Pride & Prejudice & Video Diaries

Taking a break from my normal topics of discussion, I wanted to promote a series of YouTube shorts that I have been following for weeks now.

Jane Austen is probably the most adaptable of all English novelists, and each generation is able to reinterpret her works as they see fit.  If it is possible for an author to have a cult following while still being an integral part of the Western Literary Canon, that is Jane Austen.  Pride & Prejudice is undoubtedly her most beloved novel (although please read the equally wonderful Persuasion), which is why there are two miniseries, multiple films–including a Bollywood adaptation, stage plays, musicals, and more literary sequels and adaptations than you can shake a stick at (most famously Bridget Jones’s Diary, which is a brand unto itself), one with zombies.

It is therefore only natural that Elizabeth Bennet and the rest of the denizens of Pride & Prejudice should eventually find their way to the Internet.  Thus we have the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a YouTube web series which adapts and modernizes Austen’s novel.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are an ongoing series of video entries featuring Lizzie Bennet, a graduate student in mass communications. New videos are uploaded to a YouTube page every Monday and Thursday.  Lizzie is telling the entire world about her life, while in essence retelling the events of Pride & Prejudice (and yes, the video diaries begin with the exact same opening line as the book).

It’s an extremely clever concept, and it works really well.  As befitting a mass communications graduate student, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries makes use of multiple media beyond YouTube, including a home page, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

What I have liked most of all is how effortlessly the writers have adapted the book to today’s society.  If we are honest, Pride & Prejudice is an extremely difficult book to adapt.  The primary reason is that the role of women in society has changed.  In Austen’s day, women, particularly of a certain class, were meant to be wives and mothers and that’s about it.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries have been rather deft at handling this, and softening some of Austen’s sharpest edges (for example her portrayals of Lydia and Mrs. Bennet).

The other thing that has really impressed me about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is the effective way in which the historical reality has been updated to fit the modern time.  There are multiple examples, but the obvious one is the entail, the plot point that drives everything in Pride & Prejudice.  One may also infer that the entail is the reason why there were five Bennet daughters to begin with.  (If you need further enlightenment, we can talk more in the comments section of this post.)  Entails, at least in the United States where the Diaries are set, are a thing of the past (good riddance), but the writers were pretty clever in how they updated it.

And then there are the characters themselves.  At the moment there are only four major characters.  Lizzie, Jane, and Lydia Bennet, and Charlotte (Mr. Collins has made an appearance; it’s a riot).  Inevitably the first question will be what about Kitty and Mary.  I don’t want to spoil that, but trust me, I laughed when I found out about Kitty and Mary, especially the former.

If you are familiar with the book, you’ll notice there are major characters I have said nothing about.  Just so you know, Darcy has not yet appeared.

I’m embedding the first episode here.  Check it out, and then watch the rest.  They are surprisingly addictive.

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