Old School vs. New School – Lizzie Bennet

Colin Firth is, undeniably, the best thing that ever happened to Jane Austen’s  Pride & Prejudice; yet I would consider “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” an online modernization of the original classic, to be a close second. The centuries-old heroine is back– but this time, she’s got a Canon EOS Rebel T2i camera.

Lizzie Bennet 2.0 (Ashley Clements) is a sarcastic 24-year-old grad student living with her parents and sisters, struggling under the weight of student debt. When she’s not worrying about her sisters’ love lives or trying to shield the rest of the world from her mother, she vlogs and posts videos to her YouTube channel (started on April 9th) with help from her friend Charlotte Lu (Julia Cho). The episodes of her life are released every Monday and Thursday, but she also frequently updates her Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

The most immersive of its kind, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD) is an intriguing example* of colliding worlds. It’s the same story: same headstrong Lizzie, same hectic family, same misunderstandings, and the same aloof Mr. Darcy– or rather, “Snobby Mr. Douchey.” Only this time, Lizzie Bennet’s modern langauge, dress and behavior would have Austen rolling over in her grave. There are several key changes to the plot and characters, as there are key changes with the time period, which include Bingley as a doctor, Mr. Collins as a businessman and Kitty as an actual kitty.

It isn’t perfect. There are questionable moments and interpretations of Austen’s masterpiece, just as there are comic parallelisms and brilliant references to P&P. Hank Green and Bernie Su, co-developers of the LBD, occasionally stumble through this radical immersion into aged literature. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that no film adaptation will ever measure up to the book.

Even so, Lizzie Bennet was right when she said, “It seems like these videos are bigger than me now,” in Episode 60 of the Diaries. They are an expedition into the relationship between modern audiences and dusty books, the capabilities of modern technology/media in restoring classic stories and reuniting them with readers/viewers. I do not think that the LBD is the last the Internet shall see of the vlog format tales. Rather, I think it embodies Austen in the 1800’s: artistic, successful and part of a literary revolution.

So maybe there aren’t any Colin Firths in a pond** (1996 Pride and Prejudice), flowery gowns, awkward ballroom dances, or even mere uses of the word “odious”  in the series, but take it from an Austen devotee: the LBD is the final proof that Pride & Prejudice is much more than your great-grandmothers stuffy, old novel whose most practical application is a cure for insomnia. It can be fresh. It can be funny. It can be exciting. You just need the right lens.

Warm Regards,

Maddie E, 16, Teen Center Advisor

* If you are interested in modern retellings, but prefer dead bodies to dinner parties, I would also recommend Sherlock BBC. It’s bloody brilliant.

** There are no Colin Firths in ponds YET. I’m still hoping for a guest appearance.

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