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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
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Review: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an “innovative, original episodic video and social media series produced for the web” adapted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

lbd 300x150 Review: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

That’s the boring description. The better description is it’s AWESOME and AMAZING and WOW.

Ahem.

The Plot: Lizzie Bennet, grad student, is creating and posting her online diaries (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) as part of her grad student thesis. Her best friend, Charlotte Lu, helps with the creation and editing; her sisters Jane and Lydia make appearances; and as time passes, the story is continued in not only more of Lizzie’s own videos but also in the video diary of her sister Lydia and the social media postings of friends and family.

The Good: AWESOME and AMAZING and WOW. Wait, did I say that already?

I can only watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as someone who loves the source material; so I’m not even going to pretend how this would work for non-Austen fans.

I loved, loved, loved this update: Lizzie is a grad student and her family is having financial difficulties, and that illustrates the socioeconomic divide between the Bennets and the Lees and the Darcys. The updates include tweaking names and using a diverse cast: George Wickham remains George Wickham, but Darcy is now William Darcy, Charles Bingley is Bing Lee, and Charlotte Lucas is Charlotte Lu.

Part of the fun, at least to me, is discovering those updates on my own,so I don’t want to give them all away. In this update, there are only three sisters. There is, however, a cousin Mary! So Mary does come into play, except the modern version of Mary is someone wh is both a bit emo and who feels like an outsider as a cousin, not a sister. Some things remain unchanged, such as Lizzie’s mother who is still marriage-obsessed for her daughters.

I also really enjoyed how The Lizzie Bennet Diaries made me re-think certain things about the series, such as how Lizzie’s own perspective impacts things. And Lydia. To avoid spoilers, all I’ll say is Lydia may be my favorite character.

The story has unfolded in “real time,” starting last April. What this means is that as of the time I’m writing this, the story is still going on!   For those who followed from the beginning, it means going to the website a few times a week to get updates on the story. Those updates are primarily video, but are also tweets or posts. For those who want to follow along in full-real time, you can follow the characters’ Twitter accounts. For those like me who only recently started watching, links to the full story (in proper, linear order) is at The Story.

I watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in the order at the website. (Hint to new watchers: I kept backspacing to the main page, not realizing each entry had it’s own next/previously link at the bottom). (Second hint: a couple of times, the wrong video played, so be careful that the number on the video is the right number you want to watch.) Theoretically, though, you could watch in any order you want: just interested in Lydia? Watch her own videos; don’t care for the tweets between characters? so don’t read them; etc.

Aside from just being a great series, and aside from showing how a retelling can be original, and aside from illustrating how an update can be faithful, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is also an example of how story-telling evolves and how that evolution does not mean that existing methods of story-telling disappear. We live in a world where Pride and Prejudice can be a book, can be movies and musicals and TV shows, and can also be a “video/social media” series. This retelling no more erases the Jane Austen book than an e-book means that linear storytelling and “books” disappear and become choose-your-own-adventure/game apps.

 

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Kristin says:

    I came across this by accident as a suggested video on Youtube shortly after it started. I’ve since lost track of the series, but what I did see was really funny. I think it’s a great way to retell a classic. I was initially disappointed that the remaining sisters didn’t make the cut in the story, but in all fairness it doesn’t diminish what they’re doing. I also could not speak to how this retelling would appeal to people unfamiliar with Austen (I am a huge fan too), but I don’t see why you couldn’t use this as a fun extension for required reading.

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      I think its a great way to see what themes are long lasting and not tied to a time or place. I also wonder how nonfans view it.

  2. Shelley says:

    I am such a huge, huge fan of this show – I’ve been watching since last May. I love most of the adaptations they’ve made. I think the easiest way to watch/catch up is straight from youtube – lots of people have compiled playlists with the videos and spinoffs in order. Even if you just want to watch the main story on Lizzie’s channel, they have it on a playlist that is in order and automatically launches the next one.

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      it’s funny, now that I binge watched to have to wait like everyone else for the tweets and video! So frustrating to not just go on to the next one. Thanks for the tip for watching it.

  3. Sondy says:

    Liz, forgive me, but when I watch this I usually think of you (Liz B!). I’m glad you found it!

    I love it, too. Each update of Pride and Prejudice has something that makes you think, “Oh! That totally makes sense now!” For me, with the Lizzie Bennet diaries, it’s George Wickham’s hotness. Yeah, Lizzie would get distracted, even if she knows he seems a bit shallow…. Yeah, she’d be tempted to believe his version….

    (By the way, have you ever seen Bride and Prejudice? I love that one.)

    Have you ever watched John and Hank Green’s vlog? My son and I used to watch it pretty frequently, and I was delighted at how much the Lizzie Bennet Diaries just seem like Lizzie’s vlog. Then I discovered Hank Green was the genius behind it, and I wasn’t surprised. (Have you watched his video about the concept? I enjoyed that.)

    I started watching about 17 videos in, on the recommendation of various siblings. You’ve reminded me I’m about a week and a half behind. It’s fun knowing what’s going to happen, but wondering how, exactly, it will play out. I also like that it plays out over months, like the original novel. None of this I-met-you-and-now-I’m-going-to-marry-you stuff.

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      having a hot, and seemingly sincere, George was great. And LOVE Bride & Prejudice. Have you seen LOST IN AUSTEN? I liked it, but I know some didn’t. Another interesting take on George.

  4. Sondy says:

    Oh, and did you see — they have a cat named Kitty Bennet!

  5. This is something I’d heard so much about, and I’ve finally begun watching it recently. I’m up to episode 25 or so, so I have a ways to go, but it’s so much fun that I’m not in a rush! Glad you’re loving it as well.

  6. Lindsay F says:

    So I’m only four episodes in and I like it, but don’t love it. I am not in love with the way the videos are edited. I feel like that format works best for Hank and John’s videos. It feels really rushed and I kind of feel like I’m getting slammed by quick talking. It works when I’m getting facts shoved at me but in this case, I don’t know, something feels weird.
    Also, this is a small quibble, but I really hate how orangey everyone’s blush looks! Is that just me? Does it get better? I just want to take a washcloth and scrub their faces clean!
    Also, so far Lydia has just been super annoying. Hopefully she gets more fun!

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      Lydia gets better when she has her own videos. It makes her something other than annoying Lydia.

  7. Jade says:

    Yay for fellow librarians who love TheLBD! I’m so obsessed with it that I’m doing a research project on it.

  8. Elizabeth Burns says:

    Jade, it’s a terrific show. I’m wondering if any librarians/teachers out there are going to use this to teach Pride & Prejudice or other books.

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