How active can a fandom for a book that’s 199 years old possibly be?
Tumblr and Twitter are finding that out right now, as #DarcyDay takes over the loyal and growing fandom for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries—the most recent popular iteration of Pride and Prejudice. After 59 eps of waiting breathlessly for the appearance of the iconic romantic lead, today fans of the web series finally got their wish.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, commonly referred to as the LBD, is an update of Jane Austen’s iconic satire of social and class relationships. The romance between its two main characters, Elizabeth and Darcy, has served as the template for two centuries of love/hate relationships, romantic comedy, and countless plot tropes in your mom’s Harlequin library.
Of course, updates of Pride and Prejudice are nothing new, to put it mildly; but the LBD has several things that make it unique among Austen fanfic. For starters, it’s a webseries, in the form of an ongoing vlog run by the main character, Lizzie Bennet. While the main storyline updates twice a week, other characters have Twitter accounts, Tumblrs, and even separate vlogs of their own, exposing us to sides of these characters that no other Austen remake has had the time or the capacity to explore.
It’s also co-produced by Vlogbrother Hank Green, who got the idea to do a modernization of Pride and Prejudice from his wife, a huge Austen buff. Green promoted the show to his legions of fans, known as Nerdfighters. Thousands of them faithfully flocked to the LBD despite not having read the novel or knowing anything about the plot. This phenomenon led to an ongoing wonder in the comments of each YouTube video, as fans who know the story by heart interacted with fans who begged other fans not to spoil them for what happened next.
“Pride and Prejudice is our greatest weapon, actually,” co-producer and head writer Bernie Su recently told the Dot. “[We] have this tried and true story that we know is a great story.”
But one mystery remained for both newbies and longtime fans: Darcy. Those in the know were well aware of the significance of the side-character whose face they never saw, but whose name kept coming up again and again. As some newcomers to the show began to wonder if there was more to this Darcy character than met the eye, others boldly declared that they were starting to ship Lizzie and Darcy together. And everyone wanted to know when they would see him already.
And so it went, for 58 long episodes. Since the show faithfully recreates each chapter of the original novel—another thing most professional remakes don’t have the luxury to do—fans knew they were getting close to a huge moment in the storyline: the moment when Darcy and Lizzie have their biggest conversation yet. The anticipation over who Darcy was grew astronomically. Tumblr exploded in gifs and speculation (many fans thought he would be played by John or Hank Green), while Twitter declared today to be #darcyday. Some fans even dressed up for the occasion.
“It is officially Darcy Day where I live,” tweeted Green. “I did not think I would be this nervous... but I am.”
In an open letter to the actor who would be playing Darcy, posted prior to today’s big reveal, Tumblr user dreamingofaplaceiveneverbeen wrote, “For a vast majority of women Darcy embodies the concept of ‘the ideal man’. Darcy is (supposedly) the very pinnacle of regency manhood and the perfection of the ‘Tall Dark, Handsome and Brooding’ type.”
The open letter went on to state that it would be impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations for a character who’s most famously been played twice by Colin Firth; but judging by the early reactions, fans aren’t disappointed. “Not at ALL the Darcy i imagined, but my HEAVENS could he be any more PERFECT?” tweeted @angieh328. Squishycupcake on Tumblr sums up what seems to be the general reaction to today’s ep, which went live at noon Eastern:
I’m having issues right now
Breathing issues, not fangirling issues, “conserving the ability to can” issues
AND IT’S ALL DARCY’S FAULT
So what was the ep that caused the big stir? Take a look below—or start from the beginning.
Photo via LizzieBennet/YouTube