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Humility and Tolerance - Rachel Kessler at Grace Church

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Humility and Tolerance

By Rachel Kessler on
Rachel Kessler
Rev. Rachel Kessler is Associate Priest at Grace Church on-the-Hill in Toronto
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Jan 28 in Grace Church

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lydia Bennet is a spoiled brat and totally got what she deserved in her marriage to George Wickham.

Unless you're watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modernization of Pride and Prejudice told in the form of Lizzie Bennet's video blog.  It is ... AMAZING!

Leeman showed me the first episode a couple weeks ago, and I proceded to watch the remaning 79 videos in about 36 hours. In my defence...they are each only about 4 minutes long.  They're now up to episode 83, with much of the novel still to go!

I could go on about what a brilliant job the writers have done modernizing a classic. Or I could speculate as to what the success of the series means for traditional television and the potential for something like YouTube to become a vehicle for legitimate media. Or I could even offer a sad fangirl confession that YouTube Lizzie and Darcy have almost--not quite--surpassed Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (blasphemy, I know...seriously, though, this web series is just delightful).

But, no, I think one of the most interesting choices the team behind the LBD made was to flesh out several of the minor characters from the novel in ways I've never seen before.  They have loads of fun with "Caroline Lee" (sister of "Bing Lee"), for example, and even Lizzie's best friend "Charlotte Lu" gets an actually personality. But the best character enhancement absolutely comes from Lydia, Lizzie's youngest sister.  In the book, Lydia is wholly self-absorbed and concerned with nothing beyond her own amusement.  Through her own imprudence she ultimately finds herself married to the womanizing George Wickham and we readers get the distinct impression their life is not one of mutual affection or financial stability. But, really, she kinda had it coming.

The Lydia of Lizzie Bennet's video blog is just as exuberant and just as shallow as her literary counterpart. However, one does get the impression that she cares about her sisters, and she does feel a sense of shame as Lizzie (fairly self-righteously) repeatedly depicts her as vapid and sexually promiscuous.  One of the more creative things the LBD team has done is create spin-off YouTube channels for side characters to show what they're up to when not in the main action of the story. At this point in her own video diary, Lydia has found herself romantically entangled with the one and only George Wickham. What's fascinating about this version of the story is that it is clearly an abusive relationship. Wickham is clearly using Lydia to get under Lizzie's skin. He draws Lydia's attention by subtly, but persistently, playing on her insecurities and convincing Lydia that she is not respected by her older sisters.  As a result, the exuberant young woman we saw in the earlier episodes is much subdued--but not in a good way.

I'll confess ... I really feel sorry for this Lydia. I want cute, adorable Lydia back (if maybe a little bit wiser and mature). Pride and Prejudice is a book about seeing past first impressions--realizing that we are all capable of growth and change. Is it possible that for the past 200 Years, we readers have ourselves been unfairly prejudiced against Lydia, just as Lizzie is unfairly prejudiced against Darcy? Yes, she has her flaws, but she is also human (or well, as human as any other fictional literary character). Lizzie and Darcy are both pretty odious at times too. Who's to say Lydia is incapable of personal transformation?

I'd like to think that amid all the "tweaks" The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has made to the original story of Pride and Prejudice, this insight into Lydia's character comes closest to reflecting the heart of the original story. No one is black and white and we are all caught from time to time in our personal failings.  This might not be a profoundly "theological" point, but it is a helpful message for those of us who strive to live according to Christ's teachings of radical love and charity for one another. Let us judge not, but instead strive to see the image of Christ in all people.

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Rachel Kessler

Rev. Rachel Kessler is Associate Priest at Grace Church on-the-Hill in Toronto

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