Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Watch-a-thon: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries!!!!

Welcome readers!! As promised here is the next adaption in my Pride and Prejudice Watch-a-thon and I have decided to review THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES!! I chose a lovely gif of the actor that plays Jane because it is so darn appropriate.

After reading over a few of my last posts, I have come to the conclusion that I tend to get all serious and ranty when discussing, so I have decided the mood needs to be lightened. My review will still be thoughtful and intelligent, but will include some fabulous gifs and memes for your viewing pleasure.

For those of you who have no idea that this adaption even existed I say "Have you been living under a rock?" That would of course be in a slightly pitiful tone rather than a sarcastic, judgmental one. I actually discovered the existence of the vlog through the Vlogbrothers on Youtube, which you should also check out. Yea, that's right I'm a nerdfighter. Anyway I started watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries from the very beginning before it got wildly popular, which does make me sound a bit like:

 Hipster Darcy agrees, I did sound like an annoying hipster just then. Now the series is completely finished and has tons of adoring fans, which is completely deserved.

I will post a link to the IMDb page so you can see and appreciate all of the actors of the series because they did a wonderful job:

Now for the premise of these videos. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a video blog style diary of Lizzie Bennet where the rest of the cast of characters from Pride and Prejudice gradually make appearances. This is actually a modernization of the novel so the characters and some of the events that happen in the book are altered just a tad, but in a tasteful and incredibly entertaining way. The great thing about this adaption is that the characters are explored and experimented with in a way that doesn't happen in Austen's version and it is rather impressive.

Lizzie is a 24 year old grad student who is getting her masters degree in mass media and communications I believe and decides to make a vlog about her life and inevitably her sisters' lives as well.

Charlotte is still her best friend who is in the same field of study as Lizzie and helps out making and editing the videos. She also pops in to discuss recent events with Lizzie and provide intelligent observations.

Jane is working in the fashion industry and Lydia's character starts out as the energetic, party girl who is currently going to college as well.

The rest of the cast of characters will be dealt with in my review, but before you read on I would encourage those who haven't heard or watched the series to stop right now. I will basically be spoiling the entire plotline and I don't want to ruin people's first time with the vlog. It is an amazing experience that you should enter without any outside knowledge or expectations. You shouldn't be poisoned by other people's opinions. I will link the first video below:

It's now time for my review!! Get comfortable, maybe get something to drink and prepare for a lengthy review.

As a whole, I'm completely in love with this series of videos, as in after class I would run to my computer to see if the new video was up. I also fangirl about it constantly. When I made up my mind to review this I told myself I would only watch a few videos to reacquaint myself with the series and remind me of what I liked and disliked. Instead I watched ALL of them and found myself loving it even more than the first time.

 The writers of this series really do deserve millions of awards. Austen's source material is completely respected and flawlessly integrated into this modernization. Now I think I should stop praising for two seconds in order to point out the very few things I found I didn't appreciate as much in the series.

  • In this version the Bingley, or "Bing Lee" as he is named here, and Jane relationship sticks to Austen's schematic. The two meet and hit it off. Everyone is convinced that they have a great relationship and just when everyone is sure they will get married, Bing leaves Netherfield without an explanation. Jane is devastated and then later it is revealed that Darcy stepped in because he was convinced Jane's feelings were not genuine. The problem I have with this version is I find it hard for Bing or Darcy to believe Jane isn't vested in the relationship. When the Bennet's house is renovated (Mrs. Bennet's scheme to get Jane and Bing together), she spends a solid MONTH at Bing's place. The two are incredibly romantic and spend a ton of time together. 
You should be ashamed Bing it was so obvious she loved you...DUUUHHH!!

  • At times I found that Lizzie's character was a little melodramatic and over the top. That is not to say I don't like her character, I do!! I love her slow and obvious transition from prejudiced, judgmental, and selfish to thoughtful, forgiving, and accepting. Ashley Clemens acting was wonderful and basically sent me through a rollercoaster of emotions...wait this is supposed to be a con bulletpoint....Anyway there were a few episodes where Lizzie's judgmental nature could have been toned down just a tad.
Indeed you are Lizzie Bennet
These last two "cons" aren't really cons, but my indecisiveness. I couldn't decide whether I liked these changes or disliked them so I made them separate.
  • The Bennet sisters have been cut down to just Lizzie, Jane, and Lydia. Mary becomes their cousin and Kitty, well Kitty is a cat. On one hand I balk at the change in Austen's original character setup. On the other hand I can understand the cut. Having only three integral Bennet sisters leaves room for so much character development. Not to mention the fact that Mary was basically there in the book to be hated on and Kitty is  just a one dimensional shadow of Lydia. I also love that Mary's character does get some interesting time on camera. She expresses how incredibly sad she is that Lydia only bothers to see her when Jane and Lizzie are too busy. Mary feels left out and for once the rest of the characters take notice. Mary also gets herself a guy who appreciates her complete character. So awesome Mary character FTW!!
Intelligent Mary being intelligent:)
  •  Mr. and Mrs. Bennet don't get any actual screen time, which makes complete sense because it is Lizzie's personal and revealing vlog. My problem is that I miss the Lizzie and Mr. Bennet relationship and Mr. Bennet himself. I just love his interactions with Mrs. Bennet and audiences only hear about that secondhand from Lizzie.  
Time for the pros, which are rather numerous and a little bit random so bear with me.

  • The Role Playing: Since this is a vlog it would not make sense for the viewers to follow around the characters as events are unfolding. Lizzie tells everything secondhand and when she wants to discuss a certain conversation in the past, she breaks out the hilarious costumes in order to do so. My favorite costume theaters are those that involve impersonating Mrs. Bennet or Darcy.

Jane as Darcy kills me every time:)

  • The Format: This vlog style is so innovative, not to mention the integration of social media. In this series there are 100 videos just on Lizzie's channel that deal with the primary storyline, but the great thing is that there are other vlogs that exist outside Lizzie's channel that reveal more of the storyline. When Lizzie and Jane stay with Bing, Lydia starts up her own vlog where viewers can follow her stay at Mary's house as well as when she takes up with that dastardly Wickham. There is also a separate vlog when Charlotte leaves Lizzie to take up a job with Mr. Collins company Collins & Collins. As if those weren't enough, there is also a vlog run by Gigi Darcy (the modern day character of Georgiana Darcy) when the Lydia and Wickham conflict escalates. The characters also have their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. All of this makes the characters of the series seem completely real and accessible.   

  • Charlotte: I love how Charlotte makes the change from secondary character to a primary one. In the other adaptions Charlotte is mentioned as being the best friend of Lizzie, but that fact is hard for viewers to believe because they hardly ever have enough interaction. Here they have so much interaction that their friendship is completely believable. She is protective of all the Bennet sisters and sticks up for Lizzie when Caroline tries to use her. I also love that she isn't pigeonholed into marrying Mr. Collins. Instead she takes up his generous offer to work for his company when Lizzie turns it down. Charlotte gets to be an intelligent, independent career woman, not someone to be pitied.

  Charlotte in costume theatre as Mr. Bennet
  • Mr. Collins: Shocked right? Mr. Collins was actually an enjoyable character here and I loved it. Ricky, or Mr. Collins  as he insists everyone call him, has a company that makes corporate instructional videos and a bunch of other random media crap. In this version Mr. Collins is already engaged so there is no threat of forced marriage. His venture capitalist Catherine De Bourgh insisted that he find a partner for his company and that becomes the backstory for Lizzie's ultimate rejection of his proposal. Mr. Collins is not a creepy villain or a bumbling idiot in this version. He is just awkward, longwinded, and a little ignorant of social conventions. 

I actually felt sorry for Mr. Collins when Lizzie rejects his proposal. WHAT!!! He is genuinely trying to offer her a lucrative position, but Lizzie finds him so annoying she basically explodes in anger. I love that I can identify with Collins, whereas in the other versions I find him deplorable. 
  • Jane!!: The Jane is this version is the original Jane, only about ten times better. She is incredibly kind and always tries to think the best of everyone including Darcy...despite the fact that the only positive thing she can say about him is:
 She is always there to provide kind words of wisdom and comfort her sisters. Her reaction to Bing's random rejection is also wonderful acting. She is devastated like the original Jane, but she gets herself together and focuses on improving her career in fashion. She is awesome enough to realize that "Yes Darcy interfered, but Bing didn't have to listen to him" She moves on with her life and ends up with an impressive job in New York City. Then when Bing comes back in the end, begging that she take him back, she tells him that under no circumstances will she give up this great job opportunity to stay with him. GO JANE!! Instead they both agree to live separately in NYC and see where their relationship goes. I love the ending to her storyline so much:)
  • Fitz: Colonel Fitzwilliam in this version is just shortened to Fitz and he is the hilarious best friend of Darcy. His character is actually expanded in this version. In other adaptions Fitzwilliam is only included to be the bearer of the news that Darcy advised Bing to leave Jane. He does this in the modern version, but he also provides plenty of comedic moments and assists Darcy in finding Wickham.
A little costume theatre with Fitz as Darcy and Lizzie as Catherine De Bourgh
  • Lizzie and Darcy's relationship: When compared to the original source material Lizzie and Darcy's relationship is basically the same as the book, which is something I'm glad the writers didn't change. They both dislike each other at the very beginning and then Darcy botches his declaration of love.
Lizzie even visits Pemberley, where her opinion of Darcy slowly changes. In this version Darcy runs a company called Pemberley Digital and Lizzie shadows or interns at the company for her last semester of grad school. Their ending is modernized and perfect as well. I love that their story doesn't end in Lizzie getting married to Darcy. Instead she is planning on starting her own company, while maintaining her relationship.

  • Gigi Darcy: Georgiana's modern double is not like a wilting lily and I LOVE IT!! In the book Georgiana is just this sensitive victim of Wickham. Here she is willful, intelligent, and caring. She is the one who forces Darcy and Lizzie to start talking to each other at Pemberley Digital.

Gigi is also extremely concerned when she hears about what Wickham did to Lydia and instead of sitting around she is actually the one to discover where Wickham is. Gigi is so awesome that she also stars in her own vlog based on Austen's unfinished work Sanditon, which can also be found on youtube.

  •  Lydia and her relationship with Wickham: This is the BIGGEST pro of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Lydia's character in this series is so dynamic and goes through so much development. In the book she is portrayed as this annoying and irresponsible character that nobody bats an eyelash at when she is doomed to a miserable marriage to Wickham. Her family completely rejects her and places the fault of the scandal all on her rather than Wickham. Here Lydia is presented as essentially the same character to us, with a modern day twist. She is irresponsible, parties a lot, and is obsessed with boys.
It is easy for audiences to write her off just like the book, but the writers didn't let that happen. We learn that essentially Lydia just wants to have a great relationship with her sisters and she desperately wants their approval. Instead they write her off and on a number of occasions Lizzie slut shames Lydia, which did make my positive opinion of Lizzie slip a little.

 Lydia reaches her breaking point when Lizzie gives her a self help book for party girls. Lydia accuses Lizzie of being embarrassed to have her as a sister and mentions how Lizzie let Darcy's negative opinion of her family influence her. When Lizzie doesn't make amends, it is sort of understandable why Lydia would run into the arms of George Wickham. He pretends to care for her and pays attention to her. He appears to accept her for who she really is, not who she should become. Under Wickham's influence Lydia becomes a sad shadow of herself. He is controlling and manipulative and this whole situation provides a great dialogue on negative/abusive relationships.

In the modern version Wickham takes advantage of Lydia by planning to release a sex tape of them without her knowledge. Lizzie immediately realizes how terrible she has been and comes to her sister's aid. Lydia breaks down and says “I let him film us having sex, Lizzie. I let him do that. … He never made me do anything, so just tell me that I didn’t get what I had coming Lizzie, just try to tell me that!”  In one of the best moments in the series Lizzie rejects all the victim blaming that our culture seems to be fascinated with and places the fault on the person that deserves it WICKHAM!! When Lizzie comforts Lydia, I was crying like a baby over my keyboard, that is how powerful that scene is.

 Lizzie realizes how wonderful her sister is and helps her through this terrible time in her life. Without this beautifully staged Lydia plotline I wouldn't have appreciated the series as much

  • The last pro of this series that I think will nicely wrap up my review is the fact that the main focus of this series is about the relationships between the Bennet sisters and their personal growth. It isn't a typical, vomit inducing romance where the main focus is capturing a man. Their romantic relationships are a secondary plotline and pale in comparison to the complex dialogues between the female characters.
I think that everyone in the movie making industry could learn a lesson from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. This series shows that a narrative with complex female characters is entirely accessible and can even be created by men. I am so tired of the same stereotypical female characters in Hollywood who are all one-dimensional, codependent sex symbols. Women in real life are dynamic and our media should reflect that. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will always have my praise and I will probably end up watching it is THAT fantastic.

With that last statement my next review in the Pride and Prejudice Watch-a-thon is complete. My feelings on the subject can be best summed up with this final gif of Lizzie.

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