Pride and Prejudice and Perception of Distance: How Transmedia Affects Audience Roles in “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” [M.A. Thesis]

YouTube + social media + Jane Austen? Sign me up.

If you’ve read my other writings, you’ll know that I am very, very interested with the way storytelling interacts with culture. That’s probably why I found myself so fascinated with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice that puts the story in the modern world, re-told not through written text but through  YouTube videos and other social media that, get this, gives the audience members (meaning me!) the opportunity to interact with the story. It’s super cool, and in my opinion super appropriate for an M.A. thesis topic.

So my thesis went a little like this:

The progress of technology has increasingly empowered audience members to relate to fictional worlds, and with online entities like fansites and social media, fans are now able to interact with their favorite stories now more than ever. This can be seen best in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an online adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that comprises of both a web show and other transmedia. While other adaptations constrict re-tellings of the novel to a single screen, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries takes advantage of transmedia storytelling, releasing the story through not only a YouTube video series, but also through character accounts on other social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr. The series fully exemplifies Henry Jenkins’ definition of transmedia storytelling as “stories that unfold across multiple media platforms, with each medium making distinctive contributions to our understanding of the world, a more integrated approach to franchise development than models based on urtexts and ancillary products“ (293). By communicating the story through strategies like enabling Elizabeth to respond to YouTube comments and giving Darcy his own Twitter, the creators of The Lizzie Bennet give fans the opportunity to enter and interact with the world of Pride and Prejudice to a greater extent than ever before.

Super long, right? It’s fine if you don’t read it; I understand.

The gist of what that paragraph is saying (and what my whole analysis came to) is this: storytelling is changing because technology is changing. New tools like social media, the increasing speed of the internet, and the decreasing space between creators and audiences are all making stories so much more interactive.

We can see this in the way I can leave a comment on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries that Lizzie can respond to, or in the way fictional characters have twitter accounts, or in the way a disgruntled fan can send direct messages to creators.

This is only the beginning; while we can now respond to stories, there’s still a line between creators and audience members, and perhaps there will always be a line. I’m not sure yet. What my thesis did conclude is that the space between creators and audience members is shrinking, and can have some major affects on how we view storytelling.

This full essay is available upon request – just ask me!