I was reminded of this new version of Pride and Prejudice by a friend on Facebook the other day. I should have shared it with you much sooner! It's been up on YouTube and Tumblr since April. There are about 25 episodes; they have just finished Chapter 6 if you'd like to follow along with Austen's text.
What is it, you ask?
It's a modern adaptation of P&P told by Lizzie Bennet (The spelling should be Lizzy; it so annoys me when people spell it with an 'ie' but perhaps they are trying to set this character apart. Whatev.) via a video diary, and supported by the characters' social media streams. The only characters we see are Jane, Lydia, and Charlotte. In the modern adaptation, Charlotte is the videographer/editor of the videos and there are only three sisters, with Lydia being the youngest. Lizzie is a grad student going for a degree in mass communications, so the videos are sort of a project.
You can find the website here.
I wasn't taken by the first video, but thought I should watch all, even the ones I'd already seen, again, before reporting to you. I can see that the younger crowd would find it cute and funny, but I have to say I didn't. There's something about it that seems forced. The humor especially. Characters say and do sort of exactly what you expect when it comes to going for the laugh.
There are a few surprises, but not enough for me. The best parts are when they don costumes and read from scripts Lizzie writes to reenact scenes between her parents or Bing Lee, Darcy, and Caroline. Since they are self-conscious by nature because of what they are, a reenactment, they worked.
I just couldn't get into the one-sided aspect of the diary. In the book, we do get Darcy's and Bingley's perspective somewhat and that's missing from these diaries. Palpably, by the time you get through 10 or 15 of the videos and keep hearing about dinners or parties via Lizzie's perspective or Jane's or Lydia's. There are ways that that could be achieved in these videos - at one point Bing Lee (that's what they're calling him) Caroline are at the Bennet home for dinner. It would be very easy for Lizzie to have taken her phone down and surreptitiously filmed part of the dinner or the predinner conversation. Or part of the bar scene when they went to a bar after. Or leave the camera on, throw a sweatshirt over it and give Bing Lee and Caroline a tour of the house, including her room.
I find the perpetual filming in her bedroom in the same spot with a sister running in now and again repetitive and boring. Others have mentioned this in their comments on the videos and the creators have said there will not be a Darcy or Bing Lee diary. I wouldn't want yet another onesided diary, but they could make an appearance now and again. It would be welcome.
The sisters themselves are also stereotypically portrayed. In this day and age, for Jane to be so wide-eyed and innocent and Pollyanna just seems unbelievable and silly. Lydia is portrayed as a wild child (underage drinking, stealing her mother's Xanax) and slut.
Maybe I'm off on what the 'kids today' are saying but her 'wh-at?' and 'holla' and holding her hand up for high fives, also her winking, pouting, bare shoulder, and hair tossing for the camera are beyond over the top and painfully lame. Lizzie is a bit too sarcastic. Austen's Lizzy had more heart and humor. Only Charlotte, though just as sarcastic, seems to come off true. The actress captures the character's no nonsense, realistic attitude.
There are also the worrying Q&A videos where some questions and comments sound like people have no idea that this is a take on Austen's novels.
Feel free to disagree. I have impossibly high standards when it comes to fan fiction or, now, fan video, related to Austen. If the project brings new readers to Austen, wonderful. But they should read the books, not depend on these videos as giving them the whole story.
(POSTSCRIPT, 7/13/12 - Due to calls for it by fans, Episodes 26 and 27, and it looks like the upcoming 28, have featured Caroline and Bing Lee. I watched them, but they felt tacked on and didn't really flow. There was a super weird dynamic to the one with Jane and Bing Lee. He was funny and animated and she seemed even more weirdly, inhumanly angelic and subdued.)
Here's a fun game you can play - one of my friends, who also is an avid Austen fan (we've both read the novels many times and enough fan fiction to choke a horse, whatever that means), said she couldn't stop watching how Lizzie's eye making is constantly changing. She said it was highly distracting. See if it bothers you too!
Decide for yourself. Here is the first video: