Thursday, March 28, 2013

Goodbye, Lizzie Bennet. It Has Been... So Good to See You.


"Everything's got to end sometime. Otherwise, nothing would ever get started." -- Doctor Who


In case you are just tuning into this blog and don’t know me very well, let me introduce myself: I am Jenn. I am a writer. And I am very bad at saying goodbye. I talked about this quite extensively in my post “Endings And Beginnings (Why We Hate Them, But Why They’re Necessary),” in response to some fans’ reactions about Megan Ganz’s departure from Community (this blog is primarily dedicated to reviewing that show, so check more of it out if that interests you!). What I said in that post, I stand by wholeheartedly. I am VERY bad at saying goodbye to things and people that I love. I’m trying to get better – to reconcile myself to the idea of change, of newness, etc. – but it’s a process and I’m still finding my footing. Nevertheless, as someone who is quite comfort-zoned by nature, this isn’t easy or fun for me. But I’m learning. And nothing removes you from your comfort zone quite like bidding farewell to something or someone. If you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, today I’m saying goodbye to something that’s been rather near and dear to my heart over the past few months: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

But rather than write an essay-length post about what the show has meant to me (trust me, I’ll delve into that quite a bit in the coming paragraphs anyway), I thought I would speak to YOU all. To the people who created the show, starred in the show, and – yes – to you all, the loyal fans and viewers of the show. Because as much as we praise and celebrate the amazingly talented people who have made The Lizzie Bennet Diaries what it is, we too are a part of the experience. And each one of us contributed something to its existence.

So if you’re ready, grab some tissues (and maybe some Snickerdoodles or tea), and bid farewell to some of the most genuinely talented and immensely humble people I have had the pleasure of watching grow over the past year.



For Briana Cuoco (Mary Bennet) and Janice Lee (Maria Lu):





Even though neither Briana nor Janice spent a lot of time in the LBD-verse, particularly, I am so thankful to them both for bringing these particular characters to life. I was so pleased to watch the relationship between Lydia and Mary grow, and Bri definitely had a huge hand in bringing this dimensional Bennet relative to life. Mary is easily dismissed, often, as the less important sister, but her scenes with Mary Kate really allowed us to see how dimensional Mary is, and also how much she does care about her family. Watching Maria and Charlotte’s relationship was wonderful, as well. I am so thankful that LBD was able to take two characters who would have been neglected in other adaptations and mold them into real, wonderful, strong characters who have a hand in the development of those around them.

For Craig Frank (Fitz Williams):



I absolutely adore Craig Frank as Fitz Williams. I loved being able to watch his relationship with Lizzie grow on-screen, his relationship/scheming with Gigi via Twitter, and see his evident determination through the Domino spin-off series. Fitz is a character – no, seriously, he is. He’s hilarious and fun, someone we would presume is the polar opposite of the stiffer character of William Darcy. And yet, Fitz is so loyal, so supportive, and so caring. He works together with his best friend tirelessly to save Lydia. He cares for Gigi. He encourages Lizzie. And Craig’s portral of this character was just wonderful. Fitz is so lovable and fun, and I really enjoyed every moment spent on screen.

For Jessica J. Andres (Caroline Lee):



Caroline Lee is definitely something to behold in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. While other adaptations focus on her pining after William Darcy (and though this series hints that she may, in fact, have romantic feelings for the man), LBD excels at doing something different – showing us another side of Caroline. Rather than completely villainize this character, the writers allowed Lizzie to feel empathy for Caroline. The reason for her manipulative behavior stemmed from fear, which is something that Lizzie knows all too well about – fear that she will be stuck in the same position forever, fear that the people she loves are leaving her, fear that she will never find love.

What the writers created, Jessica executed so flawlessly, especially in “End of the Line.” You can visibly see the fear, the insecurity, the uncertainty in her eyes throughout the video, and it’s quite brilliant. As Ashley and Rachel Kiley have noted recently, even “villains” are the heroes of their own story (sidenote: this is why I look forward to StarKid’s production of “Twisted” soon!). So thank you, Jessica, for portraying a character who is not, necessarily, a villain but someone who is just flawed and hurting and human.

(And, as I wrote this prior to last night's transmedia events, I am SO HAPPY to see Caroline being redeemed and accepted by Jane and Bing, in spite of her actions and her flaws. That is love. That is beautiful.)

For Maxwell Glick (Ricky Collins):



Mr. Collins is a character that the vast majority of people I know seem to find grating or annoying in any adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I know that this is how I feel whenever I watch the 2005 version (no, I have not seen the 1995 miniseries yet but it is on my list of things to do!). And, truthfully, I don’t think we’re supposed to find Mr. Collins to be our favorite character. But the portrayal of Ricky Collins by Maxwell Glick is nothing short of endearing and wonderful.

Yes, Mr. Collins (er, Ricky) is socially awkward. One might even compare his social skills to that of a certain agoraphobic lobster in terms of the inability to correctly judge social cues. But regardless of Lizzie’s initial pension to avoid him, Ricky finds a way back into Lizzie’s life. Her coolness toward him deters Ricky not, however, and he offers her a job at Collins & Collins. The young woman vehemently rejects him (much like she rejects another socially awkward man later on), but Collins is a character who is independent and determined, for all of his quirks, to be successful.

I love Maxwell’s portrayal of Ricky Collins because it’s so wonderful to see the character’s growth throughout the series. He eventually learns not to interrupt Lizzie while she is filming, and Lizzie learns to accept HIM and to show a bit more kindness. Ricky Collins is energetic, unabashedly so, and I think that’s what I loved so much about Maxwell’s version of the character. This is someone I am not annoyed with, but someone who I find endearing and enthusiastic. And that’s a big credit to Maxwell!

For Allison Paige (Gigi Darcy):



I knew that the casting of Gigi Darcy would be a surprise to all of us viewers, but that Gigi would also have to be something pretty special. And truly, Allison’s portrayal throughout the LBD and – especially – the Domino arcs really was. I loved “The Lizzie Trap” because watching Gigi scheme and plot with Fitz to bring her brother and Lizzie together was just hilarious, awkward (“Would… that keep the camera on?”), and touching. In spite of her scheming and plotting ways, you can tell that Gigi loves and adores her brother and wants him to be happy. She truly cares for him.

But the brilliance of “Checks and Balances” cannot be ignored, because this is where Allison’s Gigi truly shone (this episode, as well as Domino’s fourth episode). In other adaptations, Gigi is perceived to be sweet, na├»ve, and is meant to be more of a side character than anything else. But in LBD-world, Gigi is a fighter. She has the Darcy spirit within her that constantly propels her forward. She is brave in sharing her story with the Internet. She is perceived as graceful and delicate, but not broken. And truly, I LOVED being able to see Gigi’s progression from “Checks and Balances” to the end of the Domino arc. She became stronger through facing Wickham. She became angry, refusing to let him hurt Lydia and her family the way he had wounded her. This young woman who we first met as endearing and adorable and fun grew significantly into a strong, determined character who fought for the people she loved as hard as she could. And we know that she will keep fighting, keep healing, and keep growing.

I am so excited to be able to see more of Allison’s Gigi Darcy as we head to Sanditon this summer!

For Christopher Sean (Bing Lee):



Charles Bingley is an adorable character in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, so I was anxiously awaiting his introduction in the LBD-world. And I was not disappointed. Christopher Sean brought such sweetness to this role as an endearingly clueless medical student. You can honestly tell how much Bing cares for the people that he loves. And perhaps that’s the greatest attribute he and Darcy have in common – they love other people and will do anything for them.

But Christopher added an entirely new layer to Bing: someone who is vulnerable, someone who has been told what to do his entire life, and someone who is scared of disappointing the people he loves. Watching his relationship play out on screen with Jane was both beautiful and painful. Here, though, is what I truly love about this character’s development – though he made mistakes, messed up, and allowed Caroline and Darcy to dictate his life… he did not stay that way. He changed. Even in the 2005 movie version, Bingley returns to the Bennet household WITH Darcy. He returns (and re-enters the house after abruptly leaving) under Darcy’s watch. And while I love the idea of Darcy making amends for his previous wrongs, I love that – in the LBD version of the story – Bing returns to Jane ENTIRELY of his own free will and volition. He does not know that she’ll ever love him again, but he wants to apologize for his behavior, for doubting her.

And he wants to live his own life, without being burdened by his family’s expectations of him. Much like Darcy, Bing acknowledges his family’s wishes, but also finally realizes that his life is his own. His decisions are his own. And dropping out of medical school to pursue his own dreams, moving to New York with Jane to support HER… well, that just made me swell with pride. Christopher did a fantastic job bringing this character to our screens and lives, and I’m just so proud at the development we saw in him.

For Wes Aderhold (George Wickham):



I’d imagine that it’s not an easy job to play the villain of the story, (I never have played one so I couldn’t say for certain) but it’s a testament to Wes Aderhold’s acting that he plays a manipulative and charming villain so convincingly. What’s brilliant about this George Wickham isn’t how dastardly of a villain he is, necessarily – it’s about how chillingly REAL he is, and that is thanks in part to Wes’ performance. The brilliance of Wickham is that he is so deceptively likable and charming. And, as I noted above with Caroline, that is not to say that he is completely and utterly evil and that there is no shred of anything good within him. I think that one of the ways that LBD has succeeded is in adapting its characters realistically. Wes’ version of Wickham IS real – he’s charming and flirtatious, attractive and seemingly a gentleman.

But LBD Wickham is manipulative, and we only begin to see that through Lydia’s arc because we are watching from the outside. The scariest part, of course, is watching a fictional character we love (Lydia) fall for his lines, even though we know they are lies. But isn’t that what happens in our own lives? When we are engulfed in our circumstances, we don’t have the luxury of detaching and viewing like we were able to do through Lydia’s arc. Even if we were… would we change our ways? Would we act differently? One of the things that Wes absolutely nailed in his portrayal of Wickham was that openness and seeming vulnerability that attracted Lydia to him. Some of Lydia’s arc was difficult to watch (as it progressed, even more so) because of how REAL it felt.

The episodes could have been driven into over sentimentality quite easily. But Wes’ version of Wickham was chillingly representative of a lot of abusive relationships – subtle, understated, and haunting. His tone of voice, his body language, and lines he delivers are all indicative of deceit and manipulation and it was so scary but SO wonderfully acted by Wes. I honestly cannot applaud him enough because George Wickham is not an easy role to play, especially in the LBD-verse. And maybe, just maybe, watching Wes’ version of Wickham will allow people who are in those types of relationships the clarity to see how wrong and terrifying they actually are, and to get out.

For Laura Spencer (Jane Bennet):



I always assumed that I was Lizzie Bennet, but the truth is that I have a lot more of Jane Bennet within me than anyone else. Ah, Jane. I love this character because of how gentle, kind, and good she is. And when Laura Spencer first appeared on screen, my immediate thought was: “Disney princess.” Truly, Jane Bennet is a beautiful and graceful human being. She has a temperament reminiscent of a friend of mine, growing up, who always found the good in everyone. Even if someone was to spit in her face, she would probably compliment them in some way, shape, or form. Jane is a sweet soul and kind spirit, never talking ill of anyone, much like her novel and film counterparts. That is what I’ve always admired about Jane (and what has also been her downfall): her meekness and gentleness.

But the moment “Snickerdoodles” aired, I knew this Jane Bennet was different. For the first time, we saw Jane HURT. We saw her ache and grieve, and we yearned to fix her. Laura Spencer’s performance in the episode was nothing short of beautiful and moving. And then… we saw “new Jane.” Though Lizzie was skeptical at first, this new version of Jane Bennet slowly evolved. The eldest sister was venturing out on her own, without a boyfriend and without her family beside her. She was determined to become independent, and that is exactly what she did.

One of the best things about Jane is how developed she truly became as a character, and that is of course thanks to Laura Spencer, who did such a beautiful job at bringing this character full-circle. At the beginning of the series, Jane is meek and sweet, but by the end, SHE is the one determined to live her own life and make goals and dream on her own. Yes, Bing does accompany her to New York, but SHE is the one to dictate the rules of their relationship. Jane Bennet a year prior would not have had the confidence or self-assurance to do that. But this Jane? New Jane? Well, “new Jane” is ready to take on the world, one day at a time. And Laura? We will forever be grateful to have been able to be on this journey with her. It was so good to see you, and we will see you again soon.

For Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia Bennet):



I’ve never been an actress, really (unless you count theatre in high school so maybe just a little bit), but I’m a writer. I love writing stories and poems. And when Mary Kate began to explain how she exists within Lydia and Lydia exists within her… I understood. I don’t write about characters I know. I don’t write about myself. I write stories about people and characters who sneak into the crevices of my mind and heart – I have flashes of what their lives are like, what their fears are, what their dreams are, who they want to become. Why? Because even though these characters don’t exist, even though I cannot tangibly feel them… their stories NEED to be told. And Mary Kate Wiles needed to tell Lydia’s story. So she did. And it was beautiful.

I never liked Lydia Bennet. I thought she was rather annoying and grating and immature. She reminded me too much of friends who had never REALLY grown out of their middle and high-school phases. So when Lydia burst onto the scene in LBD, I was prepared to – at best – just tolerate her. And, truly, Lydia was loud and crazy and weird and wonderful. I thought she was a hilarious character. I was amused by her antics and really curious about the entirety of her list of “Why Lizzie Bennet is Perpetually Single.” But then… something happened. A few scattered episodes (such as “Summer Friends”) revealed to us an entirely new, vulnerable side of Lydia. There was, of course, the side that the cameras and Lizzie saw – wild, party-child Lydia Bennet. But beneath that was this scared, broken girl who was terrified that her sisters would leave her. She was terrified because she didn’t really know who she was, yet. All she really wanted was for her, Jane, Lizzie, and Charlotte to stay together. They were best, that way.

A few episodes later, one of the most painful videos aired – “2 + 1.” In it, Lizzie mistakenly insulted Lydia, insinuating that partying was fine, but that she needed to grow up. Later, the young woman fired back words against Lizzie and the entire exchange was painful. Lydia continued her own vlogs, heading to Vegas for Christmas and New Year’s, all the while spitefully vlogging. But I use that term only to exemplify the emotion behind the actions. What began as spite, simmered into hurt and feelings of betrayal. And every progression, every emotion, was ALWAYS evident on Mary Kate’s face. She inhabited Lydia. She felt the painful stings of the words from her sister. And it was in this pain that Lydia fought back. She was scared. She was alone. And then she found Wickham.

Mary Kate Wiles was honestly spectacular as Lydia Bennet. In the coming weeks of her arc, she degenerated from the energetic, loud, crazy young woman we all fell in love with in the first episode to a quiet, meek, timid girlfriend of George Wickham. Everything about Mary Kate’s portrayal – from her make-up and wardrobe to body language and eye contact with the camera to her tone of voice when delivering lines – was spot-on, and we all ACHED for Lydia. Never, truly, have I wanted to fix a character, to hold her and piece together her broken life again, than I did with this version of Lydia.

I didn’t want the young Bennet to suffer. I didn’t feel like she somehow “deserved” her downfall. Did Lydia make unwise decisions out of fear and spite? Yes. Does that make her evil or a villain or less deserving of our love, as viewers? No. In fact, it makes her MORE deserving. Because any one of us could be Lydia. She is, after all, human and therefore flawed. What Mary Kate portrayed was an honest version of a flawed woman, who just wanted to be loved and accepted (especially by Lizzie, who had no idea HOW to love or build a relationship with Lydia). At the end of “An Understanding,” we see this love pour out – we see Lydia, open and vulnerable to Lizzie and we see the latter respond not by casting judgment or asking questions but by pouring out LOVE. In the end, Lydia’s journey has returned her home – returned her to a place that reminds her she is loved and will be okay.

Thank you, sincerely, Mary Kate for taking us along for this ride. Because of your Lydia Bennet, I will never look at her with the same prejudices I initially did. Instead, I will remind myself that even the most put-together and confident people have hurts and hang-ups. Thank you for allowing us to love Lydia like you did.

For Julia Cho (Charlotte Lu):



Every heroine needs a trusty BFF, and there is no one more trustworthy and loyal than Charlotte Lu in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. In the novel and movie (and I presume the mini-series as well), Charlotte isn’t thought of very highly by those around her. She’s of no consequence, noble birth, and is unmarried. But in LBD, Charlotte and Lizzie are navigating their lives together – neither of them have life entirely figured out, but they’re managing as best friends often do. What’s so brilliant about Charlotte Lu (and Julia Cho) is that I really came to love Charlotte, even though I didn’t necessarily adore her in the novel or movie.

LBD unearthed an entirely new layer to Charlotte. Rather than have the young woman solely exist as a sidekick for Lizzie, they fleshed her out as a character. We knew Charlotte’s dreams and goals and visions, and it pained us when she casted doubts on herself. She, after all, told Lizzie that there are too many variables to predict happiness or success. And in that subtle moment that Julia really nailed, we were able to see glimpses of the novel and movie version of Charlotte. We see her insecurities, which led her (in the other versions) to accept Collins’ marriage proposal. But in LBD, though Charlotte is a bit uncertain about her future, it is her desire to move forward in life, to further her career, to open MORE opportunities that causes her to accept Collins’ job offer. Charlotte is not afraid of change, which is something quite admirable about her character. She is strong and certain and determined. And she acts as Lizzie’s counterbalance throughout the entire series in this regard. Where Lizzie hesitates, Charlotte plows forward. Where Lizzie refuses to discuss feelings and emotions, Charlotte encourages communication. Where Lizzie lacks wisdom and understanding, Charlotte offers logic and reason.

The two could not be more perfectly suited for one another, and Julia’s portrayal of this steadfast best friend is just beautiful. I love that I KNOW who Charlotte is, at her core, as a character. I love that I know what drives her character and what her goals are. I love that she isn’t afraid to speak up or stand up against Lizzie. And I love, most of all, that Charlotte is always there for the people she loves and cares about. That is not only the trademark of a wonderful friend, but of an outstanding person. So thank you, Julia, for giving me new appreciation and admiration for Charlotte Lu. I am extremely grateful.

For Daniel Vincent Gordh (William Darcy):



Daniel is, quite simply (and to use the words of his brilliant co-star), “a prince among men.” I’m going to do my best in regards to both Daniel and Ashley to convey the depth of their characterization and what they’ve meant to me as a viewer. Mr. Darcy is, perhaps, one of the most iconic (if not most iconic) romantic male leads, which means that there are always large shoes to fill whenever an actor steps into the role. I actually joined The Lizzie Bennet Diaries after the Darcy Day episode aired. Much like reading ecstatic tweets after the Community season one finale aired and then deciding to marathon the entire season, I followed the same process with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. So many of my friends were sent into a frenzy on social media, encouraged me to marathon the show from the beginning, and THEN I would be able to understand their excitement.

Well, I did. I marathoned all 60 episodes as fast as humanly possible, and was thrilled to finally meet Daniel Vincent Gordh as William Darcy on-screen. What I love most about Pride and Prejudice as a story and what I love about LBD and what I love about romance stories in general is that they all (or the good ones, anyway) focus on how people can better one another just by existing and – especially – by loving. William Darcy, when we first meet him, is stiff and proper and honestly that portrayal was SO brilliant by DVG because just watching the later episodes he is in, you can gradually see his posture become less rigid, his stature less proper and stiff, and his body language around Lizzie becomes more warm and open and inviting. He leans toward and into her in later episodes, which I just find fantastic because it exemplifies how comfortable he is around her.

Everything about DVG’s portrayal of Darcy only allowed me to love him more. I think that perhaps a number of us were so obsessed with the IDEA of SEEING Darcy, that we didn’t contemplate his character. Really, what was so brilliant was how astute DVG was to this version of Darcy. I’ve heard him say that he studied the videos in order to determine what had been said about the character, and then brought that version to life. One of my favorite lines that floats around Tumblr in GIF sets from time to time is Lizzie’s description of how Darcy continually stares at her, saying: “It’s like I’m a traffic accident and he just can’t look away.” Every scene that Darcy is in with Lizzie is wonderful because he always gives her his complete, undivided attention. He is always making eye contact, not studying the camera or concerned with Lizzie’s viewers. He wants to build a relationship with HER.

And truly, I think that LBD Darcy is the only version I have ever felt truly sorry for – this is a man who publically (embarassingly) professed his love for Lizzie in front of thousands of viewers on the Internet, and someone who was slighted by that woman. Darcy could have very easily continued to be the cool, detatched, stoic man he started the series as. But warmth began to trickle in. He actually made a JOKE in “Hyper-Mediation in New Media.” Lizzie’s rejection caused him to examine the way he presented himself to others, which is something I don’t think he had done until that point. Fitz, Gigi, and Bing all had known Darcy. They knew what kind of person he was. His employees at Pemberley knew the type of boss he was. But the way he presented himself to Lizzie? Well, it took her rejection for him to learn to overcome the vices and flaws in his character.

Darcy doesn’t “become better” for Lizzie. When you love someone and when you love YOURSELF, you want to be the best version humanly possible – you want to give as much as you can, love as deep as you can, and continue to grow. I think that DVG does a spectacular job at exemplifying this growth in Darcy, this desire to look at himself and others from different points of view. That, in turn, causes him to see LIZZIE in a new way. Before, he had professed his love to someone he had barely known. But upon genuinely learning who she was and spending time with her, he found his feelings changing – he was falling MORE in love with her.

I could write an essay on how wonderful DVG was as Darcy – how nuanced, how brilliantly calculated each movement was, how his body language was indicative of someone softening and growing more and more comfortable with himself and those around him. What, too, I loved about DVG’s Darcy was the delivery of certain lines – the development from the clipped, stoic, proper tone he uses to deliver “Are you all right?” in “Are You Kidding Me!” to the gentleness with which he delivers nearly the same line (“Lizzie, are you all right?”) in “Ugh.” You can tell that DVG understood this Darcy – he knew what made him who he was, what made him fall in love with Lizzie, what drove him to re-declare his love in “Gratitude,” even though the last attempt had failed miserably. Watching the chemistry between DVG and Ashley was nothing short of beautiful – to watch these two characters fall in love in LBD was, quite honestly, like watching as if I had never seen the story before.

Truly, DVG’s Darcy is something special and I cannot thank him enough for portraying such an iconic character so brilliantly, and allowing us to emotionally connect with him more than we had ever had the opportunity to before.

For Ashley Clements (Lizzie Bennet):



Ashley Clements is a beautiful tropical fish and anyone who says otherwise can take that up with me, personally. But in all seriousness, Ashley’s presence as Lizzie Bennet and her performances over the course of the last year just… they honestly astound me. I have so much adoration for her as a person, in general, but especially as an actress. And ESPECIALLY as she is playing one of the most well-known and beloved heroines of… well, perhaps all time.

As wonderful and important as each character is in this adaptation, this is – first and foremost – Lizzie’s story and Lizzie’s journey. What I have always loved about the way that Ashley portrays Lizzie and the way that she was written is something that Ashley, herself, has mentioned on numerous occasions: Lizzie is flawed. No one, I would argue, wants to watch 100 episodes featuring a flawless, perfect, put-together character. I connect with Lizzie, personally, because I KNOW she has flaws. She’s quick to judge the people around her in her life. She places prejudices on Darcy (and Lydia) which color her perception of them and alter the way she treats them as characters and people. Lizzie is far from perfect. But it’s beautiful, truly, because we are all imperfect people. And I saw myself – more than any other adaptation – in Lizzie Bennet.

As an older sibling to a sister who is seventeen and soon to graduate high school, I related so much to the Lizzie-Lydia arc, finding myself able to associate with Lizzie. I want to protect people. But it’s more than that, really: I want to make their decisions FOR them, sometimes, because I think I know what is best. But that’s not love, really. That’s the desire to control (being a perfectionist by nature, this is my cross to bear) the people around us. And the Lizzie-Lydia arc broke a lot of us, I think. I, like many people, watched both LBD and the Lydia spin-offs, went home, and hugged my sister. It took a blow-up between two fictional siblings to remind me exactly how special my OWN was to me. And for Ashley’s portrayal of that, I am eternally grateful.

But Lizzie is more than just prejudices – Lizzie is insecure, at times. When Charlotte and Jane leave, Lizzie feels empty and alone. She’s scared, which is something that she doesn’t realize Lydia is, as well. I identified so strongly with this version of the iconic heroine because that is how I feel, sometimes, watching friends move on, go to graduate school, get married, have children, etc. Seeing Ashley bring to light such a vulnerable side of Lizzie was utterly beautiful and moving to me. Never, once, had I truly considered the loneliness that Elizabeth Bennet must have felt after Jane’s departure and Charlotte’s marriage. But I felt it strongly in LBD. And it connected me to Lizzie. The entire format of the series (being a video blog) allowed us such a deeper look at this wonderful heroine.

Even more than watching Lizzie grow closer to her siblings, grow closer to Charlotte, and understand more about herself, I loved watching Lizzie grow with Darcy. Everyone, of course, loves the Darcy-Lizzie romance, as it is something beautiful and special. But the nuances with which Lizzie’s emotions and feelings are conveyed is something that was so unique and special within this adaptation. Lizzie’s body language, like I noted above with Darcy’s, grows less rigid, less defensive over the course of the episodes. Lizzie gets a wake-up call in “Yeah I Know,” when she realizes the pain and humiliation she caused Darcy. That moment (the receiving and reading of the letter, and Darcy’s acknowledgment that he watched all of her videos), humbles Lizzie. From that point forward, she begins to consciously notice her prejudices against the man. And that experience causes her to continue to grow and develop.

It’s beautiful, really, to see Lizzie’s discomfort and awkwardness during “The Lizzie Trap.” And I say that because it means that Lizzie has finally begun to accept that she may not always be right about people – that first impressions aren’t all they’re chalked up to be, and that people deserve chances. Just watching her expressions and body language allows the audience to realize that Lizzie has reconciled herself to the fact that she DOESN’T know Darcy and that she misjudged him and maybe – just maybe – she wants to get to know this person she initially dismissed. I know that some people were a bit disheartened that Lizzie didn’t outright say that she loved Darcy in her videos, but what I’ve come to recognize through Ashley’s portrayal of the character, is just how private she truly is. Oh, yes, of course there is irony in the fact that Lizzie broadcasts her life to the Internet for thousands of viewers to see. But, as Charlotte notes later on, Lizzie never really discusses her OWN emotions and feelings. She’s better at talking about everyone else than she is about herself. Why? Because, deep down, Lizzie is just like us all – afraid of being rejected, afraid of the uncertainty.

Nevertheless, Ashley’s performance as Lizzie within the Darcy-Lizzie arc isn’t just convincing: it’s beautiful. As I’ve watched “Gratitude” about a dozen times now (… okay maybe more), I’ve come to notice the utter BRILLIANCE with which Ashley portrays Lizzie in that episode. This is a woman who has left words unspoken, hung in the air, between herself and her viewers. But though the words themselves may be unsaid, the emotions are clear to us all who are watching: Lizzie loves Darcy. Yes, she is grateful for what he did, but as far back as “The Lizzie Trap,” Lizzie had begun to develop feelings for Darcy. The more she got to know him, the more he allowed her in, and the more SHE allowed HIM into her life… the more she liked him. And then, quite suddenly, “Ugh” ripped that thread apart. The pained way in which she delivers her line at the end of that video (“Darcy?... Thank you”) exemplifies a woman who is distraught over the hope that she had clung to while at Pemberley – the hope that, perhaps, they could get another chance. This doubt is carried with Lizzie throughout the rest of the episodes, until we reach “Revelations,” where Lydia lets Lizzie in on a secret: DARCY is the one who bought Novelty Exposures and took down the video and website.

This floors Lizzie, visibly, and she attempts to convince herself that he didn’t do it for her own benefit. But the emotions run across Lizzie’s face, quite clearly – confusion, elation, disheartenment (WHATEVER IT'S A WORD) – as she processes the revelation. Ashley does such a wonderful job at keeping Lizzie nuanced and true to character. I ached when I watched our heroine explain that second chances don’t come around very often. She believed she had used up all of hers. I longed to comfort Lizzie, to assure her that Darcy still loved her, that she didn’t need to despair or lament what-could-have-been. I didn’t have to wait long, then, for Lizzie’s own fears to be shot down. “Gratitude” was such a powerful episode (and not just because of those amazing kisses) because of Ashley’s acting. When you replay the episode, notice the moment Darcy reiterates Lizzie’s words to her – that they are not friends. The sting in those words is visible on Lizzie’s face. But then… something beautiful happens. I love the fact that we are able to see Lizzie’s face, clearly, when Darcy tells her that he still loves her, even more than he did in the fall. Though he cannot see her expression, we can. And there is this AMAZINGLY powerful progression of emotion on Lizzie’s face: her face grows hopeful, her eyes widen, and – honestly I can’t use any other word than “brilliant” to describe the two seconds or so that this moment lasts – then Ashley’s chin slightly trembles. That fear, that doubt, that uncertainty that had flashed through her mind and across her face mere moments earlier is erased. Instead, it is replaced by elation, by HOPE. She is overwhelmed with that feeling, overjoyed that she hasn’t messed their relationship up enough to cause Darcy to turn and run. And so she kisses him. And THAT was wonderful because though Darcy confessed his feelings again, Lizzie needed to be the one to ACT on them, since we had never seen her do that. In that moment, Lizzie’s feelings for Darcy are undeniable. And I think all of our hearts swelled a little (or a lot).

I said earlier that being a character in a great love story doesn’t mean that you simply exist, fall in love, and slap a “The End” on the credits. Being a part of a great love story means that you CHANGE and you GROW and you better yourself and the other person through that love and relationship. Watching Lizzie progress from someone who had a lot of prejudices about those around her to a person who’s learned to understand the people around her, to listen to them, to KNOW them and invest herself in their lives is honestly a joy and a pleasure. And I cannot sing the praises of Ashley Clements enough. I love her Lizzie Bennet. I love that I can smile, knowing how much the character has grown in her relationships with Lydia and Darcy, with Charlotte and Jane. I am going to truly miss this character – this beautifully flawed individual who taught us all that loving other people is difficult, and it’s a process, and sometimes we mess up and have to fix our mistakes. But the joy is in knowing that we don’t have to STAY in that place of brokenness.

I truly love you as a person and actress, Ashley Clements, and am so utterly grateful for all that you have done in bringing Lizzie Bennet to life. You caused me to fall in love with a character I thought I already knew and to appreciate her on an entirely different level. There’s a quote from Wicked which I always cite (because I love and adore it) that seems to sum up this character and her story aptly:

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But, because I knew you, I have changed for good.”

For Hank Green, Bernie Su, Jenni Powell, Rachel Kiley, Jay Bushman, Margaret Dunlap, Alexandra Edwards, Kate Noble, and Michael Aranda (Team Awesome):

I don’t wonder why people continue to retell the story of Pride and Prejudice, two hundred years after it was published. I know that this story continues to be told, not because there is any new information, not because adaptations desire to throw us with an element of surprise, but because it is a story that NEEDS to be told. Pride and Prejudice is, of course, a love story but it is so much more than that. It’s about overcoming your own vices to better yourself and learn to see others the way that they should be seen. It’s about the value of family, of friendship, of knowing oneself. And yes, it is about learning to fall in love.

This team of people is amazing, not because they have done anything out of the ordinary (well, okay, the transmedia aspect and the vlog format is pretty revolutionary), but because they decided that this story needed to be told. LIZZIE’S story needed to be told again. Why? Because there are people who needed to hear it, to know it, and to fall in love with it. and I honestly commend every single person listed above, and the dozens of others who worked tirelessly to put this project together. These people did not do this for the money – they did it because they felt the overwhelming urge to share each of these characters with us. They knew it would not be easy, and that some people would likely not be receptive to it. But they are all storytellers and the point of telling a story is not that people will love it – it’s that people will HEAR it.

You cannot come away from a story unchanged. It’s simply impossible (unless you’re like, a robot, I suppose). Whether or not you loved or hated aspects of LBD, you FELT something. You felt angry at Lizzie or pained at Lydia or elated for Jane or disappointed in Caroline or swoon-y (yeah, it’s… totally a word) at Darcy. Dan Harmon is someone that I utterly admire as a writer, and he had a story circle process that the used when writing Community. The final step of the character journey was “having changed.” And I feel that every person listed above adapted the characters in LBD that way – these people have changed over the course of a year and, consequently, so have we.

So, from the bottom of MY heart, thank you Team Awesome. Thank you Hank, Bernie, and Jenni for being brave enough to develop this series – for stretching yourselves thin to tell a story that was WORTH telling. Thank you Rachel for making me fall in love with Lydia, hurt with her, and heal with her. Thank you Margaret and Kate for writing such beautiful episodes, for causing us to fall in love with these characters. To Jay and Alexandra, thank you for bringing such a unique and exciting element to this story – transmedia. I honestly was so invested in this part of the story. And to Michael and all of the other people who worked behind-the-scenes to make this production the best it could possibly be: thank you. We all cannot thank you enough.

It’s a risk to tell a story, but I honestly believe that it paid off. I honestly and truly do.

For you – yes, you, sitting and reading this right now:

I’ve been heavily invested over the past few years in the Community fandom, and joining the Lizzie Bennet Diaries fandom has been a complete and utter thrill, as I see a lot of similarities. The last few minutes of the Daniel and Ashley Google hang-out really resonated with me (and made me cry), when I heard some of you discuss what the Lizzie Bennet Diaries has meant to you all. For the vast majority of you, this series has meant that you have had the opportunity to connect with people across the world. You’ve bonded together over your love of this show, the love for these people who have created it. And that is exactly how I feel about being a part of the Community fandom.

It is uplifting and beautiful to see so many fans of this series love and support one another. It is amazing to watch fans form relationships with other fans to the point where they actually become FRIENDS. I have not been as invested in LBD as I know a lot of others have, and watching them find the joy of creating relationships and long-lasting friendships just fills me up with utter pride and joy inside. And it brings me to tears to see these relationships forming because I know how much they can grow and develop from first-hand experience. I’ve become wonderful friends with people all across the world now, because of Community. And I’ve met some lovely people on Tumblr thanks to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. No matter what differences we may have, no matter what disagreements or arguments in Tumblr posts, on the YouTube comments, etc. there is one thing that is certain – we love this show and are leaving it changed.

Daniel said something in the hang-out that resonated with me, as well: art is creating art. I am blown away by the talented artists that there are within the Lizzie Bennet Diaries fandom. People create GIFs, drawings, paintings, videos, write fanfiction, etc. And they do this, not because they are being PAID to do it or asked to do it. They are doing this because the story of Lizzie and her life MOVES them to create. During the Lydia arc, people were debating with one another on Tumblr. They were posting their opinions, writing analyses, etc. And that? THAT is art. Anything that inspires you to create, to do, to make… that’s what art truly is.

And what I know, I know with all of my heart – people will not stop creating just because LBD ends. In fact, people will continue to be inspired to create more, to share more. People will keep discovering this series. I am in the process of introducing one of my best friends to it. Lizzie’s story will continue to be told, and that will be thanks – in part – to US. This team of people has done something special for us, and if you love something enough, you want to share it with others. So that’s what I plan to do.

Wherever these people go next, whatever we – as a fandom – end up accomplishing or creating, I know one thing for certain: we have all changed, thanks to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

It has been... so good to see you, Seahorses. And I'll see you around. :)

11 comments:

  1. I think every single LBD fan needs to read this! Such a beautiful tribute to a series we will love forever.

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    1. Aww, thank you so much Anon for the lovely words. :)

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  2. God this was wonderful. I really enjoyed reading this as I myself have been really invested in this story. I can hardly believe it's been a full year! Anyways thank you so much for writing this wonderful tribute piece. :)

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    1. :') Thank you so much for the sweet words, Anon! I cannot believe it's been a year since everyone has begun this journey, and I love that it has changed us all. Thank you for commenting!

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  3. FABULOUS. I love in-depth discussions about this beautiful fantastic show. Thank you for writing this <3 Julia Cho tweeted it, and that's how I found it! :D

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    1. Thank you, Maddz, for reading and taking the time to comment. :) I feel so privileged that Julia and others have read and enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing.

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  4. Wow, this is hands down, the best LBD blog post I've ever read (and maybe even the best blog post I've ever read). It's so beautifully written, insightful and amazing. I really enjoyed reading this and it made me reflect on and realize more about how the show has impacted me, in ways I sometimes find hard to understand or express. Thank you for finding the words that I've always wanted to say :)

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    1. Wow, thank you so much Nayantara for your sweet words! I am so happy that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing. LBD meant something special to us all, and I am happy I could do it a bit of justice with this piece. :')

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  5. I don't usually comment on people's blogs, but I had to for this cuz ohmyword you used all the right words to describe how I feel too, especially Ashley's acting in 'Gratitude'. Thank you for writing this! I keep a Notepad document of links I want to save, this is going to be the next entry :)

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    1. Ruiqi, thank you for coming out of hiding to comment on this post! It means so much to me that you enjoyed it. :') And I agree wholeheartedly with the Ashley sentiment -- she was stellar in "Gratitude." Again, thank you SO much for the kind words. They mean a lot!

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