As a member of the Brontë society
threw the toys out of the pram resigned over the appointment of model Lily Cole as patron, I feel the weight of the judgement of literary circles the way Mr Bingley’s sisters looked at the Bennett family for what I am about to say. It’s not that my guilty pleasure is Made in Chelsea (which it is). I love Jane Austen’s adaptations. I love anything Austen, really. She is my role model. My copy of the complete novels is rather ruined after reading again and again (I even dedicated a whole blog post to my favourite non-Jane Austen books because the obvious answer is to see me as basically Amanda Price in Lost in Austen). Visiting her house (which I still haven’t done) was one of the suggestions for an ideal first date. In fact, I’ve often credited my tendency to Austen film marathons in bed as the reason why I was single. It took someone who would watch them with me, and who knew who Mr Knightley was when I told him he was much like him, to change the status. And I buy Jane Austen novels in translation as presents to my mother, who has bought Sense and Sensibility by herself and that makes me proud.
I appreciate the adaptations for different reasons: the classics, which are faithful to the novels, are still the novels seen through the director’s eye. The design of the spaces can be very inspirational, like in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Lost in Austen and Austenland are really funny in the way they satirise our obsession with the past, and romanticise their customs around love and marriage (and we still need to know the truth about Elliot Cowan’s hair!). But, while I still swoon over Jeremy Northam, and look really fondly at the late Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon, my favourite adaptations have to be those by Pemberley Digital, whose Lizzie Bennett Diaries celebrated 5 years a few months ago.
I first discovered them because a friend told me about them, and I was a bit sceptical: modern day Austen? Do you mean like Clueless? (Now, that’s something I don’t like that much…). It didn’t take a whole episode for me to be hooked. This wasn’t just the dynamic of the story transported into modern settings. This was a whole new level of creating characters and situations that were faithful to what the characters and situations were in the past. It’s difficult to convey just how brilliant the transpositions are without giving out major spoilers, and the ways in which they also take some cheeky detours is so brilliant you will forgive them for that.
One of the best things about these adaptations is not just that real life love stories sprung from it (Emma and Knightley have been a real life couple, although sadly they are no more). The acting is brilliant, in fact better than a lot of mainstream stuff, and they all deservedly went on to do great things with their careers. Even if I have enjoyed the other stuff they did, in my heart they will always be the Pemberley Digital characters I go back to watching over and over again when I’m feeling down and I need a laugh.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Guilty Pleasures”. Find the rest of the series here.