December 8, 2014
Last year I was very excited about a video blog series based on Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. After this series ended, the creators Hank Green and Bernie Su soon followed with the mini series “Sanditon” starring Georgiana Darcy from LBD as well as Emma Approved, which was very successful as well. Emma Approved, like LBD, was another transmedia creation—the characters had twitter accounts, and there was a blog where Emma and others gave advice as well as describing the different outfits of the characters and which online clothing stores you could get them from. (I admit I picked up a couple of the character’s clothing and jewelry pieces that caught my eye.) The chemistry between Mr. Knightley (Brent Bailey) and Emma (Joanne Sotomura) was fantastic and there was plenty of excellent banter. The cast was wonderfully diverse. The scheming Caroline from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries even makes an appearance. I managed to get some friends addicted to both series as well. (You’re welcome, friends.)
Since I made the first post, it seems the “classic literature vlog” genre has multiplied exponentially! Bernie Su created a new series in August called Frankenstein MD, which followed Victoria Frankenstein as she fought to succeed in the male-dominated field of medicine and science. There are now several other creators who have created cool new transmedia twists on old classics. And a lot of them are being created by girls, which is amazing as I am all for girls being inspired to create their own content. What’s more, these girl creators take full advantage of the opportunity to update the stories for modern times and change sexist story elements.
Frankenstein MD is a comedy/gothic horror and it is the latest series from Pemberley Digital (the creators of Pride and Prejudice, Sanditon and Emma Approved), based on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Victoria Frankenstein is very close to graduating from medical school and she is already determined to make great discoveries in medicine and science. She lost her mother at a young age and faces a lot of adversity in the male dominated fields she has chosen. Victoria decides to start a science show where she performs experiments on camera with her med school friend, Iggy DeLacey. (Be warned, in one episode there is a real dead cow eye!) The two of them are often getting in trouble with Victoria’s mentor, Dr. Abraham Waldman, by bending the rules while working in their university’s lab. When tragedy strikes, Victoria becomes more and more obsessed with bringing dead tissues to life. Victoria gets more and more focused on her experiment and starts to neglect her friends and family. Victoria’s real issue is not that she is ambitious, but that she doesn’t consider the responsibility that comes along with doing something of such great scientific magnitude. The series fittingly ended on Halloween of this year.
Green Gables Fables
Anne of Green Gables and the other Anne books will always be one of my favourite series, even though the last one, Rilla of Ingleside, makes me cry a lot. When I found out there was a vlog series based on Anne of Green Gables, called Green Gables Fables, I hunted it down immediately. In this American-made series by Mandy Harmon (who directs and plays Anne), Anne is a foster child who moves to a farming community in rural Saskatchewan rather than Prince Edward Island. Many of the book characters have had mentions and appearances, such as Anne’s “bosom friend” Diana Barry. She met Diana online and while Diana lives in Regina they still visit each other and keep in touch. I was delighted with the portrayal of one of my favourite parts in the book—when Anne has a tea party with Diana that goes horribly awry. Anne has butted heads (and made up with) Miss Rachel Lynde, one of the town gossips. She is an off-screen character but her twitter feed is pretty amusing—whoever runs it uses just the right tone to convey her personality. Some of the sweetest scenes are with Matthew Gilbert—he was always one of my favourite characters because of his special connection to Anne. The maddening and charming Gilbert Blythe finally made his first appearance in October. In a recent video, Anne makes reference to making friends with another YouTuber named Cecily Cardew, which is actually a plug to a new vlog that is based on The Important of Being Earnest. I will definitely be checking that out!
Classic Alice does the “classic literature vlog” a little differently. Alice Rackham is an English major who prefers reading to clubs. Her idea of a fun night is dissecting a lengthy novel. When she receives a B- on a paper from a prof who tells her that she doesn’t seem to be able to understand literature beyond mere analysis, she thinks that maybe she needs to start taking some risks to connect with novels at a more visceral level. Her best friend Andrew Pritchard (his friends call him Pritchard) decides to use her exploits as footage for a documentary for film school. She decides that the best way to begin is to live her life in accordance to a novel that she has never read. She decides on Crime and Punishment, but has a difficult time deciding what crime she needs to commit. Obviously she does not want to murder anyone like Raskolnikov in the novel, but she wants to do something a little more drastic than her initial idea of stealing nail polish. Pritchard thinks up a crime which is definitely not murder but could still get her in serious trouble. And of course, things end up getting out of hand pretty quickly. Alice and Pritchard have the “clearly into each other but are still just friends” kind of relationship and it is fun to watch their dynamic play out. The series is ongoing and Alice has made it through a few more books such as “Pygmalion”, “Macbeth” and “Rip Van Winkle”. One of my favourite things about this series is the in-world music podcast Alice’s friend Cara hosts on Soundcloud every week. Alice and Pritchard also do an in-world weekly debate on Soundcloud called Pens vs. Lens, where they talk about books that have been made into movies.
Peter and Wendy
The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy is based on the Peter Pan story by J. M. Barrie, which was first a play and later novelised. You might recognise Kyle Walters (who plays Peter) as Edward from Sanditon. 27-year-old Wendy Darling, her two brothers John and Michael, and their friend Peter Pan have lived in Neverland, Ohio their entire lives, working for the town newspaper, The Kensington Chronicle, owned by their family. Michael, the youngest, is a bit of a slacker and is in charge of the mail. John, the middle child, assists his father by making sure everyone hands everything in on time. Peter Pan works as the comic writer. Finally, Wendy contributes columns. She starts a video blog called “Dear Darling” in which she gives advice to her viewers. Wendy feels like she is in a rut and wants to leave the familiar behind to expand her horizons out in the world. However, her and Peter’s affections for each other are a little more than those of a brother and sister and it complicates things, as Peter doesn’t see why anyone would want to leave Neverland, and as you might guess, doesn’t want to grow up! In this version of the Peter Pan story, Peter does have a fairy friend, Tinkerbell, and she is just as much of a troublemaker as the original. Extra cool—you can actually read the Kensington Chronicle online. There are some interesting entries that explain the presence of fairies in this world. The series did a successful crowdfunding campaign and there will be a second season. In the meantime, there are still regularly posted fun extra videos, like reviews of Doctor Who (Dayeanne Hutton, who plays Harriet Smith in Emma Approved, makes an appearance in one of the these) and interviews with people from various areas of show business.
The Autobiography of Jane Eyre ran from February 2013 to June 2014. It was created by Kalamatea Productions which is made up mostly of university students from different schools in British Columbia and takes place in and around Vancouver. The series sets itself as being in the same universe (Jane professes herself a fan of Lizzie’s vlog). Jane is similar and different in a lot of ways to Lizzie. While they both share a love of books and tea, Jane clearly envies how Lizzie is surrounded by a circle of loving friends and family whereas she has had a much more difficult, tragic, and isolated upbringing. I came to a greater understanding of her motivations as well as just how lonely she is—while she is a smart girl, her need to belong and connect leads her to some poor decisions (though not all bad!). In this adaption, Jane has finished her degree in nursing and then realises that being a nurse isn’t really what she wants to do. On a whim she decides to agree to become a nanny for a precocious girl named Adele, the daughter of the mysterious and mostly absent Mr. Rochester, CEO of Thornfield Exports. When Jane has her mid-story estrangement with Mr. Rochester and falls into the laps of three kind siblings, it is obvious just how much she has needed real friendship, a support system, and a purpose in her life, as well as how much she grows when she finds these things. Kalamatea Productions has another project in the works called “All’s Fair Play”.
Nothing Much To Do
If you’re in the mood for some Shakespeare, there is an adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” called Nothing Much To Do. This series was created by The Candle Wasters, who are made up of four girls from New Zealand. To watch this series I recommend going to the Nothing Much To Do YouTube channel and clicking on “The Story” playlist, as the series has a lot of different characters, several of which have their own channels. Beatrice moves in with her cousins, Hero and Leo, for her last year of high school when her mom gets a job in Australia. Her dad decides to go with her, and her parents give her the option of coming with them or staying in New Zealand. Hero and Leo’s moms are on a belated honeymoon to Italy for six months. Beatrice and Hero decide to start a vlog and of course, that’s when their lives really start to get interesting. Beatrice used to be friends with a boy named Benedick but these days they each spend their time thinking up the best insults for the other one. Hero starts seeing a boy named Claudio, but someone decides to start stirring up trouble between them. Some of the funniest videos are with two freshmen named Dogberry and Verges, who are clearly fans of the BBC show Sherlock and decide to start doing their own detecting—they start off looking for a missing cat and stumble upon something a little more sinister and dramatic! The series just ended in November and The Candle Wasters are working on a sequel called Lovely Little Losers (based on Love’s Labour’s Lost), with old and new characters. Another Shakespeare adaptation worth mentioning is Kate the Cursed, based on The Taming of the Shrew. The creators were only in high school when they made it but there are great performances and writing in this short series. (And they are Canadian!)
The classic literature vlog is a pretty cool genre to have developed in recent years. These adaptations might make you want to reread some of your favourite classic books, or if you haven’t read a lot of classic literature, they might make you want to start. Maybe they’ll inspire you to make your own filmed version of one of your favourite books! You don’t need a big budget or a Hollywood director, and the great thing is that classics become public domain after a certain amount of time so you don’t have to worry about getting into any legal trouble. If you are part of the school play every year but still need another outlet for the same kind of creativity, or you just want to try your hand at acting/directing/writing/etc., go for it! If you want to check out any other classic literature vlogs, there is a helpful compiled list on Tumblr here.