Lizzie Bennet Diaries superbly updates Pride and Prejudice
Written earlier - updated September 14, 2017.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are a Youtube vlog (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXfbQAimgtbk4RAUHtIAUww)
update to Jane Austen’s famous novel of manners “Pride and Prejudice”. Many modern versions of this story focus upon sex and murder rather than examining the concept of manners. While I was curious about checking out some of these variations, my hopes were not initially high.
The original plot themes
I didn’t expect this vlog would effectively cover the things that really make the novel important, as outlined below:
- Despite initial misunderstandings, both Elizabeth and Darcy eventually show enough of their true characters for love to triumph.
- Darcy holds a much higher social status, and sometimes expresses to Elizabeth his distaste for her family’s behaviour. But, upon learning that Lydia has disgraced her family, he reacts decisively and with discretion. It is only due to Lydia spilling the beans that Elisabeth realizes how far he has gone to help.
- As for Elisabeth, she comes to understand the importance of forgiveness and taking responsibility for her own behaviour. She learns how to balance her self-respect, and her family’s reputation. By developing a nuanced understanding of other peoples’ interests and actions, she wins respect from both Mr. Darcy and readers.
Points in common
But once I recognized some commonalities with the original novel, the quality of this series amazed me. This series of videos received the 2013 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media-Original Interactive Program. This award could not have more deserving recipients in my view. I haven’t seen anything more gripping and compelling in about 20 years. If you are a fan of the novel, you need to see this vlog.
Elisabeth has become Lizzie, who is a graduate student in her twenties living at home in this series. In common with the original Elisabeth, while she cares for people, she can also be quick to judge others. Darcy is, of course, a wealthy business owner. A set of coincidences in various work and social settings leave them no choice but to interact with each other. Just like the novel, for quite a while, they don’t like each other at all.
Points of difference
A difference in this series is that there is much more fleshing out of the minor characters here. Lydia again behaves in a way that threatens not only her own reputation, but that of her entire family.
When I initially thought about how anyone could update the original story, it really stumped me. In the original story, Lydia ran away with a brigand who promised to “besmirch her honour”. Darcy managed to track them down and apply himself in various ways to get a result. I could not see a modern variation doing anything beyond the male characters having a brawl or the like. Also, given how fluid and dynamic modern manners are, the social consequences of 1813 would likely raise shrugs today.
Stays true to the novel’s themes
But I was blindsided by the completely modern ethical dilemma created for Lydia. And the solution provided allows Darcy to act with courage, honour and discretion. Granted, he is in the right place at the right time, however the important thing is that he acts. And we don’t see him doing it, but surely he’s had to move heaven and earth to achieve the outcome. Darcy does so without fanfare, not looking to broadcast either his social status or to boost his reputation. He acts out of love for Lizzie. Perhaps even more importantly, he acts the way he did because it was the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, when Lizzie learns about Lydia’s situation, it forces her to reflect upon her own attitudes and behaviour. And when Lizzie hears about how Darcy solved the problem, she finally relates to him as an equal.
The evergreen themes in Pride and Prejudice speak to the best and worst aspects of human nature. As was the case in 1813, life often offers us a bunch of decisions with consequences we cannot clearly foresee. It’s rarely black and white as to what the right choices should be. And while we now live in a world of fast moving and shallow connections, acting with honour still stands out.