There is a show I watch more religiously than any reality show on free-to-air TV, but unless you regularly watch YouTube you probably won’t have heard of it. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, set now, and updated twice a week. The show is not only very well done, but presented in the style of a Video Blog by Lizzie, a media studies student, and extends beyond the borders of YouTube into the interactive worlds of Twitter and Tumblr, making the story well and truly set in the now.
This trans-media storytelling is part of the appeal. The characters of Darcy, Bing Lee (Mr Bingley) and his sister Caroline are not seen in the videos yet, but often tweet, filling in details as well as keeping the fans interested in between updates. Being Twitter, fans who search the extra information out can also ask questions back and often get a response. The Bennet sisters also have their own Tumblr pages, such as Jane’s vintage fashion website.
Previous shows or promotions on television have used social media to enhance a campaign or get feedback (think voting on Australian Idol) but never to the extent The Lizzie Bennet Diaries does, and the extra media move the story forward. This could be a new way of storytelling. Imagine a detective procedural drama where new clues or police bulletins are tweeted during the broadcast, polls on whodunit to be voted on via Facebook.
This new form of trans-media narration is engaging but may have a negative effect on re-runs or broadcasts into other markets, but for a YouTube web-series, updated at the same time around the world, it works very well. I don’t even know when the tweets will come out, they just appear in my Twitter feed, and several of my friends are now addicted too.
The series has reached mid-twenties in episodes. Mr Collins has just arrived on the scene, a media entrepreneur rather than a vicar, with the support of a venture capital company rather than a Duchess. I can’t wait to see how he offers to fix the Bennet families GFC induced financial troubles, rather than the lack of a male heir.
The blogs and appearances at Vidcon (video convention) would mean nothing if the characters were not believable and the story engaging, but they are… and the extras are picking up followers. It’s not the BBC, but if you like intelligent stories done well and have 5 minutes to watch a YouTube video (even if you never liked costume dramas) you could find a way to enjoy Jane Austen, and then tell your friends about it.
Have you tuned in to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Do you think this kind of collaborative storytelling will change the way we view shows?
Mazi Gray has written 20 posts.
Freelance writer, Information manager and traveler. I dream of visiting all the countries that people say don’t exist or a left over out posts of a more Empirical past. South Ossetia, Principality of Hutt River, Macao or Saint Pierre and Miquelon. I also work here.