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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sisterly Instincts

Over the past few months, I've come face-to-face with a new phenomenon that's been sweeping the Internet and I just started getting into.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Long story short, it's a updated version of Jane Austen's immortal classic Pride and Prejudice, only set in the modern day with Lizzie Bennet as a twenty-four year old communications major still living at home with her overbearing, plotting mother, dry father, sweet older sister Jane who works in fashion, and her younger sister Lydia, a loud, brash, energetic party-girl who wants to have her moment of fame on the internet through Lizzie's videos and then her own.

You can see the first episode here.

It's everything and nothing you can expect from a retelling of P&P, because the way it's done is so brilliantly set into the modern day you can almost believe it's real. Do we know the story? Absolutely. Do we know how it ends? Of course. But there are just so many different nuances to this that I need a whole different post to get into it, but I'll stick to the one thing I did want to talk about.

Namely, the relationship between the Bennet sisters, both in the original novel and in this retelling.

Now, I hope I'm not spoiling anything for anyone, but I'm going to go ahead and assume everyone knows that the eventual incident that Darcy saves Elizabeth and her family in the original novel is Lydia runs away with the no-account rake Wickham and elopes with him. Of course, in seventeenth century England, where reputation is everything, this is a complete catastrophe. Nowadays, it's awful and devastating for a family, but maybe not as bad as it was back then (as not bad as a thing like that can be, anyways). So the one thing that always made me sad in the original novel was that Lydia gets no chance for any character development. None. That's left to her sister Elizabeth and to Darcy. Of course, that's why we love the novel, but I always wished I could reach inside the book and smack some sense into Lydia. I'm sure everyone does.

But the thing that makes the Lizzie Bennet Diaries so unspeakably brilliant and amazing (in my opinion at least) that they give that character of Lydia a chance to change, a chance for the audience to love her and root for her and worry for her. All the credit of course, goes to the show's writers and actors, namely Mary Kate Wiles, who does such an amazing job of walking the line between Lydia's brashness and vulnerability. Lydia in LBD is your classic younger sister/baby of the family. She wants attention, recognition, doesn't know how any way but the wrong way to get it. A character like Lydia translates seamlessly, sometimes painfully well into this modern day world of Tweeting, Facebook, videos and general over-exposure. Which is how she falls under the spell of the unscrupulous George Wickham (oh yes, he's in there). In LBD, Lydia finally gets what she was denied in the original P&P: character development. (Yes, it deserves underlining, bold and italicization.)

I have related so strongly to Lizzie in LBD that it almost scares me. I have a younger sister, who of course I love dearly, but who can also drive me nuts. We've had our fair share of screaming matches over the years. We clash and argue and fight and my mother yells at us and reminds me she's the only baby sister I have. I justify my harshness to her because "Hey, she's the baby of the family. Compared to the rest of us, she's got it easy. Someone's got to be tough on her, right?"

And yet. And yet.

It is not my place nor my right nor my job to be harsh on my baby sister. Despite what I think, her life is hard enough without me making it worse. I am not supposed to be part of her stresses and worries.

And that's what gets me about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, because it so clearly illustrates the push/pull, harsh/nurture aspect of an older sister/younger sister relationship.

This episode was the one that made me cry, because it touches so strongly that older sister instinct to protect your little sister, to defend her and reassure her of how amazing and clever and all-around spectacular she is. All things you lose sight of because all you can see right in front of you is the many ways she annoys you or drives you crazy or does everything wrong. It takes disasters to make you see all the things you should've done to be helping her, not tearing her down. The wish to hold her and reassure her of your love for her never changes, after everything. 

So yes. If all my yammering hasn't convinced you yet, watch the video (no matter how completely far along the story line it might be) and you'll see what I mean.

Over & Out,

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