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I received this question in response to my reflection transmedia in LBD from the other day, and I wanted to share my response with you all. Please feel free to add your own two cents!
I enjoyed your essay about the transmedia aspect of LBD, and I wondered if you had any thoughts (because I love geeking out and reading other people’s geekouts) about the special situation of this particular interactive show: namely, that because it’s an adaptation of a beloved classic novel, most (or at least many) viewers know more than the characters do. Having read P&P (or not) not only affects our experience of watching the videos, but also how we interact with the characters. -Sally
Sally, thank you so much for you message. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you on this, I was exhausted last night so wouldn’t have been able to put coherent thoughts together and I wanted to be able to give you a proper and detailed response.
I definitely agree that the fact that it’s an adaptation of a book (and such a well known one at that) is going to affect the experience for the majority of people. If you’ve read the books or seen one of the movie adaptations then you go in already knowing three big things:
1) that Darcy and Lizzie are going to end up together
2) that Jane and Bing will end up together
3) that Wickham is bad news, particularly for Lydia
(You know other things as well, but these are the three that I feel are the most significant and that affect our experience of watching LBD the most)
What that means, in theory, is that some of the tension and mystery will be lost. (I say in theory, because I think the LBD team changed things enough in this to keep us wondering exactly how things will play out despite knowing these inevitabilities). However, the hindsight we have by going in knowing the story already also adds something. Because we already know Lizzie will eventually change her opinion of Darcy, we can enjoy all the little moments early on, and throughout the story where it’s clear that she’s attracted to him and isn’t admitting it. We are ahead of Lizzie in this and, for me at least, it added another level of amusement to my viewing experience, particularly any time Lizzie spouted her dislike of Darcy or made comments about how she pitied the person he was going to end up with. It’s like we’re in the know on an “inside joke” and I love that.
I also think that knowing the end result in advance can add to the anticipation, especially as we start to build up to the closure of some of the big romantic plotlines. Like, I don’t know about you, but right now, I watch every new episode of LBD on the edge of my seat in anticipation wondering if this is the episode where Darcy is going to suddenly show up, or if someone is going to finally drop the bomb that he’s the one responsible for the site coming down. And every tiny little hint of that, gets me extremely excited. I know it’s coming, and any day now at that, but the great thing about LBD is that they’ve put such a fresh spin on it, it’s almost impossible to accurately predict exactly how it’s going to go down.
With Jane and Bing, again, we know from the outset that eventually it’s going to happen, we know there’s going to be a falling out and that Darcy is responsible - none of these things are surprises, and yet, the way that LBD approached them WERE. The essence of Jane and Bing’s story is the same as in P&P but LBD has given us a richer and more rounded Jane and Bing and I found myself more invested in Jane’s outcome in LBD than I ever am when I watch either of the big P&P movies or read the book. The same goes for Bing. I genuinely care about these characters. When Jane is heartbroken after Bing leaves without telling her, I was heartbroken for her. When Bing reveals what he wants for his future, I wanted that for him too.
The Wickham storyline for me is a tough one because I think he comes off as much more villanous here than he does in the book. A lot of that is due to how old the original story is. Sure, in the time P&P was written, getting Lydia pregnant and eloping WOULD have been villanous, but society has changed a lot since then. So when I watched LBD and first met Wickham, I was indifferent to him because I knew he wouldn’t be sticking around, but I never expected to be as bothered by what he ends up doing to Lydia as I was. Now, as I said in my first post, I watched Lydia’s vids as I went so I saw George emotionally abuse her and it made me sick. As Lydia became more and more detached and less and less herself, a part of my heart was constantly breaking for her. In my opinion, that was already 1000x worse than what he does to her in the book, and then you add in the sex tape and well, let’s just say that when I’ve been rewatching, it’s been hard to rewatch the early episodes with George in them.
Added to that, Lydia in this version, like Jane (even more so in fact) is so much more fleshed out that she was in the book. She’s a very dynamic, present and real character in LBD in a way that I don’t think any version of Lydia has been ever. So I went into LBD at first, like I do with the book, thinking that Lydia was just the annoying little sister who was going to run off with Wickham. It became very clear to me early on, that LBD was going to subvert that for me, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Lydia. So, by the time she had her big fight with Lizzie, I was so invested that it broke my heart to see her so unlike herself. And there were times where I was frustrated with Lizzie for not being more understanding. To then see her go down the path she did with George and for her to become as broken as she did, was difficult to watch. What I love though, it that Lydia’s story has become bigger than it is in the book. It’s not about her running off with George, it’s about her relationship with Lizzie and Jane, her understanding of who she is and where she fits in this world. In essense, Lydia’s story, is a story about growing up. It makes me cry, but I love episode 87, where Lydia breaks down, not because I like seeing her that hurt, but because it’s such a pivotal and important moment in her relationship with Lizzie. I think it also marks a turning point for her character and I’m pretty sure that when we see her again, we’re going to see yet another side to her.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that even though, yes, I do think knowledge of the book can alter the experience of watching LBD, the entire team has done such a great job of adapting the story that in the end you still get immersed in the material, you care about the characters, and despite staying quite true to the source material, there are still lots of surprises.
Now keep in mind, I actually haven’t read the book in years, and I’ve made a conscious choice to wait until the final episode of LBD has aired before I do, so my opinion may change when the source material is fresher in my head. (In fact, I’m in the process right now of creating a reading/viewing group for people who want to delve deeper into P&P and LBD by reading the book and viewing the episodes concurrently and discussing them in depth, not unlike this post. It’s still in development but it’ll start some time in April and I’ll post more information about it as soon as I can).