Jane Austen, 200 years after the publication of Pride and Prejudice, is still everywhere in popular culture. Even though her books are all set in a time and place that we can only imagine, the characters are people we can recognize in our own worlds, and the emotions and romances in them are timeless.
Clueless did a modern retelling of Emma, and now The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is doing the same thing with Pride and Prejudice—but in a much more interesting way. It’s a web series consisting of several three- to seven-minute YouTube videos, purportedly the video diaries of Lizzie, in this version a twenty-four-year-old grad student studying mass communications. This Lizzie, wonderfully played by Ashley Clements, lives somewhere in California with her family: her Southern-accented mother, who like the Mrs. Bennet of P&P is desperate to see her daughters married with babies; her laconic father; her older sister Jane, an unfailingly sweet fashion merchandizer; and her younger sister Lydia, the twenty-year-old wild child of the family. (Mary, in this version, is their cousin, and Kitty is literally a kitty.) Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte edits her videos for her and sometimes appears on camera. (Side note: for awhile the commercial at the beginning of every video was that stupid Pepsi commercial with Sofia Vergara at a wedding. That commercial doesn’t even make sense! Did she crash a wedding just to get Pepsi? She didn’t have an easier way of getting some soda?)
Here’s the first episode:
Plot-wise, the story stays pretty true to the plot of Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie meets Darcy at a wedding and takes an instant dislike to him, while Jane meets the equivalent of Mr. Bingley, here a med student named “Bing Lee.” Some conversations unfold in front of the camera, but a lot of others are reenacted with costume theater. Lizzie’s parents and, later, Catherine de Bourgh (who is here a venture capitalist who has invested in Mr. Collins’s digital media company) never appear on camera and are hilariously portrayed by Lizzie with token costumes. Lizzie also imitates other characters from the show, and Ashley Clements is pretty brilliant at it. The most recent episode (#96) has a lot of impressions in it (but don’t watch it out of order—you won’t appreciate her imitations if you haven’t seen the rest of the show!). Darcy, in fact, doesn’t appear on camera until 60 episodes in, but prior to that, we see plenty of conversations with him through Lizzie’s reenactments—where, of course, her titular prejudice takes over. But after he does appear on camera (and, spoiler alert, is quite attractive), we see Lizzie start to fall in love with him in spite of herself.
Once the show got going, the producers started a few spinoffs. Lydia, played by the very talented Mary Kate Wiles, starts her own vlogs. Lydia is pretty unlikeable in P&P, but here she is hilarious. Those vlogs eventually take a dark turn as the modern equivalent of the Wickham scandal looms, and we see Lydia, who’d been an energetic little firecracker for the whole series, reveal her insecurities. (Wickham, in this version, is a swim coach with killer abs.) There are also videos with Charlotte’s sister Maria documenting her internship at Mr. Collins’s company as well as a series with Darcy’s sister Gigi demonstrating a product called Domino from Darcy’s company, Pemberley Digital. All of these spinoffs play into the overall plot, and you can follow the whole story in order here.
And aside from that, this show is really a transmedia triumph. The characters all have Twitter accounts and talk to each other there (you can check this list to follow all of the characters in the LBD universe) as well as Tumblr pages, and Jane is on Pinterest. And recently, Gigi Darcy did this in-character interview with Leaky News.
There are a lot of awesome moments throughout the series. In Episode 69, Lizzie takes a break and Lydia and Jane take over. Lydia giggles hysterically over “69,” while Jane, uncharacteristically, does a spot-on impression of Lydia…and then immediately apologizes. In Episode 83, Lizzie and Darcy flirt and Lizzie manages to convince him to participate in some costume theater, with really entertaining results. But like I said, watch the whole thing in order!
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is unfortunately ending in two weeks with their 100thepisode (well, 100th of the main show, not counting the spinoffs), so you’ll have to do a lot of catching up if you haven’t seen it yet. But if you like Pride and Prejudice, you absolutely should.