Considering how big a fan I am of the original source material (as well as the A&E mini, the Keira Knightly film, and the zombified version), I’m surprised it took me as long as it did to sit down to watch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, “an online adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” Maybe it’s because I’m such a big fan; I wasn’t sure I needed to see yet another version of the story.
No great surprise, like thousands of others across the internet I found myself sucked into the story of the Bennet sisters, Lizzie, Jane, and Lydia. (Where are Kitty and Mary, you might ask? They turn up in some clever ways.) Clever is probably the word I’d use the most in describing LBD; the web series updates some of the more old-fashioned ideas of the book in ways that both amuse and make perfect sense. Substituting men with large estates for men with large companies, turning Lizzie into a grad student with all the financial concerns that entails, and allowing the women to be empowered because as The Lydia Bennet might say, it’s the 21st century, bitches!
In all seriousness though, what probably hooked me through 86 episodes, plus all the multi-media content (aside from wanting to see Darcy on camera), was the fact that the characters – the women in particular – are all portrayed as actual people while remaining true to their predecessors. Jane is still the sweetest person on Earth, but ends up wiser and stronger even without having a ring on her finger. Charlotte maintains her practicality, but applies it to finding a job rather than a man. Lizzie is spurred to self-examination before Darcy calls her out on her prejudices. Even Caroline, though still an antagonist, is more than the conniving shrew she is in the novel.
But the best and greatest change must be reserved for Lydia Bennet (portrayed beautifully by Mary Kate Wiles). I’ve read Pride & Prejudice a hundred times and I’ve never cared about Lydia at all. She’s an especially stupid and thoughtless girl in a time when reputation actually means something. That she (spoiler alert!) ends up with an equally thoughtless man always seems like just desserts. And stupid, thoughtless Lydia is thrilled with the outcome even though everyone around her knows it’s a horrible match made under horrible circumstances. All she really cares about is that she gets married before her eldest sister Jane.
This Lydia is different. Even before she starts making her own videos, giving us her PoV as Austen never imagined, you can see the differences. Yes, she’s still excitable and outrageous, updated from a frivolous fifteen-year-old to a college party girl, but unlike the Lydia of the book, she isn’t oblivious to the world around her. She tries to deny or ignore anything negative in her life, but when someone expresses disappointment in her, the hurt is all over her face. Despite how “totes adorbs” she is, the show has created a Lydia with fragility, a girl who – underneath the alcohol, screw-ups, and seemingly boundless enthusiasm – has terribly low self-esteem. Which makes her relationship with George Wickham heart-breaking, rather than satisfactory. This may be the first time I’m hoping the adaptation will have a different ending from the source material.
And now that I’m caught up, I have to wait with the rest of the world to find out what happens next.
To get the full story, photos and Twitter exchanges included, I highly recommend using this page as a base: Story.