A truth universally awknowledged
From Austen to Youtube to Austen.
Every re-telling of Pride and Prejudice automatically triggers alarms. I remember my sadness when I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and realized that it had excised everything I loved in Jane Austen’s masterpiece and replaced it with zombie-murdering titillation. The latest incarnation in a long line of adaptations, the Youtube series the Lizzie Bennett Diaries (LBD), is a demonstration of the power of the internet to tell a story. This particular story had quite a lot to live up to, and to overcome.
In the simplest terms, it delivered. In fact, it surpassed expectations in every way. Significant changes were made in order to modernize the story, setting, and characters, but every change was made with respect for the feel, purpose, and story of the original.
Lizzie becomes a mass communications grad student, and her vlog diaries start as a course project on Youtube. The viewer ends up loving Lydia and Mary Bennett, who both have bigger and more significant character arcs. Minor characters are cut, but their departures are handled with a nod to the original; Kitty Bennett becomes an actual cat who follows Lydia everywhere, and Anne de Bourgh becomes a small dog adored by her “mother.”
The sensitivity in handling these necessary changes is why this adaptation works. They are always undertaken with respect for the overall feel of the original, while staying true to the creation of a new kind of story. Everything is interconnected. No facet of Lizzie Bennett's world is ignored, but neither is any facet of Jane Austen’s work.
The Lizzie Bennett Diaries succeed because the creators honoured Austen’s story while truly connecting the audience to the characters, creating closeness through the power of Youtube and social media. It’s storytelling in the 21st century, and, while I will always love books over book adaptations, it is my earnest hope that Sense and Sensibility soon makes its Youtube debut.
The beautiful thing about the Lizzie Bennett Diaries (LBD) is connection. Over a year of weekly updates, I have become a confidant and co-conspirator of the Bennett sisters. I am trusted with the innermost workings of their lives, ranging from the eccentric musings of Lizzie’s mother to the most vulnerable moments of my favorite character, Lydia. The web series platform allows me to be actively involved in the story, and, because I have not read Pride and Prejudice or seen the movie adaptations, I am not confined to preconceptions about what should be happening. I am able to live each vlog with the characters, participating in the intimate moments of their lives.
Youtube is a perfect medium for the Lizzie Bennett Diaries because the site is designed to foster its own communities unique to each channel. I am encouraged to be personally invested in lives of the characters. This is the desire of most avid readers, who secretly long to be their favourite character’s best friend.
The well-known Youtuber Hank Green of VlogBrothers, who produced LBD, has an immense audience eager for all things nerdy and literary. Many of the viewers are, as I am, thoroughly immersed in the world of web videos. Through the web series adaptation, a young viewer struggling with classical literature can experience a non-threatening re-telling of the story of Pride and Prejudice.
A young reader must wrestle with difficult language; there is a magic in uncovering prose. But there is be something to be said about falling in love with characters that become as real to you as any other vlogger on Youtube. I can confidently say that Youtube led me to Jane Austen. It is only after experiencing the Lizzie Bennet Diaries that I can open Jane Austen’s novel and revisit the characters that I have come to know as dear friends.