The Many Layers of Lizzie Bennet

Yesterday I received my very own copy of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet. And today I finished reading it. All 377 pages of it.

I have loved the Lizzie Bennet Diaries ever since my freshman year of college (NOTE: If you have not watched them, stop reading right now, go to YouTube, and watch them. All of them. Right now.), and have only grown to love them more as I rewatched them over and over again (occasionally I find myself just binge-watching all 100 episodes plus the related secondary arcs in a matter of 48 hours. Much like reading the book. But I digress). At first I simply enjoyed watching the creativity of updating Jane Austen’s classic novel and translating it into modern media. Then, on the second or third go-round, I started to think about the online community Lizzie was creating. So I started scrolling through the comments section below the videos, reading the conversations people were having, the reactions. I even commented a few times.

I was absurdly proud when my comment became the top one on Episode 18.

Then came the watch-through at the beginning of my junior year of college, right when all the undergrad stuff starts to give way to the “better plan something for after graduation in two years” pressure. Even though Lizzie’s story takes place in grad school, the connection between her fear of departing the Bubble of Academia and mine had strengthened. I was staring down similar questions of what I wanted to do with my life, battling similar tendencies toward prejudice, struggling with a similar workload.

Reading the book has added another layer to my experience of the LBD as a whole. Besides adding new twists to the plotlines and revealing specific details in settings we never saw on camera, the book even better translated Lizzie’s inner turmoil, not only over her sister’s love life, but over what to put online, what content she wanted to generate, what she wanted to contribute to the world.

And damn. As much as she procrastinated some of those decisions, girl got stuff done.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been…stuck.  I might elaborate a bit in future posts, but for now suffice it to say that I was sorely lacking in motivation to even go to class, let alone answer my professors’ questions about whether or not I’m considering grad school or what internships I’m pursuing for this summer.  All I ever wanted to say to them was, “I don’t even have a complete resume right now.  Leave me alone.”

As sappy as it might sound, reading about Lizzie Bennet’s success in pursuing what she loved, both familial and career-wise, helped jolt me at least a few inches back toward reality.  I’m going to make the most of this vicariously earned productivity – and not just by making blog posts.  Hopefully.

Honestly, that’s what amazes me about multimedia storytelling these days.  I adore books; they were the background to my childhood, and will always hold a special place in my heart.  But there’s a big difference between reading something and sitting down a week later around a cheese plate in someone’s family room to talk for a few hours, and being able to contribute to an immediate and growing shared forum. It’s fascinating to watch the communities that spring up around projects like LBD and Vlogbrothers.  Even SnarkSquad, the blog that got me re-interested in blogging and online content, has its own little band of followers.

Membership in such communities around multimedia projects extends well past mere Internet fame; because the narrative originates in a platform that allows immediate sharing of reactions to the content, a viewer also becomes a contributor in real time.  Passivity becomes a choice rather than a fact of the medium.

And discussion of the content is no longer confined to whoever else is in the living room while you control the remote.  Worldwide critical discussions take place every day around every type of narrative possible.  It’s beautiful and intriguing to watch as the swirling conversations on Tumblr connect with the YouTube comments which intertwine with the Facebook and Twitter threads.  We get to watch and read and listen to these amazing creative things – and then we get to join in.

Over here in my own little narratively nerdy corner of the Internet, I’ll be trying not to take that for granted.

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