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Jane Austen in the Digital Age: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

By Priyanka Chavda

Jane Austen’s influence has continued to grow since her publication in the 19th century, and one of the most loved novels, Pride and Prejudice has seen an array of adaptations from the 1995 BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle to Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice. The attempt to re-connect with the author and her classic works, and open it to modern audience has taken a new direction.
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One such success was made by American video production company Pemberley Digital, who adapt classic works onto new media platforms. Utilising social media – Youtube, Twitter, Tumbler, Pinterest to name a few they open classic literature to a wider audience whilst telling an enriched and innovative story. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, introduces audiences to the well-loved characters from the novel but with a slight twist. Bernie Su and Hank Green, the creators have a wider scope, free from the costumes and Regency setting they are able to modernise Austen’s novel though the world of social media. Rejuvenating the novel whilst remaining faithful to the original the adaptation recaptures Austen and presents Pride and Prejudice in a whole new light.

The cast of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries connected with audiences through Twitter, Blogging and Youtube.
The cast of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries connected with audiences through Twitter, Blogging and Youtube.

Narrated by 24-year old graduate Elizabeth Bennett (played by Ashley Clements) from California, the series is a video diary on her life since completing college and moving back home, her overbearing mother, her relationship with sisters and Mr Darcy. Each 10 minute clip shows Elizabeth telling and re-enacting events such as her first meeting with the socially awkward and pretentious William Darcy to visiting her best friend Charlotte Lu (played by Julia Cho) in San Francisco.

The cast bring the characters to life and even though not all characters such as Mr and Mrs Bennet appear, they are still incorporated within the series through Elizabeth’s re-enactment of her parents and their traits. Lydia (played by Mary Kate Wilkes) almost steals the light from Elizabeth in several episodes with her loud personality whilst Jane (played by Laura Spencer) is quiet and gentle very much like in the novel. Each character even has their own Twitter page with in-character tweets through which they connect to audiences with as well as each other.

You can watch the entire series on Pemberley Digital's website.
You can watch the entire series on Pemberley Digital’s website.

The adaptation brings the novel to modern day audiences and uses it as a basis to create events which are relatable for younger audiences such as Elizabeth not wanting to join Mr Collins’s company instead opting to complete her studies and Mrs Bennet’s eagerness to get her daughters married is a reps one to the possible loss of their home. The series is successful in exploring the events of the novel in the modern day and is most definitely one of the best adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.

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With its success the Lizzie Bennet Diaries has won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in 2013, and has gone on to produce two books, one of which solely focuses on Lydia Bennet telling the story from her perspective.

Priyanka is an English Literature graduate, aspiring to be a writer and work in the film industry.

After the success of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Pemberley Digital has given Austen’s Emma and Sanditon similar treatment.

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