This video is haunting to me. I’m not sure if I’ve watched it without tearing up a bit. Even though I know it is just a story, it feels so very real. It is the last video that Lydia Bennet (Mary Kate Wiles) ever publishes on youtube as part of the extremely popular The Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series created by Hank Green and Bernie Su.
I extremely enjoyed watching the web-series evolve over its duration and seeing how they would continue to adapt the story into a moden day context. Even though I knew the entire story, the changes help make it a new and fresh show. While there were a couple of smaller changes that I enjoyed, such as making Colonel Fitzwilliam a gay best friend, the one change that I enjoyed the most was how they developed the character of Lydia. In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lydia has a voice and consequently a heart.
In this adaptation, they chose to reduce the number of Bennet sisters from five to three. I wasn’t surprised by this choice because I’ve seen it in a lot of modern re-workings of Pride and Prejudice. Since Mary and Kitty don’t contribute heavily to the plot, it often helps move the story along at a quicker pace to remove them. Also I think that it makes sense for modern adaptations given that families tend to have less children now. In The Lizzy Bennet Diaries, Mary is a cousin and Kitty is cat that follows Lydia around (a detail that I particularly love!). However this choice really changes the Bennet family dynamic. In the novel, Lydia has Kitty as a loyal companion and great friend, but in this adaptation she is left on the outside. Jane and Lizzie are extremely close as they are in the novel, but unlike in the novel, Lydia is hurt by her sisters’ neglect.
Lydia is first introduced in this series by popping in the back of her Lizzie’s vlog. She is fun and silly and the typical annoying Lydia that is present in all adaptations. She is a wild party girl and boy-crazy: two traits that are made very clear in the novel. However this adaptation adds a lot more to her by showing her vulnerabilities. She cares for stray kittens and sticks up for her cousin Mary, yet struggles in school. All of these additional details are provided through her own video blogs that she creates on a separate channel. As the story progresses, she continues to struggle while Lizzie and Jane become busy in their own lives. Lizzie especially pushes her to grow up, but is shown to be cruel to Lydia by not really valuing her as a person.
As this story develops, of course, Lydia gets together with George Wickham. Their relationship is chronicled via Lydia’s videos with this video as the culmination. Seeing Lydia express her love for George so honestly and heart-felt is especially painful knowing that he is just going to end up breaking her heart.
I was curious when the vlogs started to see how they would adapt the famous downfall of Lydia because elopement is certainly not a stigma anymore. What they chose to do was to have Wickham sell a sex tape that he convinced Lydia to make on the internet. Darcy comes to the rescue by buying the company that is selling the tapes and removing them from the market. In the novel, Lydia believes that Wickham will marry her and thus she is partially saved from not being knowingly complicit in a lewd activity. In the series, this distinction is made clearer. Lydia allows Wickham to tape their sex, but she has no idea that it is on the internet. This clear distinction helped form her as a victim in this series.
In addition to seeing a new side of Lydia, I also got to see a new side of Lizzie. In the novel, the relationship between Lizzie and Lydia is not that deep or meaningful, yet in this series, their sisterhood is much deeper. A contributing factor to Lydia’s downfall is a nasty fight with Lizzie that ends with them not speaking. After the incident with George, both sisters learn to see each other in a new light. This aspect of the story helps contribute to the idea of ‘pride and prejudice’ as Lizzie is not only prejudiced and blind towards Darcy, but to her own family.
Lydia really steals the show in this series. Her relationship with George Wickham is painful and superbly written and acted. By choosing to give her a voice in the story, she develops a heart that the viewer is able to see. And since she has developed such a heart, we want to see her succeed– something that has never been the case for me regarding Lydia before. Typically, I’m satisfied to see her married to the awful Wickham and even thinking that she deserved worse. Yet this series has really changed my opinions about Lydia. It made me care about her.