't exist without P&P. I think this is part of why I like fanfic and comic book movies and rebooting franchises (although I generally prefer new stories to retelling the same one over again). Because all of the story and tradition behind the new work helps shape it and make it bigger and more substantial. It's like how every retelling of the Iliad
says more about the time of the retelling than it does about the fall of Troy or the Dark Ages of Greece when Homer wrote down the story.
This got thinky. Sorry. I haven't been a Grad Student in over a semester - I think my analytical brain has recovered.
BUT the point is that if you like P&P and modern stories told in new and fun ways then you should watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
. You can find the videos here
(That link has all the videos in chronological order. I've only watched the youtube playlist with just Lizzie's videos so far because the biggest problem with this series is that through striving for verisimilitude it took me a while to find where to watch everything and not just Lizzie's perspective. To be fair I was also distracted.)