Book to Vlog

3 Dec

The strangest thing that I noticed about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is the way in which the adaptation is totally unsuited to the vlogging form. Most of the important plot elements either lose impact when they become retold stories, or don’t work at all and have to be shoehorned in in the form of “accidental” or “spontaneous” on-camera interruptions. There is something about the Pride and Prejudice narrative that doesn’t really work when narrated by a vlogger, and yet they did it anyway. This has a few repercussions, I think. Firstly, it makes most of the main significant narrative moments way less believable and way more weird—Darcy, for example, awkwardly confessing his love on camera. Secondly, it makes the story into one about a bunch of people who are totally ignoring the normal public/private boundaries of the internet—posting your Real And Private Thoughts about your family for the world to see is a deeply weird thing to do, and one that real vloggers don’t usually engage in. This series, instead of confronting that on any interesting level, just kind of ignores the fact that everyone’s private life is being played out for an audience, because it’s a necessity of the story.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a story happening off-camera, being told on-camera, but also sometimes happening (by necessity) on camera. This on-camera/off-camera duality, of course, isn’t present in Pride and Prejudice  because Pride and Prejudice isn’t a vlog, and so The Lizzie Bennet Diaries becomes a strange kind of adaptation in which the form is incapable of containing its own story. This ends up creating content that must ignore form, and also ends up with form that eliminates content. (The former being every scene that happens on camera but “shouldn’t,” either because it’s accidental or because it’s something way too private to be aired on a public video blog; the latter being every important scene that we only experience through its recounting.) I think there’s a fundamental incompatibility here that they’re trying to circumvent.



2 Responses to “Book to Vlog”

  1. Keegan Hankes December 3, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    It seems to me that the formal constraints that you’re pointing out just speak to a different set of aspirations held by the show. I might try to argue that the issue of “horseshoeing” is used to comedic effect at the expense of “believability” — an aspect already complicated by the temporality of the novel. I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, but I would suspect that a 19th century British novel centered on landed gentry probably comes up against some of the same problems of “believability” as the Lizzie Bennet Diaries does with a contemporary audience, just from a different direction.

  2. crystalfong December 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    When watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the Vlog aspects outweighed the adaptation aspects. When they did things like – not show Darcy in the vlogs until the more recent episodes, I expected viewers would be upset because a great part of taking pleasure in Pride & Prejudice is seeing Darcy and Elizabeth interact. We want to hear their witty dialogue directly instead of an indirect retelling or roleplay. However, when the later episodes finally introduce Bing Lee and Darcy into the visual screen, it occurred to me that it’s a smart move in terms of the YouTube culture. When making vlogs, you always are concerned with keeping viewership interested, and one way to do that is the expectation of seeing what Darcy actually looks like. Just as Wickham has no adaptational value of being shirtless, for the YouTube culture, those antics will give you viewers.

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