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.
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!