Culture Editor Ilina Jha highlights the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a creative and fun modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries…why does that sound familiar? That would be because, while you may be unfamiliar with this YouTube web series, you will probably be familiar with the story at the heart of it. Yes, you guessed it: created by Hank Green and Bernie Su, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. Set in the US rather than the UK, the story follows 24-year-old Mass Communications student Lizzie Bennet (Ashley Clements) as she creates a video blog for her studies. The vlogs chronicle her life with her sisters Jane (Laura Spencer) and Lydia (Mary Kate Wiles), best friend Charlotte Lu (Julia Cho), and the rich new neighbours Bing Lee (Christopher Sean), Caroline Lee (Jessica Jade Andres), and William Darcy (Daniel Vincent Gordh). While Bing and Jane hit it off instantly, Lizzie and Darcy’s first encounter is practically hate-at-first-sight – but the story soon shows that first impressions do not tell the whole story…
I should mention at this point that I am a huge Austen fan, and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books of all time. I take adaptations seriously and can give you an array of opinions on the many period screen versions of this novel (the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth BBC series? Smash. The Keira Knightley movie? Pass). Needless to say, when I heard about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which was uploaded from 9th April 2012 to 28th March 2013), I was intrigued. How would Austen’s nineteenth-century story be translated into the present day?
Luckily for me, the creators did an outstanding job at turning a 200-year-old novel into a fresh, relevant YouTube series. Elements of the novel are very cleverly changed to fit better into present-day America – for example, Mr Darcy is transformed from the wealthy landowner of the Pemberley estate into the rich CEO of a company called Pemberley Digital. The series also makes use of other characters creating videos in order to enrich the storyline: Lydia keeps an engaging yet inconsistently uploaded blog, and Pemberley Digital itself uploads some videos to help the story move along. It is for this reason that I would recommend watching the complete playlist curated by Pemberley Digital, as it includes all these videos in order.
The casting for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is outstanding: every single actor shines in this web series. Wiles does a superb job embodying the many subtleties of Lydia’s character, and Clements is the ideal choice for one of my favourite heroines. The chemistry between the key couples is on point, and I’m particularly happy that they were able to portray an interracial couple with Jane and Bing. Although this may seem like a small matter, I, as the child of an interracial marriage, know how important this representation is.
Whether you’re a die-hard Austen fanatic or have never even touched a copy of Pride and Prejudice, I thoroughly recommend you watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Engaging, creative, and full of humour and poignancy, this Emmy-winning web series deserves a place in your life.
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