The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: adaptation

prideandprejudice-adaptationsPreviously: Audience Connection (4/6)

There are many notable changes within the Austen-verse that provide opportunities for discussion.  Where the focus of the original story is that of the Bennet sisters marrying to advantage in spite of their disadvantageous social hierarchy, the modern retelling chooses to focus on the female relationships both friendly and familial.  Darcy isn’t introduced directly until past the half-way point of the series, the attention is firmly on Lizzie, her sisters and her co-collaborator Charlotte.  Class and wealth remain important themes throughout but the agency of the female characters is heightened through the benefit of the feminist movement.  Charlotte becomes the CEO of a company due to her impressive skills and endeavour, Lizzie’s ability to connect with the audience results in a range of choices Austen’s women could not imagine, and Lydia finds herself saved and yet irrevocably changed by her experiences.  Unlike Austen’s women who could only manoeuvre within very specific spheres, Su’s women proactively expectation and find value in themselves outside of their relationships with men.  You can’t help but think that Austen would approve.

Differentiating this adaptation is its refusal to walk down the well-trodden path of the marriage storyline.  If Austen were alive today she wouldn’t be invoking stories simply about the marriage options of her characters, she would exploring class, wealth and opportunity in a modern age.  Lizzie Bennet, graduate student in communications, allows Elizabeth to be represented in the irrepressible way that makes us love her, retaining all her good and bad qualities while being germane to today’s time.

Regardless of the means in which Lizzie’s perspective is told, her tendency towards inaccurate storytelling is depicted equally.  Throughout the videos, her depictions of characters are tempered, or supported, by the perspective of others.   The immediacy of the first person narrative via webcam brings a fresh dynamism to the two hundred year old tale.  While the need for all characters to speak into camera strains the bounds of logic and credulity by the end of the series, it does create an intimacy with the audience – a short cut into the thoughts of the plucky protagonist – where a voiceover may have been instituted in the past.  

With the introduction of Lydia’s videos the audience is provided first person insight into another character, something not offered in the original tale.  It is in the introduction of Lydia’s videos; concurrently running with that of Lizzie’s that best highlights how transmedia has brought renewed vitality to this well-trodden narrative.  The introduction of the Maria Lu videos also provided the opportunity for secondary (and in this case, previously unseen) characters to directly comment on their interpretation of Lizzie’s videos becoming part of the same community that is viewing them.  With one foot firmly implanted in the world and two eyes stuck to the computer monitor, these characters deepen the breadth of the narrative and further draw in the viewing public.

Record of Adaptations:

Film (with history back to 1936)

  • Becoming Jane (2007)
  • Bride and Prejudice (2006)
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Television:

  • Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)
  • Lost in Austen (2008)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1995)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1980)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1967)

Literature:

  • Mr Darcy, written by Alex Field, illustrated by Peter Carnavas (2012) – picture book
  • Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James (2011) – murder mystery
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (2009) – horror parody
  • Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (2011) – young adult
  • Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik (2011) – young adult
  • I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Cora Harrison (2010) – young adult historical
  • Pride and Prejudice, written by Nancy Hajeski, artwork by Hugo Petrus (2010) – Marvel graphic novel.
  • Prada and Preudice – Mandy Hubbard (2009) – young adult
  • An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan (2003)
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (1996)

Theatre:

  • Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The New Musical (2008)
  • First Impressions (1959) – a musical

Next: Classroom Applications (6/6)

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