Friday, November 1, 2013

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

For over half a year, the first question I'd ask my friend when I bumped into her was "did you see the new Lizzie Bennet yet?" It became such a frequent thing between us that greetings were often forgotten in lieu of diving right back in to where we had previously left off in our conversations about it. It never mattered what time it was or where each other were, the minute a new diary was uploaded we stopped everything to watch and discuss it.

It was an obsession we had both come to love.

And there's nothing sweeter than getting your friends addicted to the things you watch. It shares the joy and splits the pain. With The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, there was a lot of both to go around. Now, I'll be honest and say I did not like Austen's Pride & Prejudice in its tangible form but this series was quick to change my mind.

You may be wondering why this series could be at all entertaining, but there's a reason it won an Emmy. Its creators, Hank Green and Bernie Su, knew exactly what they were doing from its launch to its finish: and boy did they do a good job.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, if you haven't guessed, is a modernized adaption of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. Its titular character, going by the name of Lizzie Bennet, has decided to make a series of video blogs about her life and happenings at the behest of her best friend (Charlotte Lu). Proud, loud, and stubbornly prejudice, Lizzie finds her world taking an unexpected turn as her marriage-obsessed mother tries to match her daughters up with the richest guy in town: who just so happens to appear in new-comer Bing Lee. The story follows the basic plot of the book, as Lizzie now finds herself caught up in the affairs of her sisters and the troubles of dark and broody Mr. Darcy.

It's an age-old classic, but it's definitely worth the time to watch. Like I said, I wasn't a huge fan of the book but the creators have a way with making this story transcend the barriers of time and allow it to connect with its audience in a way not harnessed before.

But of course, you're probably still skeptical. What could be so great about another Pride & Prejudice adaption? It's the standard been-there-done-that disease, but have no fear. This is the perfect remedy for you.

The Characters

While not all the characters make the cut for this contemporary narrative, the show still includes all the best with the finest talent available. Every actor brings a sense of realism to their characters, that goes beyond the justice they deserve, while staying true to their canon-counterparts. 

They're witty, snarky, laughable, rude, and entirely endearing. There is a little bit from every person that we can sympathize with: even the ones we want to slap upside the head (and trust me, that's plenty). If not for the story, you'll be coming back for the characters. 

While the first few episodes have a slight pilot-itis, the quality increases exponentially as we settle into this world that's slowly built before our eyes. We are introduced to Lizzie's best friend, her family, Mr. Darcy, Bing Lee, and their respective allies bit by bit.

It's commendable to see them taking their time to create their personalities and their dynamics. Sometimes it's infuriating, but you're lucky that you no longer have to wait every single week to see what'll happen next (even if you read the book). Yet, it makes the transformation and growth of every person more realistic.

Let me be the first to say Lizzie was not my favorite character for a good portion of the series until I saw that there was so much more to her. Sure, she was stubborn and judgmental but she learned from her mistakes. I actually just re-watched the first and last episode, and it's truly remarkable how much her character was developed. It was comforting because it reminded me that we can always change who we are any time we choose to. 

High-fives all around for its wonderfully delightful diverse cast. It's a seemingly small factor, but it proves how easy it is to cast more than your prototypical non-POC. The world is diverse so why not show it. It's representative in a way that allows a wider demographic range to be able to appreciate its influence without having being put to the sidelines.

The Format

The series takes on an unconventional way of storytelling, through its sit-in-front-of-camera vlogging style. Every episode, when it was still airing, was uploaded twice a week and ranged from two to eight minutes of content. It was a strategy I had hardly seen in the internet-world, that worked as well as it did. By uploading at the frequency and with the length that it did, the show kept the pace rolling (for a book that is arguable measured). It encouraged long-time viewers to continue watching but it also opened up its demographic for anyone who wanted to catch-up. It's certainly less daunting to catch up on twenty five-minute episodes than twenty hour-long ones. It's a tactic that most content creators forget to consider.

By keeping them small and constant, the show's development team kept up with the type of audience it had: one that desires more for less.

Even from the way she speaks to us, the show stays true to its paper-backed ancestor. It's called Pride & Prejudice for a reason. By limiting the point of view to Lizzie's own perception and camera, we experience the contempt she gives us along with the narrow-mindedness. Without the perspective of others, we only have Lizzie's side of things. It's truly awesome to see how it takes us into her own view, yet we don't completely allow ourselves to be persuaded.

With the semi-constant intrusion of others (naively or not), we see a glimpse of what Lizzie might be spinning in her own opinion. It also keeps us on our toes. Maybe Bing will be in this one. Maybe Darcy will finally appear. Maybe Lydia will pop in. It's a tease that keeps us coming back for more.

The Connectivity

It's a story about being frustrated with the world and finding out that your way of looking at things may not be the best way (or the only way). Sometimes people have secrets they'd rather keep, or personalities they're too shy to show.  And while we may be quick to judge someone for how they appear, it's not always the first impression that's the most accurate.

Green and Su give us a mirror to look into. We can see ourselves, our problems, our pride, and or prejudice. But they gives us friends, people to look up to, and people to learn from. If you haven't seen it I'd definitely recommend you find a comfy chair, some good wifi, and settle in because you won't want to stop once you start.

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