24 4 / 2012
So my partner in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Bernie Su, has already talked about why there are only three Benne Sisters in our adaptation (and five in the novel) and since I just saw a much-thumbed comment lamenting the decision, I wanted to put my two cents in.
First, our goal is not to re-create Pride and Prejudice exactly. It’s a re-telling, somewhere between a strict adaptation, and the plot homage of Bridgett Jones. We’re following the story, but lots of characters are going to be left out, or morphed into…well…I don’t want to give too much away.
But we had to think seriously about who we would (and could) include. Mary and Kitty have their charms but, from my perspective as a P&P fanboy serve mostly non-character purposes. They show two things with their mere existence that are more important than their personalities or characters.
- They show that the Bennets were desperate to have a son, but were unlucky enough to have all girls. They needed, and were unable to have, a boy to inherit the house and land and take care of the family.
- They show (in a way that doesn’t make sense to us now) what dire straights the Bennets are in. The have FIVE DAUGHTERS and NONE of them are going to be taken care of if some of them don’t find suitable husbands.
It’s easy to forget the seriousness of Lizzie’s refusal of Mr. Collins because it doesn’t make sense in a world where the thought of women being unable to own property is ludicrous. Marrying Mr. Collins would be an extremely selfless (not selfish) act on Lizzie’s part. The house and estate would remain in the family and she would be able to take care of any unmarried sisters. As Lady Catherine points out, having the younger daughters “out” or “available for courting” before the older daughters were married was very uncommon and a sign of some desperation.
Lizzie’s refusal isn’t just a refusal of wealth for her, it’s a refusal of security for her entire family. Which is why it’s so unthinkable to her mother and to Mr. Collins that she would refuse.
We obviously now live in a world where women can own property, so none of this is relevant. As creators, we need to outline this tension in other ways, of course, and those ways would only be confused by more daughters.
We are not attempting to re-create the story word for word…we’re trying to re-create the spirit of the story, to imagine what the characters would be like in a modern situation that is completely different in specifics, but surprisingly similar with a broader view.
If you haven’t checked out the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, it’s being very well received and I’d love it if you would. Expect new episodes Monday and Thursday!
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