LBD – what worked and what didn’t


Anybody who follows my Tumblr knows the overwhelming love that I have for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. This is not a surprise. But those who have been paying attention also know that there are some elements of the series that didn’t always work for me. I have commented on them, though in the last couple of weeks I haven’t been focusing on them. Instead I’ve been swept up in a wave of emotion about the series ending and the wonderful romantic conclusion. Now that those waves are subsiding I’m starting to think more comprehensively and critically about the series as a whole. Those elements that didn’t work for me – I had put a pin in most of them, waiting to see how they concluded before I decided whether or not they worked in the end. Now that we presumably have all the information we’re ever going to have, I think I’m ready to draw some conclusions. 

Some criticism follows under the cut, and it gets long. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – even when I don’t agree with every creative decision that was made, I still really admire what the team did with this series as a whole. I may have sometimes found things to be imperfect or even problematic, but for me that doesn’t take away from any of the overall love that I have for the end product. The experience that I’ve had with this series over the past several months has been wonderful.

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I agree with the large majority of this.

I’m still wrestling somewhat what how I feel about the Lizzie/Lydia conflict and the Lydia/Wickham abuse subplot. That had a different tone from much of the rest of the show, obviously. Whether or not that different tone was a problem is a judgement call. The people who made a mini-career out of hating on it made some good points. But I also think there was more going on than just good choices vs. bad choices from a storytelling standpoint.

I’m suspicious of my emotional reactions to that part of the story. Part of what I had a problem with from the time of Lizzie and Lydia’s big fight was a sense that my expectations for these characters and their relationship were being thwarted. I disliked what was happening partly because it upended things I’d come to really enjoy about what came before. I also had a sense that I was being hit over the head repeatedly with aspects of the story that came off as kind of melodramatic. I resented feeling like Lydia was being woobified, and like the characters were descending into a weird dysfunctional box from which they should have been able to extract themselves more easily than they did.

I was unhappy with what was happening, but on some level I was supposed to be unhappy with it. I didn’t like feeling that way, especially given the thimbleful-of-wine pace of the realtime storytelling, and maybe that made me want to subconsciously find fault with the creators of the show. But I don’t think that’s really fair.

One thing I’ve thought about is how easy it is to lob criticism at someone else’s creative work, versus how hard it is to actually create something worthwhile. LBD was good in so many ways that it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t really the same sort of thing as a television series or movie. The resources they were working with were minuscule compared to mainstream entertainment. In some ways LBD had more in common with amateur theater and fanfiction than it did with commercial entertainment. Whether it was amazing or awful really depends on what standard you measure it against. And it blows me away how much they were able to accomplish while basically bootstrapping a whole new approach to fictional storytelling.

I appreciate that there were people who hated aspects of the show enough to go into hyper-articulate detail about it. At a certain point, though, I made a conscious decision to push that criticism away and just enjoy the show. I unfollowed several people, and only went back to see what they’d been saying once in a while when I felt up to it. Yes, the things they were identifying as problems kind of were problems, at least some of the time (though at other times I got a sense of Lizzie-sees-only-what-she-wants-to-see). But many of the problems, at least in my mind, weren’t so much the moral failings and glaring stupidity that the haters saw, but were merely the result of well-intentioned people without a lot of experience doing the best they could to lay down tracks in front of a moving train heading through uncharted terrain.

I really loved this show. Which isn’t the same thing as saying it was perfect. Shows are made by people, and people aren’t perfect. But sometimes people and the things they create are worthy of love anyway.

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Tags: lizzie bennet diaries, lbd criticism.

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