if someone had asked Jane Austen if she thought her little story about the Bennet sisters would still be relevant she probably would have said something like this:
Shit, son, I’m stoked y’alls be buyin’ it now!
Ok, probably not. She probably would have said something very eloquent and sophisticated and wouldn’t have sounded anything like Snoop Dogg or even Anne Hathaway (the current actress not Billy S’s little woman) using a fake British accent. But I am convinced she didn’t think her novels would last any longer than the popular novels of her lifetime. Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels and The Monk, for example; you know, the ones she wrote about in her own works; the ones most people only know because of Northanger Abbey.
They are, however, still relevant. This is certain because today, 28 January, is the 200th anniversary of the first printing of Pride and Prejudice. The first novel Austen tried to have published, I believe, under a different, more thematically revealing title of “First Impressions”. (In my defense I was more of an airhead in High School than I am now and that little tidbit about first impressions not always being accurate was mostly lost on me the first time I read Pride and Prejudice.) This story has been told, retold, revamped, and devoured in it’s original form so many times since the beginning of the 20th century it’s a little embarrassing. But I think it’s safe to say that the modern woman absolutely finds this story relevant.
Today, thanks to Book Riot and Dr. B, I abandoned writing my own fiction and let the better part of the rest of my day be consumed with “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”. This webseries is an eerily relevant, modernized adaptation of Pride in Prejudice that is amazingly witty and super delightful in a way that I believe Miss Austen would whole-heartedly approve of were she not six feet under these past 195 years.
That being said: “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is amazingly relevant not only to the narrow population of people aged 22 to 27 trying to get jobs in “New Media”, but most people (most people I know) between the ages of 22 and 32 trying to get out there and create a life for themselves (not all of us are very good at that) while wallowing in student loans and the uncomfortable question of: What do I want to do with my life?
Lizzie, luckily, has a passion that she is pursuing. Her issue has more to do with taking those first steps to making it happen (something many of us are familiar with). This dilemma is common within the generation that was told, repeatedly, by everyone from our parents to teachers to Sesame Street that we can be anything, do anything, find your passion and make it your life. (Thanks guys, this Bachelor of Arts in English is super awesome and my specialized skill set is totes useful in nailing down a career — ew, I just wrote “totes”; I feel dirty.) For many of us: figuring out that passion is pretty tough; but taking that “next step” and “making it happen” is proving to be just as difficult as figuring out our “passion” in the first place.
The drama of the Bennet sisters is told chiefly through Lizzie’s eyes in the form of a Video Blog (or Vlog) maintained by Lizzie, often with the help of her best friend and fellow new media grad student, Charlotte Lu. The videos also regularly guest star her sisters: Jane and Lydia, both as themselves and other people. The few deviations from the original story that have been made are pretty wonderful and in keeping with how a modern, American family would function. (Although, a wealthy med student, along with his sister and his best friend, randomly moving to a small, college town for a while is a little weird — that bit feels less thought through than the rest of the tweaks.) Mr. Collins is no longer a cousin, but an annoying childhood friend working in roughly the same field as Lizzie and Charlotte; Wickham is a sexy athletic coach; Darcy appears to be a giant hipster, Jane takes a promotion with a transfer after her break up with Bing; Pemberly is some sort of technology company; Mary is reassigned to a cousin; and Kitty has become Lydia’s cat. As someone who approves of adaptations and modernizations (and has even tried her own hand at adapting an Austen novel) I enjoy and love this retelling.
The series appears to be the brain child of Hank Green and Bernie Su and bears the markings of a Green brother whenever Lizzie STARTS RANTING IN ITALICIZED, ALL CAPS FOR EMPHASIS (seriously, though, both Hank and John seem to do this in their videos… often). Where it stemmed from and why is was originally created, I do not care. The result is something wonderful and something I think my life would be worse off if it were never experienced. This series is like tattoos, or heroin, once you’re hooked: you. are. doomed. DOOMED.
Also: these girls playing the Bennet sisters are amazing. Ashley Clements (who looks weirdly familiar) has nailed it as Lizzie Bennet. Laura Spencer plays the most life-like Jane I’ve ever seen (seriously Susannah Harker and Rosamund Pike’s ‘Jane’s are pulse-less china dolls, are they not?). Mary Kate Wiles is a pip. (There’s really no other term to describe her ‘Lydia’.)
Needless to say: I recommend watching this series. I sincerely do. But, be warned: it will ruin your life.