Sunday, 24 March 2013

Day 323 - in praise of 'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries'

There is a high probability that I will never meet the group of people behind the project to which this post is dedicated, not least because they live 'across the pond' in America. Nevertheless, readers of this blog who do know me in real life will be aware of my love of Pride and Prejudice - along with the impact the novel has had on my journey to where I am today, planning to walk when I collect my degree certificate this summer - so it seemed important to acknowledge how significant this modern adaptation, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, has been over the last months in providing an impetus to keep going until I reach my goal.

Before I explain the concept behind the series (affectionately termed The LBD), though, allow me to back-track a little. Growing up with cerebral palsy, and as a wheelchair user, I could not engage with the world in the physical way most of my friends did. Cue reading and, especially, Austen - for whilst I could not experience the feeling of jumping over a stile and getting muddy boots in reality, Lizzy Bennet took me there in my imagination. Equally, when her annoyingly loveable mother, Mrs Bennet, complained hysterically of 'such fluttering and spasms all over', I could laugh in empathy, because my muscles rarely did what they were told to and spasms (real, in my case) were a phenomenon with which I was only too familiar.

Through literature, I found a world in which I could participate on a level playing field with my peers, and the fact that Austen opened that door for me as a young girl is a truly a 'debt that I can never repay', to paraphrase Lizzy. As I got older, surrounded by able-bodied peers, I found ways to make the real world more accessible, as I became more able and independent, thanks to physiotherapy, determination and a tenaciously supportive mother - but reading was always my relief. 

Naturally, therefore, when things collapsed for me physically in 2008, aged sixteen, I looked to 'dear Jane' for solace - except I was in such pain from the resurgence of spasms that I couldn't turn pages. I did the next best thing, and alternated marathons of the 1995 mini-series and 2005 film versions of Pride and Prejudice, which somehow got me through studying for my A-Levels and meant I was healthy enough to go to university.

Now, in my final year of English and Theatre Studies at Warwick, I am not only well but well enough to be on a mission to walk to collect my degree (the progress towards which I document on this blog) - and here is where I get back to The LBD. Simply put, I find myself once again indebted to an adaptation of Austen, in this case an especially brilliant series of video-blogs. I mentioned yesterday that during the last term it has been a slog to keep up physical improvement, because of the amount of academic work I've had to do, and this has been one of my fundamental coping mechanisms. Narrated principally by Lizzie Bennet, a post-grad in Mass Communications, the videos form part of her final thesis and detail every aspect of her life, following the plot of Austen's novel (I don't do spoilers, however many centuries a book has been around!). The series, co-created and -directed by Hank Green and Bernie Su, and written and acted by a wonderfully talented ensemble of people, is now nearing its end.

So, since the most recent episode (aside from an adorable Q&A mini-video) is entitled 'Gratitude', I felt I should express mine today. I want to say thank you to the whole team - to Hank and Bernie for the concept; to the writers (especially Kate Noble and Rachel Kiley) for their brilliance and fidelity to Austen (because, despite its contemporary setting, this is my favourite adaptation); to the cast (everyone - you're all fabulous - but especially Ashley Clements as Lizzie) for their passion and commitment to investing their characters with a new vitality; to the crew, for ensuring that every aspect of the production is realistic.

Not only has it been nice to know that it isn't just me who has a huge mountain of degree work to plough through but, as I get closer to my graduation, the videos have helped me realise that I can and will take the (literal!) steps I want to on the day of 'the final exam of my life' (to quote this modern Lizzie). After all, the hills I'm climbing to get there aren't half as unforgiving as those in San Fransisco - and reminder that means a lot.

So thanks, LBD, and congratulations on the well-deserved Kickstarter success - I hope you realise what a difference you've made to all of us viewers.

EDIT: I can't believe I didn't post a link to the videos last night, so here it is. Watch them, they're awesome:


  1. Hi Jessi, lots and lots of hugs and kisses from Mexico. I am a really big fan of the LBD too, and just like you don't want it to end. I am really touched by your story, and just as Ashley tweeted maked me cry, but also give me strength and determination and maked me want to keep 'walkink forward' and skip or jump any obstacle that unexpectedly presents in my life. I hope and I know you'll reach your goal. I also love Jane Austen's novels, and of course the LBD (as I all ready mentioned) And also want to thanks the LBD cast and crew and congratulate them for their success, and I'm very looking forward to their next project. And as you said: "I hope you -theLBD- realise what a difference you've made to all of us viewers".
    Lots of love from Mexico <3

  2. Hi Alejandra,

    Muchos gracias for your lovely comment (that's about as far as my Spanish goes, sorry!) It means a lot to know that you've read this post and are following my story, as well as that you love Austen and The LBD. Hopefully the team will see how inspired by, and grateful for, the series we are.

    Keep well and lots of love from England! <3

  3. Jessi,
    De nada! (That means "You're welcome' in spanish) As you said, "HOPEFULLY the team will see how inspired by, and grateful for, the series we are". (Excuse my english, though I have learned a lot to read and understand english, it's quite difficult to me write english, so PLEASE excuse my grammatical error) I love Austen, Brontë, Gaskell and lots of english literature (specially romance-drama-18th/19th century) and almost all of the BBC period drama mini series and movies. I have no twitter account, nor facebook nor tumblr, but I faithfully follow you in your blog, and just like you, keep moving forward! Waiting for the last LBD episode ):

    Thanks for your english love!!! Someday I will visit England!!! That's one of my goals in the future, for I am barely 18 (My 18th birthday is in june) but someday, I'll visit England!!! Meanwhile, lots of love, hughs and more love from Mexico!!!

    From your loyal mexican friend <3

  4. Hi Jessi -- This is Kate Noble, writer and producer on the LBD. I found your blog because my husband's friend's sister went to school with you last year and... well, suffice to say, it got forwarded to me. I want to say thank you for watching and enjoying the LBD. That it inspired you or made you gleeful/sad/overly-emotionally-invested-in-feels in any way is awesome and really, kinda humbling.
    Personally I find your blog great and your dedication to your goal incredible. Good luck when you walk in a few weeks! I'll be rooting for you.