If you are an Austen fan and have never heard of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, then you are missing out, my friend. The Emmy award-winning series captured the suspense and entertainment of Pride and Prejudice for a modern audience without losing any of the charm or integrity of Austen’s original masterpiece. But that is the subject of a later blog post. The good news is, the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are currently producing another modern adaptation of an Austen novel which is perfectly timed for my purposes: Emma.
To give you a little context, Emma Approved is a web series created by Hank Green and Bernie Sue and, obviously, adapted from Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Emma. In the series, Emma Woodhouse is a lifestyle coach and professional matchmaker for her father’s entrepreneurial business which is managed by the one-and-only Alex Knightley. Don’t ask me why they changed it from George, but I can only give them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they had reasons why it better suited the series. I don’t want to give the whole production away, but to sum up the supporting characters so far: Harriet Smith is Emma’s sweet, unsuspecting assistant that is sadly lacking in confidence, Martin is the friendly, down-to-Earth I.T. guy who has fallen head-over-heels for Harriet, and Senator Elton is a charming but scum-baggy politician who hires Emma to find him a wife. That’s about as far as we’ve gotten so far into the story. There have been some recent episodes with Emma’s sister Izzie, but I haven’t had the chance to catch up on those yet.
I recently reread Emma and have discovered so much from this reading, but, what really struck me, was how many of the novel’s themes are so prominent for every generation that it translates quite easily to a twenty-first century production.
- The importance of human affection and relationships
After nearly two hundred years, people still want, and often need, to be matched with a significant other. It is one of our deepest inane
I cannot foresee there ever being a time that the companionship of a kindred spirit is not sought after and appreciated.
Sometimes being able to laugh with a friend is the only thing that keeps you from crumbling under the pressures of life.
- Sibling affection
You may not always get along, but the relationship of siblings is unlike anything else. There is something to be said about the deep bond created when growing up in the same household. With a laugh and a look you can instantly begin rehashing shared experiences.
- Confusing arrogance and pride with intuition.
No matter the year, Emma Woodhouse will always believe she has a secret, special skill, and she will never be able to concede that her instincts could possibly be misconceived until she unintentionally causes pain to others for the sake of her own ego. I don’t know about you, but as a twenty-something, I know I can entirely relate.
- Self-doubt and the influence of others
Even the most confident among us can be infected with the seed of doubt, and no one ever accused Harriet Smith of being the most confident. When large personalities with hard opinions intervene it can be difficult to trust your own decisions.
- Consequences and mistakes
We have all, at some time or another, had to be responsible for the outcomes of our errors. It is too easy to make mistakes while growing into and during adulthood, but eternally admirable to repent and repair them.
If you haven’t already, I greatly recommend immersing yourself in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved as soon as possible. These major themes that the novel and web series have in common are largely important and inescapable in most human lives. It just contributes to the insurmountable evidence that readers will be connecting with Austen for generations to come.