Hello, interwebs! Man, it feels like it’s been a long time. Grad school is in full gear, and I feel I haven’t visited Bookpress in a while, but here I am! Today is another prompt from Pages Unbound as part of their Classic Remarks meme. This is my third time participating in the post, but they’ve had so many great prompts with even more to come, so check it out! Today’s prompt:
Sept. 23: Which Austen adaptation is your favorite and why?
Oh man am I excited about this one. (Also, I’m interpreting this as film adaptation, so I won’t be considering novel spin-offs/re-imaginings, though those are plentiful with Austen).
So when it comes to film adaptations of classic works, I tend to enjoy modern interpretations better than literal interpretations that are true-to-period. I like to see how artists take creative liberty with older works; modern adaptations are a testament to how timeless a story can be. You’re also not as worried about modern adaptations being in-sync with your impression of the book because, well, they’re not supposed to be. I love, for example, 10 Things I Hate About You (1999 adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew), and I love the anachronistic music in the recent Great Gatsby movie.
I had a bit of a battle between which Austen adaptation I was going to choose, because two of my favorites are modern. However, I’m going with the newer (and more unique) of the two, the Emmy-Award-winning Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
If you like Pride and Prejudice and have never heard of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I am telling you now TO PLEASE GOD IN HEAVEN GO WATCH THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE AMAZING. It will take you a while, because it is a YouTube series with approximately 100 videos in the main series (more on that later) – my DVD set is 9 disks. Yes, I love them so much I bought the DVD set even though they’re all free on YouTube. Did I mention that I love them?
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was the brain-child of Hank Green (YouTube god extraordinaire). To put it simply: it’s Pride and Prejudice told via vlog. And it’s fantastic. I’m probably partial because I watch a lot of YouTube vloggers, so I am well-educated in the way the YouTube community works. You absolutely do not have to know anything about YouTube to adore this show, but it was an added bonus for me. Lizzie Bennet is a “24-year-old grad student with a mountain of student loans, living at home and trying to make career choices,” to paraphrase Lizzie from episode 1…but the only thing that matters to her mother is that she’s single.
Now of course the writers had to make lots of changes to the plot to fit this story into a 2012 context, but the changes that they made WORK. SO. WELL. They work so well. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give anything away. I’ll give you one example: Mr. Collins does not propose to Lizzie (cause that whole situation just would not happen in a 2012 context), but offers her a position as a business partner. I’m smiling just thinking about this scene.
The actors themselves do a brilliant job of portraying modern-day versions of Austen’s characters, so much so that it’s really hard to pick a favorite character. They are slightly larger-than-life/over-the-top, and there is a bit of a suspension of disbelief needed by the audience to make some of the drama seem feasible (especially the fact they presumably posted all of it on the internet), but I personally don’t have hard time with that because I am so completely smitten by the characters.
The best part:
The last and coolest thing I want to add about LBD is that while it was running (for almost a year with a new video each week), it wasn’t just one YouTube channel set up as Lizzie’s vlog. As the story unfolds, Lydia Bennet starts her own video blog, and both Charlotte’s sister and Gigi Darcy have videos too, all on different channels. The narrative spanned several outlets; each character even has their own Twitter account! So it was as if the story was unfolding under real circumstances across all the involved parties’ social media. This is what won the series the 2013 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Unfortunately now that it’s over, that experience can’t be replicated, but you can still view all of the videos together in one playlist, which includes all 100 of Lizzie’s as well as the extras from other characters’ channels, in the correct order.
The series was so successful that they later published two novels, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet and The Lydia Bennet Diaries. Also due to LBD’s success, the media channel that produced the series (Pemberley Digital) began making other YouTube adaptations of classic works, eventually partnering with PBS Digital Studios. They are:
- Emma Approved (adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma) – I didn’t like this one, unfortunately. I didn’t like the actors.
- Frankenstein, MD (adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) – Love this one.
- The March Family Letters (adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women) – Haven’t watched this one cause I haven’t read Little Women.
((But Emily, what was the other adaptation you were considering as your favorite?
Ah, thanks for asking, other self.
The 1995 classic, Clueless, an adaption of Emma, which is my favorite Austen novel. It was a really close call. I actually wrote a paper in my Austen class about both Clueless and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as modern adaptations. I got an A. From a guest professor from Oxford. If you couldn’t tell, I’m really proud of that.))