There’s an entire generation of people, mostly women, who will know exactly what you mean when you utter the words, “Way harsh, Tai.” And similarly, another crop who can just as easily identify the movie that’s responsible for this line: “This is an occasion for genuinely tiny knickers.”
Such is the legacy of Jane Austen who, in addition to inspiring many miniseries and movie adaptations of “Emma” and “Pride and Prejudice,” provided source material for millennial spinoff movies as well. Think “Clueless,” the 1995 retelling of “Emma,” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” which is “Pride and Prejudice” through and through — complete with an “it is a truth universally acknowledged” reference.
Now there’s a novel cribbed from a Web series drawn from “Pride and Prejudice.”
“The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet” is the much-anticipated novel based on an online series, the “Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” which of course takes its name from Austen’s hero, Elizabeth Bennet. “Diaries,” a modern retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” through the YouTube diary of Lizzie Bennet, a grad student with buckets of student loans and a mother who’s overly eager to see her married — preferably to someone with buckets of money to pay off those loans — won an Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media in 2013. It was the first Web series to do so. Creators Bernie Su and Hank Green have been lauded for their inspired reinvention of Austen’s classic. Su teamed up with show writer Kate Rorick to pen the “Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet,” which comes out June 24.
The novel echoes Bennet’s character from her vlogs — though in print, her voice is reminiscent of the sort of wry sarcasm that made “Daria” so appealing:
I, however, am in a state of unbridled annoyance, because of one single person.
Specifically, William Darcy.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The wedding ceremony was lovely. Outdoors, in the afternoon. Why live in a sleepy coastal central California town if not to take advantage of the weather for your nuptials? Our longtime friend Ellen pledged to love, honor, and cover her new husband on her work’s health insurance plan for as long as they both shall live, while Ellen’s mother sniffled her way through the ceremony—her sniffles only slightly softer than my mother’s wails. (Note: Ellen Gibson was in the same class as Jane since first grade; her mother and ours cut up orange slices for soccer practice together. Mom can barely hold her head up in front of Mrs. Gibson now, as her daughters remain tragically unwed.)
Of course, during the entire ceremony, my mother was craning her neck across the aisle to better stare at Bing Lee and his companions. Luckily, he didn’t notice, but his overly tall, stuck-up friend certainly did. He frowned at us from beneath this ridiculously hipster newsboy cap. Although I can’t even be sure it was a frown now. From what I saw of him that evening, his face just stays that way.
If you’re starved for television and the pickings for this summer are leaving you less than verklempt, it might be worth it to binge-watch the “Lizzie Bennet Diaries” — three-minute dispatches that take you through Lizzie’s life in modern-day California while following the plot of “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s the first retelling that integrates social media into its very fiber. Not only does Bennet have a vlog, she’s got a Twitter account and a Tumblr, too.
What is it about Austen that makes for such compelling source material? She’s not the only writer whose work gets adapted for modern teenagers — “10 Things I Hate About You” was basically “The Taming of the Shrew” — but Austen holds a special place to the point that we can suss out her story lines even when they’re not deliberately incorporated. Anne Helen Petersen, who has a Ph.D. in Star Studies and wrote “Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style,” before joining Buzzfeed, told the “Stuff Mom Never Told You” podcast the success of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” was partly because it’s just another modern version of “Pride and Prejudice,” with Kris Jenner as the busybody mother trying to marry off her daughters.
Wrote Nicole Soojung Callahan at Bitch:
Bernie Su points out that Pride and Prejudice has stood the test of time not just because of the love story, but because Elizabeth Bennet is such a strong character. “When you reimagine a woman as independent as Elizabeth Bennet, you have to think about the many choices women have today,” he says. “We wanted to talk about those options—especially career options—in our adaptation.”
“It would be absurd to create a modernized version of Elizabeth Bennet who wasn’t a feminist,” says Ashley Clements. “A woman who speaks her mind, holds out for what she wants, and is loved and valued for who she is—she was as feminist as she could be in 1813.”
Pemberly Digital, the production company behind the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, also did “Emma Approved” — the aughts version of “Emma,” which wasn’t as successful — and is doing “Frankenstein M.D.” in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios. The description: “Inspired by brilliant British author Mary Shelley, the series reimagines the title character as Victoria Frankenstein, an obsessive, eccentric prodigy determined to prove herself in the male-dominated fields of science and medicine.” Episodes of “Frankenstein M.D.” will start airing this fall.
Check out a bigger excerpt of “The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet” below.