So tomorrow is a HUGE DAY for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries fandom. There definitely is one, and it's actually one of the most delightful fandoms I've come across in a while, even if my interaction with it has been almost totally in YouTube comments and on Tumblr.
In case you missed my earlier flailing, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in vlog format. Lizzie keeps a vlog about her day-to-day adventures, and all the crazy cast of people who come in and out of her life. It. Is. Fabulous. Caroline tries to win fans from Lizzie's vlog audience by gifting us her cast-off designer handbags (no seriously). WICKHAM WEARS GUYLINER. PERFECT SHOW. IS. PERFECT.
The vlog updates twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Each ep runs anywhere from 3-7 minutes on average, and each ep covers one full chapter of Pride and Prejudice. Although P&P can feel like a short book, it's really not, and at 63 chapters in, we're only FINALLY getting to one of the main plot points of the book:
There are so many amazing things about the way the LBD is happening. The Jane Austen fandom was my very first fandom, and one of only 2 that I consider a lifelong fandom, along with HP. But the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, because it's happening on YouTube, is revitalizing the Austen fandom in a way that I really honestly thought could not happen, because let's face it, there are 8 zillion P&P remakes out there already, right?
Because it's happening on YouTube, there are lots of fans who a) have never read the book, and even fewer, a handful of fans who b) still haven't figured out that the show isn't actually real. So, in any given episode, you have a bunch of things going on:
- people confusedly wondering why the people on Lizzie's vlog are acting like characters out of a book, because they don't realize that they ARE characters
- people who know what's up but haven't read the book begging other people not to spoil them for what happens, which generally leads to
- lots of other people amusedly trolling them with fake spoilers ("WAIT TIL LYDIA GETS PREGNANT!"), etc etc.
So that's all good times. But even more than that, people like me who know the book backwards and forwards, who've read it a million times, are basically freaking out on a regular basis because everything about this story is enhanced by having it done in Vlog format. We vet to spend more time with the characters, side characters who are deliberate caricatures in Austen's world become fleshed out and even more sympathetic, and the relationships that we see on-screen deepen. We invest in them even more, so that when the plot twists of Austen's novel happen, they hit us in totally new ways. (Not even going near the show giving us Jane's reaction to Bing leaving, because OH MY GOD SO MANY TEARS.)
Take Lizzie and Charlotte. Charlotte Lucas--or Charlotte Lu as she's named in the LBD--is so much more than just a side character. She has her own voice, we watch her argue and fight with Lizzie, we watch her impacting the whole style of the show, and we see her away from Lizzie trying to be her own person while still desperately missing her best friend. The weeks that they were apart in the series really felt strained as they unfolded in real time in a way that never happens in any other Austen adaptation or fanfic, because we got to really feel her absence episode after episode. When the episode that brought the two of them back together finally happened, I HONEST-TO-GOD SHRIEKED ALOUD IN GLEE, because even though I know that they remain friends, the emotional catharsis of watching them make up after their long fight and separation hit me as hard as any new story that I'm watching would have hit.
That's why it's absolutely one of the highlights of my week right now to peruse the comments on YouTube for this show. Like, this is one time where I would urge you DEFINITELY READ THE COMMENTS because apart from being very polite and happy--everyone loves all of the characters, which is just so nice oh my god--the comments really submerge you in the amazing cultural convergence that is happening around this show.
Everyone who knows the book knows that Monday is Proposal Day, and the fandom has been FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT. Which is exciting all by itself because the LBD still hasn't shown us Darcy yet, and every episode we get brings us closer to the Big Reveal omfg.
But the people who have NO IDEA what's happening next because they're watching the story for the first time?--THEY'RE ALSO FREAKING OUT. They're all, HOLY SHIT WHAT DARCY NO, NO WAY! and OH MY GOD LIZZIE, and WTF IS GOING TO HAPPEN NOW, and DARCY YOU ASSHOLE, and it's so fucking incredible, haha.
Like, just to be a lifelong Jane Austen fan is to know that you're one of Those Women who dreams of a Darcy figure to whisk you away to Regency England, right, and you get lumped in with this kind of fuddy-duddy culture of cat-owning book club members who own all of the Austen films and have three copies of the 1995 BBC P&P because their VHS tapes wore out and then 2 people gave them the DVDs for christmas *cough*.
So there's this real joy for me in watching other people discover this story as it's happening. This is in part a tribute to the excellent writers of the LBD, but also, ultimately, to Austen, and to the power of a universally beloved story. When I hosted the Daily Dot's Transmedia Round Table recently, Bernie Su, the LBD's co-producer and head writer, said that the LBD considers P&P to be "our greatest weapon." And it's so true, because you can literally see people who started watching randomly, or maybe because of the Hank Green connection (he's the other producer) moving from casual interest to total obsession based on the power of the story, and getting so caught up in the plot and the characters in real time.
It's MAGICAL, YOU GUYS. it's making me SO UNBELIEVABLY HAPPY. Like, these are all actual comments on the most recent eps, and I'm just totally rolling around in them like watching this show is some kind of brand-new spectator sport.
I have no idea what's going to happen on Monday. My personal theory is that Darcy's going to ask Lizzie out via text or something equally awkward and Lizzie's reaction will occur onscreen while she reads his texts to us with increasing indignation. BUT no matter what, I just wanted to commemorate this, because 199 years after Pride and Prejudice was published, tens of thousands of people in the Jane Austen fandom are literally on the edge of our seats waiting for Darcy's proposal, like we've never seen it before. Because amazing tales, being retold in amazing new ways, not only gain new audiences, but gain new emotional resonances in the telling.
That's the power of story, and the power of transformative fanfiction.
LIZZIE AND THE BENNETS. WORD.