It is a truth universally acknowledged that the truths in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are universal. As early as 1938, television adaptations of the novel have been hitting the screen, 10 years before commercial television network programming began in the U.S. Since then, Pride and Prejudice has been made and remade: classical pieces (most recently with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen in 2005), Bollywood extravaganzas (Bride and Prejudice), even Renée Zellweger chick flicks (Bridget Jones’ Diary). What Austen constructed was a story, so simple and yet so deeply realistic in its portrayal of the human condition. What molds Pride and Prejudice are its characters: effervescent Elizabeth, reserved Darcy, sweet Jane, silly Lydia and kind Bingley. No matter where or when they are, these individuals demonstrate the truths of life and love. Last April, these characters were shoved into a world that they have never experienced — ours.
Toeing a unique meta-fiction line, 24-year-old grad student Lizzie Bennet (portrayed by Ithaca College graduate Ashley Clements) posted the first video to her blog “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” on April 9. With help from her best friend Charlotte Lu (Julia Cho) Lizzie has been posting two videos every week, maintaining a real time portrayal of Austen’s famous novel. Lizzie speaks to us, she knows we are watching and finds our strange obsession with the obnoxious Darcy (Daniel Gordh) quite confusing. Of course, to modernize it, and maintain some of the larger plot points, story details have had to be altered. Mary and Kitty Bennet are no longer sisters. Instead, Mary (Briana Cuoco) is the gothic cousin Lydia (Mary Kate Wiles) and her parents visit while their house is being “remodeled.” Jane (Laura Spencer) and Lizzie are forced to camp out at Netherfield. Kitty is still one of the most popular characters: She is Lydia’s cat.
Since Lizzie could not very well ask Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Bennet, Catherine de Bourgh or Darcy to appear on screen, she has given viewers perhaps one of the best parts of the show: she, along with any unsuspecting passerby — from Charlotte to Jane to Fitz (Craig Frank) — act out the parts of these characters. Lizzie’s impersonation of her mother is the greatest: she dons a shawl, a blue floppy hat, giant gaudy earrings and begins to speak like a southern belle. While these portrayals serve to bring all of our favorite characters to the screen, they also construct Lizzie’s pig-headed misunderstanding of the personalities’ and motives of many people in her life and her blindness to some of their more endearing qualities. For Pride and Prejudice fans these portrayals are flawless: they allow us to perceive Lizzie’s failings and still love her. Occasionally Jane or Charlotte will hijack Lizzie’s blog and tell us viewers the details Lizzie missed or simply chose to ignore.
For true fans who want more than just two five minute videos a week, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” are more than just a Youtube video blog, the characters have seeped over onto social media websites: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pintrest. Each of the characters can post what they are currently doing and hold conversations with each other and their fans. For example, Gigi (Georgiana) Darcy has yet to make an actual appearance and has only been mentioned once or twice on the actual video blogs. However, like the good big brother he is, William Darcy has been keeping tabs on her:@wmdarcy I’m fine, don’t go all over-protective big brother on meGigi Darcya month agoReplyRetweetFavorite @ggdarcy But I'm your big brother. It’s my job.William Darcya month agoReplyRetweetFavorite @wmdarcy Dork.Gigi Darcya month agoReplyRetweetFavorite Other little gems for viewers have been thrown in. “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” Facebook page recently posted a picture of Darcy and Fitz enjoying their vacation together while visiting the business Collins and Collins, run by our favorite Mr. Collins (Maxwell Glick) and owned by none other than Catherine de Bourgh. While this media explosion is great, it is not necessary in the least to understanding the story. It is exciting that less than a month ago Darcy began to follow Lizzie on Twitter, however all of the action of the story occurs through Lizzie’s video blogs. So, if you are like me and can’t tell a Tumblr from a Twitter, there is no need to panic. Each and every moment of the story is posted on the Youtube account and there is no need to go digging through cyberspace for the one tiny detail they may have posted on Kitty Bennet’s Twitter (yes, the cat has a Twitter and has over 8,000 followers).
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is perfect for anyone the least bit interested in Pride and Prejudice. For die-hard fans, lines such as “the pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow” have made the cut. For those who have never read the book, the only confusion comes from Darcy’s letter, as Lizzie refuses to read it to us. Even knowing exactly what it says, I sometimes find that all I want to scream is, “What’s in the letter?”
Mysterious letters aside, the video blog is addictive and excellently crafted. It has certainly taken off; the November 1 episode (known affectionately to fans as “Darcy Day”) received more than 100,000 views in less than 24 hours, according to creators Hank Green and Bernie Su. The truth is unavoidable: Pride and Prejudice is a romance and coming of age story that speaks to countless individuals spanning centuries. While modernizing it to an astounding degree, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” preserves what is truly important about Pride and Prejudice: the characters, their trivial concerns, the misunderstandings and the human condition.