This post contains minor spoilers for Pride and Prejudice and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
Today was the first Monday that a new episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was not uploaded to YouTube.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – the popular web series that transplants Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice right into the 21st century – ended its run on Thursday, wrapping up a revolutionary take on a universally loved story.
Before discovering The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I had been hesitant to dive into the world of new media. It’s so vast and ever-changing, and I was worried that I would get sucked into a black hole. I had sampled web series with Felicia Day’s The Guild and StarKid’s Little White Lie. But The Lizzie Bennet Diaries opened my eyes to the power of this new method of storytelling.
In this imagining, Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet is now a 24 year old master’s student of mass communications who decides to start a vlog about her life. Her best friend Charlotte Lu helps her edit and even appears on camera sometimes, as do Lizzie sisters Jane and Lydia. As the story progresses, we meet the likes of Ricky Collins, Bing and Caroline Lee, George Wickham, Fitz Williams, and Gigi and William Darcy. Not only the names have been changed – for example, the Pemberley estate of Pride and Prejudice has become the company Pemberley Digital.
The story is told entirely in vlog style, though, in order for certain events to be on camera, characters will often spontaneously walk in on Lizzie recording her videos. Lizzie does costume theater to fill the viewer in on some events to which he was not privy, including all the scenes with her parents. There are even spinoff video channels – including The Lydia Bennet – to explain events that happen outside Lizzie’s realm of knowledge. Each character is also on Twitter, and some are on Tumblr and Pinterest, making the story unfold across multiple social media platforms.
But the brilliance of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is not just in its form – it’s how it has made the story of Pride and Prejudice fit into the modern world.
I don’t want to give away many spoilers, but I must say that the spins the story took on the book’s Mr. Collins/Charlotte marriage and the whole Mr. Wickham/Lydia affair feel fresh and surprisingly realistic in today’s media-saturated environment. It treats the Wickham debacle in a more overt way than would have been possible for Jane Austen. It is a testament to to creative powers of the producers that fans of the book were willing to embrace big changes to Austen’s original story.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries shows us that the great stories are indeed timeless. Pride and Prejudice does not need nineteenth century England to be a great story. It does not necessarily need Austen’s witty prose (not to discount her writing in any way, of course). A good story is a good story – no matter how, when, where, why, or through what medium it is told.
It seems as though the people behind The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are tackling Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript Sanditon next in a project entitled Welcome to Sanditon. I haven’t read it (I actually haven’t finished any Austen novel besides Pride and Prejudice…shh…), but I’m curious to see how the series will play out. Maybe I’ll have a glance at Sanditon before it starts.
Have you watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? What did you find make of the changes to the story? More broadly, how do you feel about storytelling through new media?