I copped out on my original idea for L (literature) because I couldn’t find my Terry Eagleton notes on said topic (more like just stayed in bed to read more YA eep).
But my new topic deserves much attention as well, because since I’ve committed to writing about Persuasion for Day P, that means my second Austen fave Pride & Prejudice has no slot left. Until I thought of this.
Enter Lizzie Bennet and her online video diaries.
If you’re familiar with Jane Austen’s popular classic, Pride & Prejudice, then the story of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will not be new to you. But for the uninformed, the novel is about Elizabeth Bennet, otherwise known as Lizzie, who is the second child among the 5 children of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. The eldest, Jane, is the beauty of the family; Lizzie is the smart and witty one; Mary is the nerd and the weirdo; Kitty and Lydia are the energetic and flirty youngest sisters. (If you have a problem with my oversimplification of descriptions, I have nothing to say to you.) Their mom could think of nothing else but to marry off all 5 of her children, which drives Lizzie nuts because she won’t marry anybody if she doesn’t love him. Their family crosses paths with Charles Bingley, a rich boy from the city, who rents a nearby mansion in which he stays with his guests, which includes his sister Caroline, and his BFF, Fitzwilliam Darcy. The mom goes gaga over trying to set up Bingley with her lovely Jane, and Lizzie’s all snark and witty retorts especially at Bingley’s snobby friend Darcy. It’s a love story, basically–one that has women of all ages swooning over the dark Mr. Darcy.
In this modern adaptation, Lizzie is a snarky but smart grad student who’s using her video diaries as part of her thesis. The original story plays out in the video diaries, but none of the “oldies” (parents, Lady Catherine, etc.) show up. Only Lizzie’s peers make it to the videos eventually. The ones who don’t make it but were still important to the story make their appearance through what the protagonist calls “costume theater.”
And yes, the producers (Hank Green and Bernie Su) take liberties with much of the elements of the story, including the characters of Charlotte Lucas (changed to Charlotte Lu in the adaptation) and Charles Bingley (changed to Bing Lee here). Other changes involve the modernization of some plot devices to fit the contemporary setting, but the changes all work, surprisingly. The essence of the story remains, and I guarantee that you’ll have an excellent time watching the videos. There are 100 videos, the last of which was uploaded only last March 29.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!
There are spinoff videos that branch out from some parts of the story but are still tied to the main story arc. There are even Twitter accounts (the characters tweet and post pictures too!) that lend to the realism of the entire project. There are Q&A videos and a Tumblr account as well.
The whole time I was watching the videos, I kept thinking: I could do this in class! What better way to test for comprehension but to have the students make their own modern adaptation of a story we’re taking up in class, right? For the students to be able to successfully do this, they’d have to make their own script, taking into consideration how the final output would look like given that some story elements would have to change because of modernization and the medium used.
I mean, I remember we (fellow English teachers) did this in our respective 6th grade classes for the lesson on story elements, but it was very controlled. For each group, we assigned a particular fairy tale, then made them change just one element. For example, one group was assigned Jack and the Beanstalk but their version had Jack as the antagonist instead of the protagonist. Another group, assigned the same story, had their story set in modern day China.
This is going to take a lot of planning and class periods given that on top of the lesson on story elements, we’d also have to discuss the story we’d use, what medium they’d like to use for their project, the writing process, and so on and so forth. Right now, all I can think of is: