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Reflection on the use of Transmedia in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

So I have to confess: I’ve only recently discovered the amazing transmedia machine that is “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” and I instantly fell in love. My first “live” episode was episode 89, but I basically devoured the first 88 episodes in less than a weekend. 

One of the things I love most about LBDis its use of transmedia to enrich the story and show other points of view. The various ways that this can be experienced, (or not), fascinate me. You can watch only Lizzie’s diaries and still get the full story from her point of view, which is great, but the other little add ons, like the tweets and the spin off videos really add something special. For one thing, they really pull you into the world, especially the tweets which happen in “real-time” and often hint at, or tease things that are going to be happening. Or they get meta, like an early conversation between Bing and Darcy where they’re baffled by how many twitter followers they have. 

The thing that fascinates me the most though, is that the way in which you view/find the transmedia content, and the order in which you watch it, can really influence your experience of the show. 

For example, when I watched it through two weekends ago, I followed the full story order on the official website. Which meant I was seeing all of the videos, Q&A’s, tweets, spinoffs etc in the order in which they would have happened. This meant that during things like Lizzie and Charlotte’s fight, I was seeing both sides at once, and I got to see the whole situation with Wickham escalating whilst Lizzie was happily working at Pemberley and oblivious to it all. For me, seeing these things really added something to my first viewing experience. In the case of Lizzie and Charlotte, the anticipation of knowing that they were both heading toward reconciliation made me even more eager to see it happen. When it came to Wickham, the knowledge of what was going on with Lydia, and the way that George was increasingly separating her from her sisters (and really turning her against them) added a sense of urgency to my response to Lizzie’s videos. While I watched her side of things at Pemberley, I felt this undercurrent of worry and anticipation as I waited for her to find out what was going on. And then when she did, well, it was awful and I think the pain I felt for Lydia as what Wickham did was revealed to her, was all the more pronounced because I’d just spent however many videos watching it build up to that and watching her gradually slide from being the carefree, loud, exuberant girl I’d come to know and love, to being this sad, more thoughtful, deeply wounded girl. My heart ached for her and honestly, I just wanted to hug her and make her feel better. I know I would have been upset for her regardless, but I genuinely feel that seeing her side of things really added a depth and richness to my experience that I really appreciated. 

My friend who introduced me to LBD had a very different experience. She’d discovered it just a few weeks before I did and was watching live when the Wickham sex tape debacle broke.  But whereas I’d taken in all of the transmedia as I went, she watched all of Lizzie’s diaries first and then went back and found all the add-ons. We were talking one night recently about this and she pointed out how, especially during the Lydia/Lizzie fight and the Wickham build up, she’d been more on Lizzie’s side when she first watched. Yet, when she went back and saw Lydia’s side of things it completely shifted her perspective. With the fight, she’d known that Lizzie wasn’t totally right, and she did see Lydia’s list of things wrong with Lizzie, so it was obvious that she was very hurt. But she didn’t know how fragile the poor thing was by then, nor how the stuff with Wickham was affecting her, so when she saw Lydia on Lizzie’s vlog again she thought she was still seeing flighty Lydia. My friend said that when she did watch all of Lydia’s vids out of context, it was heartbreaking, unadulterated breakdown. Lizzie wasn’t there to mitigate and she already knew Lizzie had alienated her sister, so watching Wickham manipulate Lydia the way he did was just … Ugh. 

So, although both of us watched or read all of the extras that have been created to go with this fantastic webseries, our approach was very different and so was our reaction. And that is what I find most fascinating about the use of transmedia in LBD. The viewer can choose to experience it however they want, and what they choose can influence how they feel about the characters at any given point in the story. I love that about it because I think it makes LBD even more personal and accessible to viewers. It draws you in, gives you ways to interact with the “world” in between videos and adds to the emotional impact of the story, regardless of which order you do things in. For me that impact happened while I watched it, for my friend it happened after, either way, our engagement with the transmedia content affected the way we interpreted and felt about Lizzie’s main videos and that to me is the mark of great storytelling. 

This week, I’ve been a bit sad, what with the final day of filming happening, and the reveal of the final airing date and part of the reason for that is that I’ve only just entered this world and I adore it so much that I’m not ready to let it go so soon. The actors, writers and characters have quickly won a very large place in my heart and I will be forever grateful to have them there. So, as sad as I am that I will only have a little over a month to enjoy the full-on live experience of LBD, I’m also extremely excited to find out what’s coming up. Episode 92 was incredible and if that sets the tone for where we’re headed next, then I think it’s going to be an absolutely incredible journey indeed. 

ETA: There’s some further discussion that came out of this here

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    This is wonderful! I’ve really enjoyed the experience watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and have loved watching it...
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    Thank you so much. It’s so amazing to see how my reflection has sparked other people to reflect on this too. You make...
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