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Pride and Prejudice at 200 (and a genius YouTube interpretation)

pride and prejudice, jane austen, the lizzie bennet diaries

If you’re a Jane Austen fan like me (and if you’re not, I beg you to read on anyway! you’re in for a surprising and fabulous treat!), you’ll know already that Pride and Prejudice is two hundred years old this week.

I first read this book when I was fifteen and it was as gripping for me then as it was for readers in 1813.  I was sitting on a step outside my modern block of a school, on a cold afternoon, in the teachers’ car park.  It was dinner break and the playground was full of stupid boys re-enacting Saturday’s football game and battering hell out of each other, and the cloakroom was full of girls spraying hairspray around to cover the smell of cigarette smoke.  I wanted some peace and quiet to finish this brilliant book I was reading, and the car park was the only place to find it.  I was so engrossed in Darcy’s brooding I failed to hear the bell go for afternoon classes.  Half an hour later, I was in front of my form teacher being handed a detention.  Detention for reading! Oh, the Austen-like irony!

Today there’s a new and brilliant retelling of the book on YouTube, which has had me equally gripped – although luckily no detention this time :)  Jane Austen and YouTube!  You never would have put those two together, but it’s witty and inventive and I’ve loved it way more than any period adaptation I’ve ever seen.  If you haven’t yet caught up with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, forget everything else, click on this link and watch!

How to start with why this is so great?  It’s a series of five minute video diaries in which Lizzie Bennet sits in her bedroom talking about her family and friends to the camera.  Her best friend, Charlotte Lu, is her film editor and helps her recreate scenes using costume props.  Quite often other characters will burst in and interrupt, and as the series progresses and Lizzie starts filming in different locations tension mounts.  We gradually get to know and see in the flesh characters who we’ve only ever heard Lizzie talk about.

First of all, I love it because the costume props for each character are hiliarious.  Bingley is Bing Lee, a medical student, and when Lizzie “does” him for the camera, she wears one of those round metal things on her head. (I don’t know what they’re called – as Charlotte rightly points out, ‘doctors don’t even have them any more’.)   Mr Bennet is a pipe and trilby, Mrs Bennet is an ageing southern belle in a floppy hat, and for Darcy she puts on a bow-tie and a deep, droning voice.  My absolute favourite prop, though, is for George Wickham.  In this version he is a team swiming coach with abs (what a masterly idea!), and Lizzie plays his character wearing swimming goggles.   That makes me laugh out loud every time.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Lydia vs Mr Collins – my favourite episode

But what makes this so great is that the diaries aren’t just a funny spoof.  Each character is well-drawn and faithful to Jane Austen’s originals.  Charlotte says of Lizzie, “Lizzie sees what Lizzie sees”, to illustrate her friend’s prejudice.  Lizzie illustrates Jane’s niceness by pretending to be her greeting a range of people – best friend, worst enemy and the postman – with the same words: “Oh, nice to meet you!”  George Wickham is a smooth muscular blond who calls Lizzie “Peach” (cringe).  Lydia is one of the most genius and inventive reincarnations as a boy-mad hyper partier on Xanax.  She actually comes across as quite lonely and vulnerable.  As I write this Lydia is partying in Vegas (the modern-day Brighton), Lizzie is worrying about her and we know that no good will come of it.

Lizzie becomes an intern at Pemberley Digital, whose CEO is…yes, you guessed it.  The creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries have also invented a whole world outside of Lizzie.  You can watch Lydia’s own vlogs (a car crash waiting to happen) or catch up with @that_caroline on Twitter.  @wmdarcy tweets such gems as: I found the one shop that stocks something other than box wine. Some moderately passable choices. Returning shortly.

My only one regret is that Mr Bennet doens’t play a bigger role in this version.  Jane describes her dad as “low-key”, and after that he is rarely mentioned.  Of course he is low-key in the book, too, but his very low-keyness plays a major role in the disaster that unfolds.  It would have been great if this was more emphasised in this version.  Plus, Mr Bennet might have taken little responsibility and been generally useless in the book, but Jane Austen gave him a nice line in dry wit.  His present-day tweets would be awesome.

So that’s it, although I feel I’ve only touched the surface of this great adaptation.  If you’d like to find out who’s behind it all, there’s an article here you might enjoy.

Please do watch the series and come back and leave me some comments!  No-one else I know has watched this and I am reduced to following Darcy’s infrequent tweets like a sad stalker.  If you’ve seen any other modern adaptations you’ve loved, of this novel or any other period drama, please let me know.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are nearly over – I need something else to watch!

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11 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice at 200 (and a genius YouTube interpretation)

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. So sorry I haven’t replied until now. (For some reason WordPress moved a whole load of comments to my spam box, that weren’t spam.) I haven’t watched Lost in Austen – thanks for the tip! I just googled it and it looks good. The only novel I’ve read, which is based on P&P, is Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I really enjoyed. Haven’t tried any other spin offs, but will look out for some and give them a try. Thanks again for your comment and sorry for the lat reply! WIll check my spam box more often!

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  1. I love the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! I think they r very faithful to the book although i think lydia is incredibly annoying and although iv re watched Lizzie’s blogs i wont re watch lydia’s.
    I hadnt thought before about how little we hear of her dad as i agree he does have a great wit. at least they kept the part where he teases his wife about seeing bing lee.
    i do think it very ironic tht u got a detention for reading! thanks for a great blog :)

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    1. Hi, thanks for your great comment! I haven’t watched Lydia’s blogs yet, but I think you’re right – she would be annoying if you had to watch too much of her! I’m glad someone else has loved these Diaries as much as I do – thanks for stopping by!

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      1. Yes, I did! I didn’t expect that at all – I thought Lydia knew all about the videos (I haven’t been watching her vlogs). I liked the idea Lizzie’s room has been revamped by her mum – that made me laugh. I’m really intrigued to see where this is going to go now, though, as it’s diverging from the book and I don’t know how Darcy is going to fix this. Exciting!

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  2. I must admit I wondered if she did know but i couldn’t decide and then wow the emotional reaction! we watched it twice but the second time was no easier to watch.
    I hope lizzie and lydia sort things out between them because, thinking about it, how could lizzie think that her sister knew? I know lydia is a bit carefree and I find her irritating but as a sister I expected lizzie to be on lydias side.
    i think darcy will buy the company but who knows what will happen to lydia, may be a bit happier end for her:)

    yes the light comic relief of her bedroom turned into a sanctuary for her mum was great :)

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    1. …thinking about it, how could lizzie think that her sister knew?

      Yes, that’s a good point. I hadn’t thought of that. Then I got to thinking, maybe it was easier to think that Lydia must have known, than to think anyone, even George, could be such a horrible person?
      And I’m hoping Lydia somehow gets a happier ending in this version than in the book. They’ve made her a warmer character in this version, and not as selfish. Can’t wait to find out…

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  3. hmm that is what my husband said but i just think that she could have at least considered that possibility and come on a little less harsh. Maybe asking Lydia about it rather than accusing her of it.
    i have not seen the latest Pemberly digital so i’m looking forward to watching :)

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    1. Hi, just watched the latest blog. Hmm, not sure what to think of this one. I appreciate everyone is still worried sick about Lydia – and their dad got a mention, which was good – and their worry came across really well, but I thought Lizzie’s acting was a little overdone. ALso, one big thing in the book is that Elizabeth thinks Lydia’s behaviour has put Darcy off totally from marrying her. She doesn’t hear from Darcy for weeks, and thinks it’s all over. I don’t know what you think, but I thought it would have been good if Lizzie could have thrown in that she hasn’t heard from Darcy, and that she’s worried he’s sick of her familiy and she’ll never hear from him again.
      Looking forward to the next one!

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      1. im thinking she will mention the lack of darcy soon but wanted to show the worry over lydia. it makes sense for her to not really notice who is or isnt keeping in touch. im not sure about the overacting i felt something was a little off so you are probably right i will re watch at some point.
        yea it was a great mention of their dad as i wondered if he would ever find out, thought that plot line was great :)

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