I don’t know how I managed to avoid The Lizzie Bennet Diaries this long, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally got around to seeing the first episode. At which point I immediately mainlined the other 99, in less than 24 hours.
I am now so furious at myself for not having caught on to this earlier. It’s like being the person who tries to catch up on Lost after it’s already ended — the text, by itself, is still pretty good, but so much of the fun of the show was engaging in the extensive supplementary material and fandom surrounding it. I can only imagine how much more amazing this would’ve been if I’d watched in “real time.”
But better late than never — and TLBD is still pretty damn amazing. All the props in the world to the writers for successfully putting a new spin on this very old tale. I don’t know that any contemporary interpretation of Pride & Prejudice could ever have the same stakes, since marriage just isn’t the be-all, end-all that it was in Jane Austen’s time. But replacing the original’s money and class concerns with career ambitions turns out to be an excellent way to echo the concerns of Austen’s novel while bringing it firmly into the 21st century.
Similarly, the decision to de-emphasize Lizzie’s romantic relationship with Darcy brings a breath of fresh air to these familiar proceedings. Ask anyone what Pride & Prejudice is about, and they’ll almost certainly say it’s a romance about Elizabeth and Darcy. But TLBD isn’t that. Indeed, Darcy’s just a minor subplot for most of the series’ run (which makes more sense for this version of Lizzie, anyway). But his loss is Lydia’s gain, and Charlotte’s, and Jane’s, and, I’d argue, ours. Instead of yet another retread of a tried-and-true romantic formula, we get an intimate view of sisterhood and friendship that’s all too rare in mainstream pop culture.
That said, though, I’m also thoroughly impressed by TLBD’s version of Darcy. Elizabeth’s proud suitor is often held up as the ultimate romantic hero, which has always seemed like an uneasy fit to me because he’s kind of a weirdo douchebag. A misunderstood, ultimately well-meaning weirdo douchebag, yes, but a weirdo douchebag nonetheless. This Darcy strikes a delightful balance between those two sides of the character. Even by the end of the series, when we’re rooting for the two crazy kids to work it out, Gordh’s stiff performance makes it easy to remember why Lizzie was put off to begin with. And yet he relaxes just often enough that we also get to see the cool, fun dude his friends so admire. Forget his grand romantic Lydia-saving gesture — I was won over when he put on a wig to play Fitz in one of Lizzie’s “costume theaters.”
Honestly, I could go on for hours more about Austen in general and TLBD in particular… but I’m supposed to be doing other stuff. Tl;dr - if you’re an Austen fan who hasn’t seen TLBD, do yourself a favor and add it to your schedule for a lazy Saturday.