Here’s a little fact about me. I love Jane Austen. My capstone project for my BA was a comparison of Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet versus contemporary versions like Bridget Jones. My Master’s Thesis was a novel in the style of Jane Austen. And above all, I love Pride and Prejudice. So when I found out there was a web series that is a modern day P&P, well, I had to watch it.
I’m not sure I can possibly express how glad I am that I did. But I’ll try, because otherwise what is the point of this article, am I right?
Now, I’m not sure I should have to say this, but, I guess, Spoiler Alert? I may reveal plot points to the story. But I don’t feel bad about it because A- Pride and Prejudice is a 200 year old classic, B – Colin Firth BBC mini-series and C- Beautiful Keira Knightly/Matthew Macfayden 2005 movie. I won’t spoil any plot point that is specific to the web series, but if it happened in the book, it doesn’t count as a spoiler. Agreed? Cool.
This version of P&P is set up a bi-weekly vlog from Lizzie Bennet herself. She is everything you would expect a modern day Lizzie (Ashley Clements) to be – sarcastic, loquacious, judgmental, funny, and smart. And as we are slowly introduced to most of the people around her, they are also just as we would expect them to be. Jane (Laura Spencer, who I choose to believe is named for the General Hospital character) is pretty and quiet and sweeter than any one person should ever be. Lydia (Mary Kate Wiles) is loud and brash and selfish, but for all her narcissism it becomes clear that there is a scared and broken girl in there. Mary (Briana Cuoco) who in this version is a cousin, is emo-tastic, smart and shy. Charlotte (Julia Cho) is the best best friend Lizzie could ask for and the best editor to her vlogs. And Kitty— well, Kitty is actually a kitty. And adorably sweet kitty.
Then there is the rest of the group. Bingley (Christopher Sean) is now Bing Lee, a sweet doofy med student. And Darcy (Daniel Vincent Gordh) is still very, very rich and sometimes a snob, but also a hipster who occasionally favors bow ties and ‘Newsie’ hats. But for every change, and given that this is 2013 and not 1800 and our family laws and social customs are a wee bit different, there are quite a few changes, the heart of the story is still there. We still understand why Lizzie at first falls for Wickham (Wes Aderhold) – and not just because he looks like he should be on The CW. We understand why she hates Darcy at first and then eventually starts to soften when it comes to him. Gigi (Allison Paige) is one of the biggest changes, I feel, going from sweet sister of Darcy who just likes Elizabeth, to actively pushing Lizzie and Darcy together.
Here is why, quite simply, is why the series works for me: I unabashedly care about what happens to these characters. Not only do I care, I actively worry about them. Currently we are to the point in the series when Lizzie discovers that Lydia has been with Wickham and I have spent a large amount of time chatting with my friends on Twitter on where Lydia is, has Mary called her, does Jane know, etc etc. Which, logically, makes no sense whatsoever because, first of all, they are fictional and second, I already know how this story ends! I’ve read the book so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve seen the 2005 version of the movie so many times that I can recite it for you right now if you’d like. The end is not a mystery to me in any way shape or form. Yet, I still worry, which is a testament to not only how well written the series is but how well acted it is.
This group, whether it is Ashley Clements who is on every video of her series, or the hysterical Craig Frank as Fitz Williams who has only been on a few episodes, all immediately win over the audience with their pitch perfect (who is singing A Capella versions of songs in their head right now?) portrayal of every nuance their character brings to the scene. And the way they tell the story – through Lizzie’s ramblings combined with what she calls “costume theater” to let the audience in on what happens in the time outside the rooms where she shoots her vlogs – is very clever. We never feel like we are missing out on the important stuff, even if a lot of it happens off camera.
Each character has grown over the 80+ videos (more than 100, if you count the so-called spin-offs) in such a natural progression. We see each moment where their mood or feelings change. The Lizzie from video 1 is not the Lizzie in video 84. The same can be said of each character and the fact they have accomplished that in about 4 minute increments and never felt forced is amazing. I can’t wait to see how they continue to change and deal with the obstacles that still lie ahead.
It is rare that a modern-day adaptation of a classic can really encapsulate everything the original has come to stand for. Something is always missing or gets lost in translation. Yet, here I never felt like the contemporary changes that were made hurt the essence of the story. They have stayed true to Austen and to the new millennium. If you haven’t seen it, check out the website, LizzieBennet.com. From there you can follow the story chronologically, including Lydia’s video diaries, Charlotte’s sister’s videos, Gigi’s videos, Twitter conversations and Tumblr posts. There are also links to follow the characters via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and their YouTube accounts. It’s quite the transmedia enterprise!
And if you are already watching, well follow me on Twitter so we can discuss it! It’s my favorite thing to do! @serrae
photos courtesy of Lizzie Bennet Diaries