My final paper for a converged media class I took this past fall asked that we “report on the use of multiple technology systems for transmedia storytelling in a specific program or media franchise.” I saw this as the perfect opportunity to write about one of my favorite incarnations of Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The following is what I would call the “highlights reel” of an otherwise much longer research paper.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that I have indulged in Pride and Prejudice more than any one person probably ever should. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has long been hailed as quality reading material. In a recent, recent being 2003, BBC survey, it was rated as the second best book ever written. In a similar Australian survey taken in 2008, Pride and Prejudice came in at the number one spot. It has sold over twenty million copies, to date, and remains popular in contemporary media. Pride and Prejudice has seen various adaptations for the stage, film, and television. Two of the most recent, notable adaptations are the BBC mini-series featuring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and the 2005, Joe Wright film featuring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. Both versions previously mentioned follow the story as told by the original novel more strictly. It has also been the focus of looser adaptations and has been referenced in modern television series. From Bridget Jones’ Diary, to an episode of Wishbone, a Bollywood adaptation, an independent film adaptation set in Salt Lake City with a distinctly Mormon flair, and its most recent incarnation via transmedia storytelling with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Pride and Prejudice has continued to appear the in media in a prominent way long after its original publication.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an independent project initially developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su. The production team features a staff well acquainted with the ins and outs of the production business. Many of the writers have worked in television or been involved in writing for similar styles of programming. In addition to the very qualified production and writing teams, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries also employed a transmedia editor and producer. Jay Bushman, the head of the transmedia team on this project describes himself as a “Multiplatform Story Evangelist” on his personal website.
The major plot points of Pride and Prejudice are brought into the modern day and handled with care. Instead of marriage proposals, business proposals and job offers take the attention of our main cast of characters. Lydia’s elopement is replaced with a sex scandal, and Jane takes an internship instead of staying with family. Jane is trying to launch herself into a career not just win back Bing Lee. The women of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are much stronger and independent than the women of Pride and Prejudice. The writers do their best to put these characters into relevant, real world situations while maintaining that level of drama and quality of storytelling that only Jane Austen could produce.
Overall, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a huge success. In a few short months it was able to support itself almost entirely on money made from YouTube ads. It was also a huge success on the crowd funding website Kickstarter. The campaign exceeded its goal of sixty-thousand dollars by seven hundred seventy-one percent. By the date the campaign ended at four hundred sixty-two thousand dollars. This campaign reached its initial goal in less than three hours, and the average pledge by the Kickstarter backers was around sixty-five dollars. With the bridge series featuring Gigi Darcy that immediately followed Lizzie Bennet, Welcome to Sanditon, and the new series Emma Approved, we can hope to see much more out of the creative minds that originally brought us The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.