I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. Sorry. I particularly like Pride and Prejudice, maybe because the protagonist is someone who isn’t perfect, but is trying to be confident in and honest with herself. Anyway. This isn’t a book review. The point is, PP is one of the most widely read books, and it contains a lot of powerful messages. That’s why I think it was a brilliant idea to turn the novel into a web series called “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries“. There are more than 100 videos, all about 6 or so minutes in length, and they can all be found on YouTube. I spent a good week last spring watching these instead of getting my homework done in a timely fashion. (Senioritis. What can you do.)
The idea is simple enough: take a classic and change it up a little. Maybe even mess with the medium. There have been numerous film adaptations, all variously successful. What makes the Lizzie Bennet Diaries so successful (and Hank Green and Bernie Sue so genius) is that it brought something familiar to an extremely familiar medium: vlogs. They’re quick and easy to digest. They’re funny and relatable. They’re aimed at a specific audience. And they’re well produced. The actors and actresses aren’t that bad either. What I particularly like about “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is that the videos aren’t all just from Lizzie’s point of view. There are parallel channels based off of other characters in the book, in which they talk about the unfolding story from their point of view. I find this intriguing, as it is really difficult to show different points of view in a book without breaking character or using a narrator. With the different videos, you get “real time” connection with more than one character at a time. It’s a way to make the audience feel more connected to the events happening in the story, and it becomes more interactive.
The web series just recently picked up a couple of awards, actually, and the same people are now doing the same thing with Austen’s Emma, which will be exciting to see. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started doing this with other works of fiction, like The Scarlet Letter, or The Catcher in the Rye, or anything that has ever been featured in an English class. With today’s cognitive surplus, these reworkings of old material are becoming increasingly more frequent, and successful. I think it’s one type of art that should be explored more, as well as taught, considering the direction our media is heading.