South Park Self

a truth universally acknowledged

lizzie bennet diariesI'm rather late on the bandwagon with this - I've seen mention of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on the web over the last year or so, but what with the urgent need to read all the Avengers fanfiction, never really got around to watching them. (Apparently internet distraction time is finite rather than infinitely expandable. Which, given the infinite expandability of the internet is something of a problem. Oops.) Today I am wandering around in a bit of a daze, bumping into things, because I was up until after midnight fascinatedly watching a modernised Lizzie Bennet deal with Darcy revelations and Wickham fallout, and am consequently somewhat short on sleep. I'm at around episode 90 out of 100 (it's just finished, making this a good time to leap on board for people prone to my need for instant narrative gratification). It was significantly difficult to drag myself away in the small hours.

The Lizzie Bennet diaries are two things: (a) a beautifully-realised and highly intelligent modernisation of Pride and Prejudice via social media, and (b) proof positive that Jane Austen still has a fan following - still speaks to people, even modern internet-savvy people whose lives revolve around phones and tweets and job opportunities rather than marriage and social class. The show consists of 100 2-5 minute weblogs from Lizzie herself, with extensions into Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr accounts and a couple of offshoot video blogs (Lydia, mostly), and a fan following who interacts with the characters as though they're real. It strips down Austen's narrative to show only central characters, while peripheral characters such as Mr and Mrs Bennet or Catherine de Bourgh are represented by quick (and often very funny) theatrical impersonations by Lizzie and various hapless assistants. It's a show about social media on several levels, not just in its own transmission formats, but in the daily life and concerns of its protagonists. At the heart of it is an intrinsically conscious equation between Austen's social awareness and social media awareness, an insistence that culture is culture regardless of its technological paradigm.

I love and frequently re-read Pride and Prejudice, and I love this adaptation: it's funny and sensitive, and above all beautifully acute in its awareness of the central themes of the book, and the way in which they transcend historical context. The equivalences the show makes for Charlotte's pragmatic acceptance of Mr Collins, for Wickham's desecration of Lydia, for the whole socio-economic edifice of Pemberly and Darcy's wealth, beautifully encapsulate the spirit of the original while cheerfully updating its letter. (Their version of Mr Collins is sheer genius, both in concept and in execution. Also, obviously Darcy is a hipster. Suspenders. She says darkly.)

Where the series most blows me away, though, is in their treatment of the Wickham/Lydia plot. I was a bit dubious about how they were going to handle it given contemporary sexual freedoms, but updated, and with Lydia's greatly increased interiority, it becomes heartbreakingly cruel. It fascinates me, that the trauma and heartache displayed on video in this version are such an exact and faithful match to the trauma and heartbreak (although more restrained in expression) in Austen's original. She wrote about people, how they love and betray and survive, and above all how they agonise about their appearance in the eyes of the world. Even more so given the power of our technology, so do we.
I'll tell you what's cruel: dangling something as delicious as this in front of me the week before a paper, a test and an exam are all due. Pshaw.
Oh, dear, sorry! If it's any consolation, I have a pristine, cellophane-wrapped copy of the new Bioshock which I am not allowing myself to install and play until I've finished these paper updates. Think of all this happy postmodern Austen as a carrot! incentive! a reward once you've slogged through the necessary! Sometimes it's the only way I slog through the necessary.

(p.s. it's a truth universally acknowledged that friends who are fellow Austen geeks are prized beyond rubies. This stuff is so much more fun if it's shared).

Edited at 2013-04-19 05:20 pm (UTC)