It’s been a whirlwind romance. At first, I only saw the occasional gifset of those snarky Bennet sisters–and the charmingly awkward Darcy–on Tumblr. Then, everything changed when I came down with one of those nasty bugs going around this time of year and was couch bound. I watched all 6 hours of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries currently on YouTube, and fell in love. It’s fresh! It’s hip! It’s a new take on a classic story! Plus, did I mention it’s freaking awesome?
The LBD is a mixture of new media with classic literature, which is a perfect marriage in my opinion. It tells the story of Lizzie Bennet, a 24-year-old graduate student, who, along with her sisters and friends, narrates her life through confessional-style vlogs. The web series premiered on YouTube on April 9, 2012 and has amassed a rather large fanbase, as well as some media attention. The Guardian named it “the best Austen adaptation around.” While this series seems to be growing in popularity by the day, I decided to try my own hand at forcing people to watch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (because you definitely should.)
I went into the LBD without knowing much about it. Seriously, I had seen some of my friends on Tumblr reblog photos and gifs, but I didn’t know much about it other than the whole Pride and Prejudice tie in. So as I was watching it, I had no idea it was produced by a whole team of people. I thought it was started by some girl as a thesis project and it kind of just took off from there. So I have to give the creators, Hank Green and Bernie Su, a lot of credit for the realistic quality of the videos. I have never seen anything like the LBD anywhere ever before. Not only is there the main series of Lizzie’s videos, there are spin-off series. Her sister, Lydia, started a YouTube channel of her own that features their cousin Mary; Charlotte’s little sister had a short-lived series called Maria of the Lu. The LBD also has a lot of interactivity with the fans, often in the form of Q&A videos. There has never been anything like this before, and hopefully it will lead to even more great web series like it.
From Lizzie’s dramatic interpretations of her mother and father through Costume Theater to Lydia’s constant schmoozing and use of unnecessarily shortened words (Totes adorbs!), this series is really funny. My favorite jokes were the ones that Charlotte plays on Lizzie in the editing process of the videos (there are devil horns involved.) Although much if it is intentionally hilarious, the writers don’t lose sight of the story they’re trying to tell. Sure, Lydia is sometimes over the top with her party girl antics, and Jane, Lizzie’s older sister, is comically nice all the time, but it adds to the story. These characters are all the more likable if they’re able to laugh at themselves, which they do often. And that leads me to:
Its Characters (and Cast)!
This crazy group of kids (well, semi-adults) is nothing like anything else I’ve seen before. Every single character in this series is absolutely lovable. Lizzie (Ashley Clements) is smart and snarky; Jane (Laura Spencer) is sweet and caring; Lydia (Mary Kate Wiles) is wild and honest; Charlotte (Julia Cho) is sensible and loyal. The cast plays these characters perfectly and so realistically that I wouldn’t mind being friends with any of them. Plus, there are the more minor characters like Bing Lee (Christopher Sean), Caroline Lee (Jessica Jade Andres), William Darcy (Daniel Gordh), Mr. Collins (Maxwell Glick), Gigi Darcy (Allison Paige), and Fitz Williams (Craig Frank). How often do you find a show where you love all the characters? It’s rare, but this is definitely one of those shows. I would love to meet all of these characters (or at least the actors and actresses who portray them) in real life because I’ve bonded with each of them. And of course, I’ve completely fallen in love with Darcy (I mean, c’mon, he wears suspenders; I never even had a chance.)
Its Unique Storytelling!
In an interview with The Stylish, Ashley Clements talks about the LBD’s use of transmedia storytelling; that is, telling a story across multiple media platforms. In the case of the LBD, they tell Lizzie Bennet’s story using YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. The people behind the LBD even created real fake websites for Mr. Collin’s company, Collins & Collins, and Darcy’s company, Pemberly Digital. Telling Lizzie’s story across so many sites and social media platforms allows the viewers to become very connected with the narrative. It creates a whole world for the story on the Internet and fans of the series can choose their own level of interaction with the narrative and the characters. It’s sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure, which is really, really cool.
It’s A Great Adaptation!
Okay, I have to admit: I haven’t actually read Pride and Prejudice. I know, I know I’m terrible. It’s one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time and just haven’t gotten around to. (I have seen the 2005 Keira Knightly movie adaptation.) That being said, even The Guardian said the LBD is a great adaptation and that’s some high praise. Besides, this series focuses more on the relationships between the Bennet sisters, as well as Lizzie’s friendship with Charlotte, than Lizzie and Darcy’s romance. Their romance is actually on the back burner most of the time. In the LBD, Lizzie is a twenty-first century woman who is studying to get her master’s degree. Like many 24-year-old women in this day and age, her family and her career take precedent over marriage and children, which makes her even more relatable to a modern audience. Of course, her mother is still obsessed with marrying off her daughters, but that actually hasn’t changed too much. (On my one-year anniversary with a now-ex, my father commented on the status I posted asking where my ring was. I’m not kidding.)
Seriously, though, at least give the Lizzie Bennet Diaries a shot. What do you have to lose? Six measly hours of your life? What were you going to do with those six hours? Make dinner? Shower? Homework? Pshaw.