Lizzie Bennet Is My Homegirl
Girls Meets World
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2013 15:03
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Hollywood producer, instead of investing in a new idea, will decide to remake a known crowd-pleaser. From Batman to The Wizard of Oz, few works have escaped being adapted, with varying degrees of success. In honor of women’s history month, I’m looking at one author — Jane Austen — and what is perhaps her most adapted and most popular work: Pride and Prejudice.
I’ve read the original book as well as an absurd adaptation of it called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’ve seen the Keira Knightley movie and have awaited a chance to see the beloved BBC miniseries. I’ve watched Bridget Jones’s Diary, which is loosely based on the Austen story, and I am currently obsessed with a web series that reimagines it in the 21st century with the main character as a grad student who chronicles her life in a video blog called "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries."
The difference between retelling the story of Elizabeth and Darcy — her angst-ridden love interest — and making another Batman movie is that Batman adaptations focus on something different each time. They might have a darker tone, focus on a different villain or love interest or the main character might join the Justice League. But if you read Pride and Prejudice, you know what happens. It doesn’t change when Elizabeth and her sisters are trained as highly skilled zombie killers. It doesn’t change when she’s a grad student who’s been flirting heavily with Mr. Wickham via text.
Why are we so obsessed with it that we can’t stop revisiting it? There are novels of comparable popularity and literary merit —The Great Gatsby springs to mind — that send people shrieking when they try to make a film adaptation. (We’ll see how Baz Luhrmann did soon, but I’m not optimistic.) Why does Pride and Prejudice get a pass?
I think part of the reason we go back to Netherfield again and again is because we’re so familiar with it. In "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," for example, watching the younger sister, Lydia, be so happy, lively and lovely takes on a tragic tone when you know what happens to her. When Keira Knightley can’t help but complain about how she never wants to see Darcy again, it’s more enjoyable when you know that she’ll regret those words by the film’s end. It’s like watching a favorite movie again and again except with little (or large) differences every time.
But, I also think that there’s something timeless about the story. A friend of mine, who I won’t embarrass here, once tried to convince me that her love life was exactly like that of Jane and Bingley — Elizabeth’s sister and Darcy’s best friend, respectively. Their problem is that they’re not open enough with their feelings and doubt that the other returns love with the same intensity. My friend contended that she was just too shy, like Jane, and that’s why her love life wasn’t working out.
That’s part of the story’s staying power — the relationships are so well-written that century doesn’t matter. "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" sets the whole thing in the modern day, and, with a few tweaks, it works. The stories are still believable.
There’s also something highly enjoyable about the character of Elizabeth. She begins thinking that Darcy is the one who embodies the characteristics of the novel’s title, only to realize that her pride and prejudice made her as blind as he was. They are both kind of horrible people, make each other realize how ridiculous they’ve been and then both change. Realistic? Maybe not, but it’s refreshing to see character development occur. Awesome? Definitely. Elizabeth is snarky and funny and bright, and she doesn’t need a man to be happy. I mean, she gets one, but she doesn’t need one. I strongly identify with the witty, insightful, misguided Elizabeth, and I imagine that other people do, too.
But in the end, I think my love for it is very simple. There’s something wildly comforting about a world where I know that Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy will form two happy couples. There’s a loveliness to the certainty of their happiness, when my own 20-something happiness seems so uncertain all the time. I won’t go as far as to say that Pride and Prejudice made me believe in love or anything, but it’s nice to think that this stubborn, proud and prejudiced girl who, like Elizabeth, can be a little too sassy for her own good might be able to find love too.
Victoria Edel is a junior the College. GIRL MEETS WORLD appears every other Friday in the guide.