And now for part three of my Lydia-centric posts to celebrate The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet. (Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about Lydia’s character growth throughout Pemberley Digital works, including The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Epic Adventures)
In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet is a flat character whose only purpose is to drive the plot. She’s the youngest of five sisters who are all “out” in society and on the marriage market. She loves ribbons and dresses and soldiers and parties… and that’s about it. Granted, she’s 15, so she has reason to lack Jane and Lizzy’s maturity, but she’s a pretty obnoxious little sister. Her most exciting experience is when she runs off with the soldier who used to flirt with her sister, spends a month with him in London, and returns home as the only married daughter. She doesn’t understand that she has brought shame upon her family, and her “happy ending” at the end of the novel is a loveless marriage and endless debts.
In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, we got to see Lydia outside of Lizzie’s prejudiced viewpoint. We saw the little sister who just wants her older sister to love her. We saw the insecurity that hid behind the masks of bright clothes and “adorbs.” We saw the lonely little girl who acts crazy because she wants someone to accept her as she is.
The first time Lydia hints at her insecurity is during the 5th episode of her own vlog when she explains to Mary that she got fired from a babysitting job for tracking mud onto a Turkish rug. She felt bad for the youngest kid because the older boys were being mean to him and he seemed lonely…. Cue subject change, because she’s uncomfortable being this vulnerable.
In the 12th episode, Lydia runs away to LA because Mary picks a boyfriend date over a cousin party at a bar, and in the 13th, she tells Jane that their mom is putting pressure on her to be more like her [more responsible] sisters when it comes to school. Her mom thinks she’s skipping school to hook up with an ex, when she’s really trying to avoid him because he won’t leave her alone. Jane seems to be the only family member who cares to listen.
The last straw is when Lizzie gives Lydia her 21st birthday present: a book on how to be a responsible adult. After eight months of calling her little sister a slut on a viral video blog, she tells that same little sister in front of 200,000 viewers that Lydia isn’t good enough. True, Lydia’s partying and alcohol consumption is out of control and needs to change, but she looks up to Lizzie, who’s just plain cruel in her delivery. Lydia responds with an angry video, and then runs off to Vegas to show just how “irresponsible and thoughtless” she can be.
George Wickham re-enters the Bennet sisters’ internet lives in Lydia’s 23rd episode when he manipulates her into thinking that he’s just like her: condemned by Darcy for seeking acceptance with a group, yet ignored when he got his life together. In the book, she says he protected her from a guy in Vegas who wanted to take advantage of her when she was drunk. He looked out for her when no one else was, so him not assaulting her meant he was “decent enough” for a relationship. The next and last six videos on her channel are too painful for me to rewatch. He takes advantage of her hurt and convinces her that her family doesn’t care, and he’s the only one she can trust. He’s emotionally abusive. We watch her die inside, little by little, until Lizzie finally finds out and tells Lydia that he’s selling their sex tape and releasing it on a website on Valentines Day.
Lydia starts going to counseling and talking with her sisters about everything that has happened. They figure out how to communicate their love to each other, and Lizzie finally accepts her.
This is where The Lizzie Bennet Diaries ends and The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet begins.
Lydia continues meeting with her counselor while Mary temporarily moves in. Once Lydia graduates from her community college and gets accepted into a psychology program, the two girls will move to San Francisco and become best friend cousin roommates. Lydia starts doing well… until she misses the application deadline and starts spiraling.
Spiraling turns into skipped classes and parties with a guy who’s a little too interested in hearing stories about her past. Reminders that everyone else is leaving town make her spiral into even more depression and bad decisions.
Then the guy turns out to be a jerk, so Lydia decides to figure out her life and take a break from dating. And she does. She finds friends who have never heard of her video blog and who only care about George because he’s an ex-boyfriend who betrayed her trust. One of those friends might be a future boyfriend, but they wait so she can heal. She gets closure with George.
11 months after an abusive relationship begins and 10 months after it ends, Lydia moves forward. I don’t know if she’s done healing, since she doesn’t actually exist and doesn’t have to talk about longer term effects of the relationship, but she’s in a much better place. She knows she’s loved, and her past becomes a position of strength from which she helps others.
When Rachel Kiley, Mary Kate Wiles, and the rest of Pemberley Digital fleshed out this side character in Pride and Prejudice, they made her into someone with incredible pain who needed a happy ending. For fans who intimately understand things like betrayal and abusive relationships, they honored this character by allowing her to grow from the pain. Love, not alcohol or parties or boyfriends, is the healing balm for Lydia’s heart. She’s a work in progress, but she’s going to be okay.
There’s hope for Lydia, and that’s all that we need.
That’s how it is when you’re Lydia Bennet. For better or for worse, just about everything winds up being some kind of adventure. And when all is said and done, I don’t think I’d have it any other way.