Sex Tape: Yea or Nay?

Lydia Bennet of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”

I sort of love how appalled and upset people are over the Lydia storyline and the Gigi storyline. Personally, I am unsure how I feel about how Darcy managed to get rid of the tape (I also don’t believe we have the full story even based on today’s video) but I really do enjoy how people are rewriting what happens between Lydia and Wickham because they don’t like the sex tape situation.

People are funny.

I’m going to go ahead and say what is acceptable about the sex tape situation.

In the original novel Lydia very publicly runs away with Wickham and they, presumably, do it;  and the only way to save Lydia’s reputation before word gets out is a hasty wedding.  How does one adapt this situation to modern, Western culture?  Can’t just transpose the situation; a woman is allowed in modern society to go off with a man, to live with her boyfriend without getting married.  There is no scandal there.  The character of George Wickham is still that of an opportunistic letch: he would believably convince a woman to let him tape them having sex then use it to make money.  He’s stupid to do it so publicly — he might have been better off making copies and selling DVDs – homemade porn.  But he thought he’d get more money through subscriptions?

Anyhow, what Wickham and Lydia do had to be scandalous, and it had to be big enough for Lizzie and Jane to come home and for their father to get involved (why they keep their mother out of it, I don’t understand).  But scandal is harder and harder to come by in our society.  Getting her arrested for being a drug mule, as one person has rewritten, would be interesting, sure; but I think posting an intimate act on the Internet without her knowledge is a pretty damn good scandal for a woman like Lydia.  There are sex tapes out there that have solidified people’s celebrity status – they are notorious, perhaps, but they are still in the limelight, paparazzi continue to stalk these women, they still get parts in movies and TV shows, general public still want to know what designers they are wearing and where they get their morning coffee.  But these women are generally already celebutants.  Lydia Bennet is a naive young woman from the suburbs.  She’s a party girl, perhaps, but she’s, essentially, nobody.  A sex tape of her on the Internet would taint her future rather than spawn her own reality show.  It’s a good enough of a scandal to replace premarital sex.

People are also pretty upset about Lydia’s “abusive” relationship.  I actually highly support that story arc.  There are plenty of men (and women) out there who are highly manipulative, prone to claiming that nothing is their fault; incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.  Bright, intelligent, smart women fall into relationships with this sort of man with varying degrees of attachment.  Some women recognize quickly what is happening and get out, others believe what they are being told and get sucked in.  Lydia was vulnerable when she ran into George and he made her feel special and important and everyone likes to feel special and important.  The problem is that his feelings weren’t genuine and hers were.  He was going through the motions and saying everything just right for his own purposes.  He might not have sought out Lydia, but when he ran into her he decided to spend time with her and eventually came up with this plan to get back at Lizzie for taking Darcy’s side and so publicly.  If you watch the “Lydia videos” he talks an awful lot about Lizzie, is borderline obsessed with her.  He is clearly acting out of anger toward Lizzie and Darcy.

I think it’s important to see that a person can survive a manipulative relationship and become a stronger, smarter person.  Whether it’s a boyfriend or just a friend, manipulative people are out there and are going to take advantage of a person’s good nature or insecurities.  Sometimes I think my college roommate and I could have done more to help an insecure friend who took the side of a manipulative friend when we cut off contact after she tried to drive a wedge between my roommate and myself.  Our insecure friend was easy pickings for our manipulative friend.  (I don’t know if they stayed friends or even where they are now, but I was always a little sad that she bought the lies our manipulative friend spun about us.)  Lydia and Gigi’s experiences with George Wickham were very different from Lizzie’s but Lizzie was a more experienced person than either of the other women and wasn’t seeking validation or rebellion when she knew him.  Gigi and Lydia were looking for both.  And he hurt them.   Post-George we see both young women moving on and making smarter decisions.  Lydia in the more recent videos is very different from the Lydia we first met.

Like many youngest children, Lydia puts a lot of emphasis on familial bonds.  While family will always be there for you (hopefully, if you are lucky enough to have such a caring and loving family) but there comes a point when you are no longer a child and you cannot depend upon your siblings and parents to take care of you.  This is realized on varying levels at different times in a person’s life.  Sometimes, I think, it takes a little longer for youngest children to come to this realizations because they have been looked after by so many more people for so much longer.  Even Jane and Lizzie keep referring to Lydia as their “baby sister” even though, as keeps getting pointed out, Lydia “is an adult now”.  Lizzie keeps trying to take care of Lydia when Lydia doesn’t need her to anymore.  What Lydia needs is space.  She needs her sisters to be her friends not another pair of parental figures.  They need to let her live her life, make mistakes and not try to fix them for her.  Lizzie and Lydia both need to redefine their relationship and this is what they are doing.  (Darcy and Gigi could use a little relationship redefinition as well.)

Still I think the amount of ire the ‘sex tape’ and ‘abusive relationships’ storylines have spawned is funny.  I have never had someone betray my trust so terribly, but I have found myself in manipulative relationships and those videos did resonate very acutely; they were painful to watch.  But, as someone who is upset by the storyline is wise enough to recognize, that is a credit to the storytellers.  What they created and what Mary Kate Wiles and Wes Aderhold brought to life is very true-to-life; this is why it’s hitting so many people (women) so hard.  And, seriously, nobody believes that Lydia Bennet in the original novel ran off with Wickham for malicious reasons or even thought much about it.  I’m positive he promised her marriage and she believed him (I don’t think Darcy or Elizabeth had anything to do with Wickham’s motivation – it was purely about sex).  So when their tryst ended in marriage it didn’t phase her all that much.  Because that’s what, as a girl in Regency England, she was meant to do.  I’m certain he employed a certain amount of manipulation to get her to go, but I’m also 100% positive she went because she wanted to: That is the amazing and crucial difference between Lydia of the novel and Lydia of the webseries.

The creators couldn’t have Lydia giving her consent to the sex tape (or to be a drug mule) because that would be out of character.  Also, people would like that even less than they like the existence of a sex tape.  This Lydia isn’t completely boy crazy to the point where she rejects her family, quite the opposite, actually.  Boys are not as important to her as her sisters.  She is a lovable character and the audience wants to see good things happen for her.  This Lydia is a typical, bratty, obnoxious, suburban little sister who doesn’t do these things to be a pain, but, weirdly, out of love.  She will harass and annoy Lizzie to no end but she would never do anything to deliberately hurt her sister.  The best possible storyline including the sex tape is exactly what the writers are doing.  She’s seeking counseling to help her through this ordeal and she’s redefined her relationship with her sisters, and, probably parents.  A few more positive influences, friends, in her life and Lydia is going to be just fine.  Just like Gigi.

People are funny though with their hatred of this storyline.  I don’t know what I would have done if I were writing it.  I’ve never tried to reimagine P&P; only Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.  And I don’t really want to think about how I would reimagine P&P because I am enthralled with what Hank Green and Bernie Su have created and I am excited to see how they bring about the final pieces of the story.

What do you think?  Sex tape: Yea or Nay?


One thought on “Sex Tape: Yea or Nay?

  1. I think that you, my dear, are absolutely correct in saying that the response to the “sex tape” story line is a credit to the storytellers. I think that there are two main reasons for the outburst: (1) very simply, a large part of the LBD audience has NOT in fact read P&P, or has only seen the movie. They are therefore forming critiques without any understanding of the basic goals that the creators had for the LBDs, to re-make and re-imagine a (in some cases archaic) story to suit our modern interests and sensibilities; and (2) it is a STORY. Young audiences especially fall victim to believing the characters in a story are REAL PEOPLE rather than characters in a text. The fact that they are characters following a plot doesn’t make their experiences any less meaningful, entertaining or useful to us, BUT they are products of an author’s imagination. They do not have minds of their own and their actions are put in place to serve the larger purpose of the story. Therefore, as I would assume that most of the outbursts have to do with the storyline being inappropriate, demeaning or unfair, watchers don’t see the sex tape plotline as a teachable/ learnable moment (a way for us to consider where feminism has gone, a way for us to think about relationships etc) BUT an attack on this young female character that we LOVE SO MUCH. Lydia is not in fact our peer, she is a character in a storyline that we may sit back watch unfold.
    So I think yes, in order to pay homage to the original text AND attempt to modernize the storyline to suit today’s audiences, the sex tape plotline is perfectly relevant.

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