Tuesday, January 29, 2013

200 Years of Elizabeth Bennet? Splendid

January 28th, 2013 was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is one of the most ardently admired love stories in all of literature.  (See what I did there?  Mixing two P&P references in the same sentence…) 

I think it’s so incredible that this story written published in 1813 rings true enough with modern people that they continue to retell the story over and over.  In the last twenty years, there have been numerous versions of the story produced for TV and film.  Of course, three of them really stick out for me

The 1995 miniseries adaptation for the BBC starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet contained six episodes and one lake scene that viewers won’t soon forget.  This version really elevated Colin Firth to stardom, especially in the U.S.

Bridget Jones’s Diary, the 2001 film adaptation based on the novel by Helen Fielding.  Elizabeth Bennet, or in this case Bridget Jones, smoked, drank, had a vulgar mother and verbal diarrhea, but Mr. Mark Darcy liked her anyway – just as she was.  Colin Firth playing this newer version of Darcy didn’t hurt his image with the fans either.  I always found it amusing that in the Bridget Jones book sequel, The Edge of Reason, Bridget interviews Colin Firth about the infamous lake scene in the 1995 version.  The interview didn’t make it to the final cut of the second movie, but you can find it on the DVD special features.

For a lot of younger fans, when they imagine Elizabeth Bennet, they picture Keira Knightley.  The 2005 film brought the classic story to a whole new generation of fans.  It does not hurt the film one bit that Dame Judi Dench plays Lady Catherine, because who doesn’t love Judi Dench?  No one.  She’s amazing.

A few months ago I stumbled upon the YouTube series TheLizzie Bennet Diaries.  It’s a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that takes place through a series of short vlogs.  The main characters are all there in some form, though the Bennet family is slightly different.  There are only three Bennet daughters: Jane, Lizzie, and Lydia.  Mary Bennet is a cousin while Kitty Bennet is, well, the family cat.  Lizzie is a graduate student making videos as part of her course work, and her best friend, Charlotte, does most of the editing.  The Bennet sisters and Charlotte make guest appearances in a lot of Lizzie’s videos.

Charlotte, Lizzie, Lydia, and Jane

One of the most unique parts to the web series is the “costume theatre” Lizzie uses to reenact conversations. 
Lydia as Bing Lee and Lizzie as Darcy

The viewer has yet to see Lizzie’s parents, but she and her posse tell the viewers everything they need to know through recreations of the scenes that took place off camera. 
Lizzie as Mrs. Bennet and Charlotte as Mr. Bennet

Reenactments are how the viewers initially get to know Darcy, though he appears in later videos.
Darcy portraying himself and Lizzie in episode 80

I really love that the creators of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries have gone beyond Lizzie’s own videos to create a whole universe for the characters.  In addition to Lizzie’s videos, Lydia has her own vlog.  I find this particularly fascinating, because you really see how Lydia’s character develops throughout the story.  The characters also have Tumblrs blogs and Twitter accounts.  You can see the characters interact with one another, so even on days when there are no videos, the story continues.

Despite the fact that many of the viewers and fans of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries already know how the story ends, the writers and actors have us riveted.  They have done an incredible job of updating the story and making it relevant for modern fans 200 years after the original.

Lizzie’s videos are updated on Wednesdays and Fridays and Lydia’s videos are uploaded Tuesdays and Fridays, all at 9am Pacific.  You can subscribe to their updates on Twitter.  For all other information, including actor bios and the story behind the project, visit the Lizzie Bennet Diaries homepage.

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