Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a huge fan of Jane Austen. I've got copies, sometimes multiple ones, of all her works. I own all the DVD adaptations. I even have some of the fan work and mashups like Seth Graham Smith's "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." If there's something out there that smacks of Austen, I've probably got it in my house somewhere.
Naturally, I'm a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice. Its my favorite work of hers, and I think its a brilliantly written novel. For me, there isn't much in this world that's as fun as cracking open my incredibly dog-eared copy of P&P and rereading the exploits of Elizabeth Bennet. I love her humor and wit. I love her mistakes and her ability to learn with humility. She's a great character.
About two or three months ago Sakura came over, and knowing I am a huge fan, he asked me if I had seen the new YouTube series based on P&P. I hadn't. Naturally, I was a little leery of an online adaptation of my favorite book. I thought there was no way that anyone could make the book as engaging on screen as it is in print. I love the movie adaptations, but none of them, up until now, really spoke to me.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has changed all of that.
This is Lizzie Bennet, and I'm a little bit in love.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is one of the most wonderful adaptations of any book I've ever seen. And I've seen plenty of them. Its part of why I am so critical of movie/screen adaptations of great books. They normally ruin the original. I loved Jurassic Park before I read the book. Gone with the Wind is a great movie, but it will never compare to the original writing. Even the recent adaptations of books like Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) and The Hunger Games (Susanne Collins), while wonderful, and really close to the original story, leave a sense of wanting when it comes to viewing versus reading. Not so with the fabulous LBD.
The whole premise of this adaptation is that Lizzie is a graduate student in Mass Communications and is doing a vlog about her life as part of her final project. I love this premise, because it gives the viewer, immediately, a solid reason as to why Lizzie would be recording the craziness of her life and family for all of mankind to view. After you deal with that idea (and its used well throughout the storyline- not just as a set-up for the series) you can dive right in to the awesomeness that is LBD.
The characters are amazing. I love how the creators of the show Bernie Su and Hank Green have managed to keep the show, despite the pantings of the fandom (and there's a surprisingly huge fandom) focused on Lizzie and in a more peripheral way, her family. This isn't about Lizzie and Darcy or about Jane and Bing Lee (great name, right?). The creators got it right- this video series is all about the girl making it. And as an added benefit, you get to see a wonderful cast pf characters, the ones you loved so much in the book, come to life in ways you never imagined.
I won't spoil what happens in the series for you, because I know you're going to trust my judgement of all things Austen and go check it out. You should, really. Even if you go on a marathon watch, you've only lost six hours, and really, that's like watching Lord of the Rings in its entirety. You can do it. But I will say this- it is seriously addictive. When I first picked up the channel on You Tube (you can click here to go there when you're done reading here) I watched the first few episodes, decided it was too much fun for the girls to miss out, so I stopped, waited for them to get home from work, and then spent the evening in front of the computer with them watching the series up until we ran out of videos. We skipped dinner, ordered pizza and ate in front of the television. That's huge in our house. The only other time we've done that was when we streamed election results this last November. From then on, the girls and I watch the newest updates as soon as we can. When the girls started missing some because life gets you busy sometimes, I started watching on my own. And then I discovered what geniuses the creators of the show really are.
There are tumblr accounts. There are twitter accounts. (Go to this page to get them all) Lydia has her own channel on YouTube. Charlotte's little sister has her own channel, too. Heck- Lydia's cat Kitty Bennet (see what they did there?) has its own Twitter account. Weeks before you even see some characters they start popping up on tumblr and twitter, they follow Lizzie's videos. Its amazing and intricate and smart. Pemberley has its own channel, twitter feed. It blows my mind the amount of time that they creators of the show spend working these little trans-media tidbits into the show. Last week there was a fandom explosion. I won't tell you what its about, I'll let you catch up on the series, but there were rumblings of what was going on in the comments on Lydia's channel days before the video that dropped the bomb was released. But if you don't read YouTube comments, you wouldn't know. I didn't. Until I heard. Until I went to find them myself. And I was mind-blown again. So mind-blown, in fact, that I immediately called Sakura to see if he had seen/heard it yet.
This is a series made to be enjoyed by an internet savvy generation. Can you just watch the LBD videos and enjoy the series? Oh, absolutely. They write it with those people in mind. But when you get down to brass tacks, there is so much more there for a person who lives on their computer. Like me. Like most of my friends. I've never experienced something like this- a form of entertainment that is so interactive and exciting. As an experience, its incredible. I get up every day and like the fan geek that I am, I check the channels, I check YouTube, twitter and tumblr. I check it throughout the day to see what's happening. I subscribed on Facebook. I'm obsessed- something no other adaptation has been able to do to me. Do I love the Hunger Games? Sure, but I don't check the fan sites. I lost the obsession with Potter like that days after it started. But for me, LBD is going about this the right way. I can't get enough.
What's even more amazing to me, is that the show's creators, the actors, the producers are all so open about what they do and why they do it. There's hangouts on YouTube and live chats via twitter and Facebook. The people who created the show listen to the playlists that fans make, they look at the fan art. They listen to the joys and sorrows of the fans. They think of things I would never have thought of...when Darcy asks Lizzie to the theater they actually know what's playing in SF at the moment of the airing, what's on in neighboring cities and they even have head cannon answers that make sense within the storyline, even if they aren't playing. The crazy thing is, you'll never know...it never comes up in the story. But they have that answer for you, just because you might ask. I love that.
Even if you don't care how revolutionary and wonderful the adaptation is, the story itself is enough to keep you happy. The execution is amazing. In a vlog, we know we won't see everyone...so how do you deal with that in an adaptation?
Meet Mrs and Mr. Bennet, as portrayed by Lizzie and her bff Charlotte. Its genius, right? The use of costume theater is an amazing idea, and one they use to great effect. Especially with Bing Lee, Darcy and Caroline, who you don't see on camera until much later in the series.
The dialog is fun. The lines are witty. And there is still an amazing amount of original Austen left in there, just in case you're a Janeite. The way the characters are developed and adapted for modern times is great. They're completely believable. The actors inhabit those characters completely. I've even seen on a behind the scenes video somewhere that the actors, for the most part, use their own clothes for the shoots. They are the character they play.
I can't recommend this series enough. I truly can't. But if you don't want to take my word for it, check out these articles about the series:
The Guardian calling it the best adaptation ever. Seriously.
Buzzfeed calling the series YouTube's hidden Masterpiece Theater
Mrs. Magazine discusses how great it is that the series is Lizzie centered here
Those are just a sampling from new sources (The Wall Street Journal even covered the show in January!)
Beyond my trying to convince all of you there's nothing better to watch than this series, I have to express the joy and admiration I feel every time I interact with this series. Yeah, yeah...maybe its just lonely housewife talk. Maybe I'm a huge geek. But in a world where I am increasingly irritated every time I open Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media platform I'm on it is simply wonderful to have something to look forward to. I like knowing that even though the war (its not a debate anymore) about gun control still rages online, even though I still get spammed with Jesus posts on Facebook, despite the fact that I can't get through a day without seeing some stupid, cryptic, passive aggressive post somewhere I can count on Lizzie and her world to make me smile. Even when the series gets dramatic (believe me, it does) there's something sadly real about it, something human, and it makes me relate a lot more than I do when I'm looking at my friends posting about how they need (another) new iPhone but are too broke to get it yet. Is that sad? Yeah, probably. But the truth is that the LBD has managed to create a show that taps in to the essence of what makes us human, fallible and ultimately lovable.
Have you ran into the LBD yet? What did you think? If you haven't, go check it out. Let me know how you feel. Even if you aren't an Austen fan, you'll thank me.
Note- the title for this post is the last line of the outtro to Lydia's videos.
Second note- obviously I don't own any of the articles, photos or people I've mentioned. I do not work for the news sources I cited. My opinions are the only thing I possess.