FROM PAGES TO SCREEN: Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the art of transmedia storytelling when retelling Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

FROM PAGES TO SCREEN: Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the art of transmedia storytelling

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When it comes to Pride and Prejudice adaptations, everyone has their favourite. But none shook the web as much as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries did when they started airing in 2012.

FROM PAGES TO SCREEN is a monthly trend where I discuss screen adaptations of books, the changes made to the story and my opinion of it. Those adaptations are either TV shows, both currently airing and already over, or movies.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries isn’t the first modern adaptation of Lizzie’s adventures in celibacy and eligible bachelors. Both Bride and Prejudice and The Bridget Jones Diaries came long before it did, and both were quite successful. But LBD did something no other adaptation had done before — everything happened online, on several social media platforms, and smashed the fourth wall quite beautifully. (Jane Bennet’s Pinterest page is still a thing of beauty.)

FROM PAGES TO SCREEN: Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the art of transmedia storytelling when retelling Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

What made LBD the success it was, is how the creators presented it. You, of course, have Lizzie’s YouTube channel, where the main storyline happened twice a week for two years. And only watching the videos give you all the information you need to follow the story and to understand what is going on in the lives of the characters. But what made the beauty of LBD when it comes to storytelling is that it didn’t stop here. Every character had their own Twitter account that was updated in real life in between the episodes, a concept that can also be found in Norwegian TV show Skam. It gives a more realistic approach to the characters, which helps identifying with them and with their stories.

They no longer are characters you tune in to once or twice a week, but part of your every day life when you open Twitter or Instagram. Which helps making them more real in the eyes of the audience, and makes following their adventures more personal when you are able to directly interact with them through a tweet. But YouTube-only audience missed out on the beauty that was the friendship between Gig and Fitz (hashtag Eagle and Tiger) or the missing Gigi-Mary link by the end of the show. Which, while not essential to the story, made for entertaining moments between characters that were not always on camera.

Of course, this approach is not without its disadvantages. If the Pemberley Digital team did a great job of listing all the episodes (YouTube videos and otherwise) in chronological order on their website, not all episodes survived the evolution of Twitter. (RIP San Francisco tour pictures, may you survive lost in the archives of Tumblr blogs.) Not to mention it can be quite daunting to go through such a big list at once if you are new to the show.

The show isn’t without its flaws, be them in the writing (the slutshaming of Lydia Bennet in the beginning was criticised by a lot of fans) or in the logic within the narrative (how legal is it for Lizzie to publish videos of people without their consent?). But, overall, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a wonderful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and did an amazing job of adapting it into a modern setting. It made the risky choice of keeping Darcy away for 60 episodes, but it paid off — the releasing of the episode, dubbed Darcy Day by the fandom, led to an impressive boost of audience.

And, to be honest, being part of the fandom when LBD was airing is an experience I’ve never seen with any other story, ever. It was incredible to see people, especially fanfiction writers and fanartists, working so fast to create content in the few days in between episodes. Metas and theories were flowing all over Tumblr. Twitter liveblogs were intense. The cast themselves were amazing too, very active on social medias and always eager to interact with the fandom.

All in all, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a show to be experienced, not just a show to watch. And boy, am I glad I went through it all.

What is your favourite webseries based on a book?

One Comment

  • meretciel

    December 7, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Lizzie Bennet DIaries is probably my favorite webserie (even though that’s not really hard as i’ve just watched a couple more of Pemberley Digital and that one about Peter Pan) and i am so sad i didn’t really catch up to it till nearly the end (i remember the first episode i had to wait for was the one where Lizzie left Pemberley SO THERE IS THAT).
    I am so glad they are doing now that thing in FB where they upload everything chronological again (soon those SF tour photos will be up again, GLORIOUS).

    Reply

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