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Web Series Review: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

427784_395201403834218_1767445169_nTitle: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Cast: Ashley Clements, Daniel Vincent Gordh, Julia Cho, Laura Spencer, Mary Kate Wiles, Christopher Sean, Jessica Jade Andres, Wes Aderhold, Maxwell Glick, Craig Frank, Allison Paige, Briana Cuoco, Janice Lee

Created By: Hank Green and Bernie Su
Running Time: 2-9 minutes per vlog
Philippine Release Date: 10 April 2012

Official Synopsis:
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modernized adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice. The story is told primarily through Lizzie Bennet‘s Video Diaries, while being supported by her and other characters social media streams.

Review In A Nutshell:
If there’s anything that Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen proved, a really great story never ceases to attract new readers of all shapes and sizes. And with a reader base as far and as wide as this would go, so comes Hollywood knocking at its doorstep, hoping to at least capture some its stardust. The most recent adaptation trying to catch that magic is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlog-style series that raised some apprehensions in me but quickly evaporated in less than 60 seconds.

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DISCLAIMER:
This review contains mild but somewhat critical spoilers. If you’re a P&P enthusiast like me, read on; otherwise, might as well risk it. Haha.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single piece of fiction, especially one that is well-written and well-loved, will be subject to multiple adaptations, re-tellings, parodies, mash-ups and whatnots in every conceivable medium out there. Such is the case with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, which celebrated its 200th birthday early this year. If there’s anything that this novel proved, a really great story ages beautifully like any fine wine and it never ceases to attract new readers of all shapes and sizes. And with a reader base as far and as wide as this would go, so comes Hollywood knocking at its doorstep, hoping to at least capture some its stardust. The most recent adaptation trying to catch that magic is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlog-style series that started on YouTube in April 9, 2012 and created by one-half of the Vlogbrothers, Hank Green, and his partner-in-crime, Bernie Su of BlackBoxTV.

Hmmm… Elizabeth Bennet and The Internet? I wonder how that would work.

What do you think, Ms. Austen?Photo by Theo Westenberger

What do you think, Ms. Austen?
Photo by Theo Westenberger

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is perhaps the 5th adaptation I have ever invested my time in. I only started watching it last February and similar to all the moments in my life wherein I overcompensate, I thonned all published vlogs in a single day. Each vlog would run between 2-9 minutes long so the whole marathon was a cinch compared to the other one I did with my friends a few years back. Since then, I became one of those 187,462 subscribers (and still counting) who patiently waited for every new episode to be uploaded every 9:00 a.m. PST on Monday and Thursday in the US (which, in the Philippines, would be every Tuesday and Friday midnight).

While it would seem that my love for the book drove me to check out the series, it took a bit of prodding to even click the first video. Mainly because I was having a hard time grasping the idea of the whole adaptation being done online and quite interactive, if I may add. Plus, I was a bit anxious as to how the medium, the Internet, would fundamentally change the characters. One minute into the first vlog, I found myself cracking up and whatever apprehensions I had were gone by the end of it. The further I watched the vlogs, the more reasons I had to love it and regret not catching the bug earlier. Lest you’re prepared to read a long rambling blog (I can do that really; imagine the gap between this and my last post), I hereby present to you my Top Five Reasons Why The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Is Super Adorbs

The Many Faces of Lizzie BennetPhoto courtesy of Ashley Clement's Official Tumblr Page

The Many Faces of Lizzie Bennet
Photo courtesy of Ashley Clement’s Official Tumblr Page

Reason No. 1: This Lizzie Bennet is way out there.

Perhaps because of how the changes in the 20th century have been transformative for women in general, this Lizzie Bennet breathes and lives modernism in every single way. While still characteristically smart and very opinionated, I doubt that Regency Era Lizzie would have the chutzpah to speak her thoughts and share her family drama for the whole world to see… on YouTube, no less. That’s precisely what I liked about this Lizzie Bennet; she’s candid, brave (it takes guts to be in your own video), and quirky (that whole costume theatre bit is really fun to watch). However, this modern touch also magnified certain traits and behaviors of the Regency Era Lizzie that weren’t so desirable such as her being overly judgmental to the point of being snarky. Surprisingly, I was never bothered by it as there were moments that Lizzie does realize her mistake and it’s such a treat to see how she tries to amend those faux pas.

Snapshots of the LBD CastPhoto courtesy of Bibiana on Tumblr

Snapshots of the LBD Cast
Photo courtesy of Bibiana on Tumblr

Reason No. 2: Well hello, Diversity, you beautiful thing.

The cast of relatively unknown but extremely talented actors is probably one of the most diverse I have seen to date. You have three Asian actors taking lead roles (one of which is a Filipina who fills in the shoes of a rich snob… guess who?), three red-heads for sisters (oddly enough all of them have the same eye color), three hot guys who play William Darcy, Charles Bingley (or Bing Lee in this adaptation) and George Wickham, among others. I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves.

L-R: Ashley Clements (Lizzie Bennet), Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia Bennet), Laura Spencer (Jane Bennet)

L-R: Ashley Clements (Lizzie Bennet), Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia Bennet), Laura Spencer (Jane Bennet)

L-R: Julia Cho (Charlotte Lu), Jessica Jade Andres (Caroline Lee), Christopher Sean (Bing Lee)

L-R: Julia Cho (Charlotte Lu), Jessica Jade Andres (Caroline Lee), Christopher Sean (Bing Lee)

L-R: Daniel Vincent Gordh (William Darcy), Christopher Sean (Bing Lee), Wes Aderhold (George Wickham)

L-R: Daniel Vincent Gordh (William Darcy), Christopher Sean (Bing Lee),
Wes Aderhold (George Wickham) – NSFW version here. Ssssh! *lol* 😛

Reason No. 3: Viral redefined.

Since its inception, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ universe has gone far beyond YouTube; it has invaded most of the popular social networking sites out there like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Courtesy of the series’ writing team, each character would have their own accounts in these sites (yeah, seriously) and would post messages or pictures that fill up the gaps in between vlog posts. What’s more, there are even other vlogs connected to the whole series done by the other characters like Lydia Bennet and Gigi Darcy through Pemberley Digital. These have successfully added more meat into the whole story line. But perhaps, the most amazing part for me is that the viewers get to participate in some way or form. Thus, it’s not surprising that the series won Best Interactive Program in this year’s Streamy Awards.

Aside from the Best Interactive Program, Bernie Su, who double-duties as a  writer for the series, also won the Best Writing for Comedy Award.

Aside from the Best Interactive Program, Bernie Su, who double-duties as a writer for the series, also won the Best Writing for Comedy Award.

Reason No. 4: Something old and borrowed blends with something new.

I think I have said in most of my previous reviews that an adaptation is a win in my book when the essence of the original story survives well enough in spite of the medium chosen to relay it. Sure, there were some things that got cut off in the process, e.g. there are only three Bennet sisters instead of five (although one survives as a brunette cousin and the other as a cat), and definitely the premise of some conflicts, motivations or side stories differed a bit from the source material. However, as I watched it, I still recognized Jane Austen’s work despite the modern touches. The credit goes heavily to the writing team; the concept of an online adaptation is such a tall order and churning out such an amazing product despite working on a shoestring budget is beyond phenomenal.

Some of the crew behind The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (L-R):Bernie Su (creator/writer/director/executive producer),  Jenni Powell (producer),  Margaret Dunlap (executive producer/writer),  Jay Bushman (transmedia producer/writer) Photo courtesy of Audra Congress through Transmedia Los Angeles

Some of the crew behind The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (L-R):
Bernie Su (creator/writer/director/executive producer),
Jenni Powell (producer), Margaret Dunlap (executive producer/writer),
Jay Bushman (transmedia producer/writer)
Photo courtesy of Audra Congress through Transmedia Los Angeles

Reason No. 5: A great love story deserves to be re-told again and again.

I have often described myself as a reluctant romantic; you will never see me openly admit to liking all the corny, cheesy, gooey stuff that surrounds romantic relationships in general. I guess, in a way, that’s a bit of Lizzie in me talking. But I’m not all stone; I do cheer for couples that I feel were meant to be and I will admit to some fair share of tears during weddings. And if there is anything about Pride & Prejudice that resonated in me, it would be that love is universal and transcending (cue in the feels after watching Episode 98). If the new generation of readers haven’t read the book yet, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries became an avenue for it to be rediscovered. There is really something special and timeless about that Lizzie-Darcy OTP and I cannot wait for the new generation to know them.

I bet a century from now, people will still love Lizzie & Darcy.Photo courtesy of Bibiana on Tumblr

I bet even a century from now, people will still fall in love with Lizzie and Darcy.
Photo courtesy of Bibiana on Tumblr

For those who are not yet aware, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries posted its 100th and last vlog a few days ago (March 29 to be exact… yeah, I know… I am horribly in denial). Despite its ending, and in a good way I may add, I do not think it will die. As of this writing, more and more viewers are coming out of the woodwork and checking out this adaptation because it is being shared by its fans to their friends and loved ones. And there is more to look forward to: the DVD set is being released initially as a Kickstarter project and eventually through DFTBA.com and there is a new vlog series called Welcome to Sandition starting this May 2013. So it does not really end; not now at least. And the future looks bright for this adaptation and maybe perhaps even the others to come.

But for now, this is me saying thank you to the cast and crew of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. You guys are the best; don’t forget to stay awesome. 😀

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Fan Art courtesy of Tetra-Zelda on Deviantart.com

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Fan Art courtesy of Tetra-Zelda on Deviantart.com

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My Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

My Two-Cents:
Stop living under a rock; watch it now and over and over again. Check out some links below to get started on your LBD fix.

Critical Linking: A Start-up List On The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Sorry... Hahaha... I just had to post this. Thanks for reading and Happy Easter! :)

Sorry… Hahaha… I just had to post this. Thanks for reading and Happy Easter! 🙂

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