When I was in Japan, I got hooked on something really bad. I blame my boon companion, Rachel. I got hooked on the YouTube web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I awaited each episode anxiously. I went through withdrawals between each episode. I was very sad when the last episode aired. It was around the time I was getting ready to leave Japan. I think the LBD finale just added to the emotions. When I reflect back on it, I was amazed at how a group of people made an old literary classic cool and a little geeky.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was created by Bernie Su. The first episode aired April 9th, 2012. You either like Jane Austen books or you don’t. I’ve always been a fan. There have been many P&P adaptations through the years — some good, some bad. But Bernie Su managed to make P&P cool. The characters stay true to their original construct but have a modern twist that fans related too. Lizzie herself, played by Ashley Clements, is a grad student who creates a video blog for her master thesis. The famous Mr. Darcy is a successful media mogul. But how is it nerdy? Why did the reboot succeed?
Lizzie is portrayed as a bit of a geek. She is trying to get a master’s in mass communications. She likes to read books and study in her spare time. She is someone I would want to hang out with. Her friend Charlotte, who helps her with the series, is tech savvy. She uses the vlog to relate her daily life to the audience. Vlogging is a popular form of social media. So the medium Su chose to use for his classic reboot is perfect. He not only used YouTube, but each of the characters created Twitter and Tumblr pages for fans. The LBD cast went to Leakycon, a pop culture fandom convention in Oregon. I think the biggest thing LBD did was renew interest in the original book. It even brought in fans who had never read the original story and now want to. Sort of like how making the Hobbit movies may have driven fans to reread the books. Or read them for the first time.
LBD is a success story. There are always attempts to adapt a classic work into something modern. Does anyone remember the ’90s teen movie Ten Things I Hate About You? That was a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. I am not sure how a Shakespeare character would fare on YouTube but you never know. Nowadays, people spend more time on social media websites than reading. If someone like Bernie Su is able to make people interested in reading via YouTube, then it’s a great idea. Speaking of Bernie Su, he just finished the web series Welcome to Sanditon, an unfinished Jane Austen novel, and is now working on Emma. So check out LBD if you have free time. Just be warned that it might become addicting.