Pride and Prejudice…and ignorance

Since it’s now finals time, obviously I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube (thanks to my newly developed super power, procrastination). Normally, this wouldn’t warrant a blog post to Literary Ashland, but some of the videos I’ve been watching are The Lizzie Bennet Diaries—a vlog-based retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I find it rather enjoyable, but you’re probably still wondering why I’m blogging about it here.

Well, as I was watching, I came across this comment on episode seven:

“I’m sorry to have spent three minutes listening to some girl talk about her uninteresting problems. Why would I want to listen to her talk about a wedding she went to? How do you think her family feels about her complaining about them to the entire world? Do people really enjoy this? If you do, keep on enjoying. Don’t let my comment upset you. I’m leaving now.”

Obviously this comment didn’t upset me for the reason this person expected or intended, but I did have a moment when I stared at the comment before demanding of no one who could hear me “HOW ON EARTH DO PEOPLE NOT KNOW THAT THIS IS BASED ON PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?!”

Now, if this was a vlog-based retelling of, say, Homer, I might understand. Slightly more obscure for the average viewer. But when you people don’t even know Pride and Prejudice, despite the numerous remakes and zombified adaptations, I lose a little bit of faith in society. This comment is the argument in a nutshell of why it’s a good idea to teach the classics—so people don’t look like idiots.

As someone who’s always loved books, this comment reminded me that most people don’t. And with the at least the American education system the way it is, it’s doubtful they ever will. But relating back to these videos, I think projects like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries might work in getting students interested in reading again, whether because teachers use these videos as teaching tools or because they let their students create similar projects, thus motivating them to read the book and reenact the parts they think are important or amusing.

While as of this moment this project serves as a reminder that booklovers are in the minority, I think it could spark new interest in reading (though apparently not just yet).

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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