If you follow me on tumblr (which you should, I’m a delight), then you know that I am a big fan of a web series called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The LBD is an online, modernized adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s the story of Lizzie Bennet, a 24 year old grad student, as told through her video diary.
This new perspective keeps that story new and fresh. The characters know they’re on camera, and they know that the videos are published. Which characters are watching? How does that change their actions in the story? …You’ll just have to watch and find out. But take it from me, things are adapted in a refreshing and surprising way. Everything from the various proposals to Lydia’s downfall is updated to fit the new modern setting, and even though my copy of Pride and Prejudice has a well-worn spine, I’ve been kept guessing the entire time.
But perhaps what is really captivating about The LBD is the way viewers can engage and connect with the story. You can follow the characters on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Jane Bennet has a Lookbook. Gigi Darcy uses This Is My Jam to let people know what her song of the moment is (and give viewers an interesting look into her state of mind). You can ask Lizzie a question, and she might just answer you. And all of this happens independent of the main story taking place on Lizzie’s vlogs.
The result is that viewers get to select their level of engagement. You can fully enjoy the story just by watching Lizzie’s videos, OR you can watch her videos and the 3 spinoffs, OR you can follow the characters on social media and see new story elements there as well OR you can do some combination of all of these. While characters having twitter accounts is nothing new (a few tv shows have been doing this for years), having small story arcs take place on social media is a new experiment, and one that The LBD has had tremendous success with. Watching fans freak out and speculate as Darcy’s sister started tweeting that she had discovered and was watching the videos was enough to prove that developments happening only on twitter were noticed by, and having an impact on, the fans.
The LBD wraps up next week (I’m still in a little bit of denial) but the writing and producing team have said that they are going to adapt another story (which story has not yet been revealed). So this leaves the question: is this the future of storytelling? The LBD has been very successful, and even has it’s own line of merchandise (including an actual diary). So as more stories begin to have this level of interaction, can we expect this transmedia storytelling to make the jump to tv shows as well? Will viewers of traditional media embrace it? Or do you think this is something that will stick with the online format? Personally, I’ve loved seeing things unfold on social media and seeing other characters react to Lizzie’s videos online. The internet provides us with new ways to make characters feel real, and adds new depth to a story that was first published 200 years ago. If this old and well-loved story can use new media to keep me guessing, I can only imagine what they could do with an original story.
I for one hope it catches on.
And because I’m nice I made it super easy for you to get started watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries by embedding the first episode below. Trust me. Even my non-Pride and Prejudice reading brother likes it.