I’m obsessed with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. If you haven’t gotten hooked on this multimedia web entertainment project yet, go watch the first video. Now. I’ll wait.
Back? Okay. SPOILERS ahead.
I could devote a whole blog to everything I love about this project. But in this post, I want to focus on an element that, imo, displays great talent on the part of the writing staff: Jane Austen’s 19th century classic has been Politically Corrected in the best sense of the term.
First, there’s the multiracial cast. The Bennets, Darcys, and Collinses are white, but they’re the only ones. Lizzy’s best friend Charlotte Lucas is now Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte Lu. Despite Mrs. Bennet being portrayed as a Southern belle with traditional, conservative values, the fact that her best friend Mrs. Lu is Asian appears to be a non-issue to her.
As is the fact that her daughter Jane is being courted by Asian med student Bing Lee. Bing and his sister Caroline’s non-whiteness is never so much as casually remarked upon. It just is. Same for Darcy and Lizzie’s mutual buddy Fitz (Colonel Fitzwilliam in the book), a black man whom Word of God has confirmed is gay.
Then there’s the characters’ ages. Lydia Bennet, the youngest of three sisters in this update, is 20, not 15. Lizzie is 24 rather than 20 as in the book. Jane is…I don’t know, a little older than Lizzie. Darcy probably is, too, but the book’s 8-year age gap has definitely been shortened. And whatever happens with Lydia and George Wickham, I won’t have to be squicked out by a guy in his late 20s banging a 15-year-old.
This is just speculation, but I’m thinking Lydia and Wickham’s story will turn out differently than the book. It’s pretty obvious that this Lydia isn’t a virgin and doesn’t pretend to be. Lizzie complains about Lydia acting like a “slut,” but makes it clear that her problem isn’t with Lydia being sexually active, it’s with her giving no thought to whom she hops in bed with. While no details are given about Lizzie’s sexual history, it’s implied that Jane and Bing have, as Lydia puts it, “Bing-ed” at some point during the Netherfield arc. And no one acts like a lack of V-card means these young women’s lives are ruined and they will never find husbands now.
Not that any of them are particularly looking. Lizzie is in grad school getting a mass media degree. Jane has a degree already and is working her way up the ladder at a fashion studio. Lydia is in her fourth year of community college, living for the moment, and finally getting decent grades now that her emo cousin Mary is helping her discover books and how to use them. Yes, Mary is the Bennet girls’ cousin, not their sister. And Kitty Bennet is an actual kitty, Lydia’s beloved childhood pet who follows her around everywhere.
Kitty brings me to what is possibly my favorite thing about this update. The one thing that almost ruins Pride and Prejudice for me every single time is the blatant ableism. Now, I’m not blaming Jane Austen for this or saying she was a terrible person who wrote a terrible book. Pride and Prejudice was way ahead of its time in many ways, as was its author. But, like all other artists, Ms. Austen was still a product of her time. And in her time, it was believed that being prone to ill health was a sign of a “weak constitution“. In other words, strong people had strong bodies. Feisty heroine Lizzy can walk across two estates in the mud without getting winded, while passive Jane gets a cold from riding to Netherfield in the rain. Kitty, with her constant cough, is energetic Lydia’s shadow and flunkie. Anne de Bourgh, a rival for Darcy’s affection, is the subject of ridicule and cattiness because of her debilitating health problems. Her physical weakness is matched with a dull, simpering personality. I cringe whenever I read Lizzy’s mockery of this pathetic, weak, high-maintenance creature that Darcy might be stuck with.
No such worries in this update. “Anniekins” is venture capitalist Catherine de Bourgh’s aging, asthmatic poodle.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, like Pride and Prejudice before it, stars a wonderfully flawed heroine. This Lizzie is snarky and opinionated, sometimes too much for her own good. She makes idealistic decisions about her career that look as insane to today’s audience as the original Lizzy’s choices about her love life must have looked to hers. She can be, well, prideful and prejudiced. But I love seeing this timeless character exist in a time where those prejudices don’t include looking down on people based on their V-card status, their race, their sexual orientation, or their physical health.
11 responses to “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: PC Done Right”
Great recommendation. Anything based off of Jane Austen’s books isn’t something I would normally go for, but this is actually very well done and engaging.
Thanks! Yeah, I think this series is being done in a way that makes it accessible to people who aren’t major Janeites or even into period dramas in general.
I’ve never actually read Pride and Prejudice, but I started watching this just to figure out what you were talking about without getting spoilered. Next thing I knew, four hours had passed, I had two new channels subscribed on Youtube, and I loved/hated Lizzie, Lydia, Darcy, and Fitz. I think it’s a wonderful series regardless of one’s like, dislike, or ignorance of Jane Austen.
Glad to be of service. 8) I almost wish I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice before, because I’d love to be able to experience LBD with little to no knowledge of the original. Still, from my POV as an Austen reader, I think the writers are doing a good job of integrating the story into the present day and not making it feel like a transplanted period drama. Kind of like how Rent works without having seen La Boheme.
And BBC’s Sherlock works without having read Doyle (I assume).
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