The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet : A Spoiler-Free Book Review

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A long time ago…well, actually, three or so years ago back in my crazy college days, I was getting over a broken heart. Nothing new there, really. As with anyone in a moping state of mind, I needed something to distract me. So I was browsing Youtube when one video blog I followed linked to this video:

For those who don’t know, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern vlog adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice created by Hank Green and Bernie Su. I fell in love with the series as soon as I saw the t-shirt with Austen’s most famous opening line. It became my obsession, my catharsis over my sucky dating life, and was there for me when I had my post-college crisis. If you want to watch the whole series, check out the playlist here.

Something you’ll notice, if you watch the playlist all the way through, is that there is more than one YouTube channel involved in this story. One channel involves Lydia Bennet, the youngest Bennet sister.

Coming to love Lydia Bennet and being emotionally invested in her story arc was the last thing I expected when I got into the series. Lydia Bennet’s character growth is treated very differently in the series than the book, which is a major improvement considering the original had Lydia marrying a man twice her age who didn’t love her and living in the north of England, which in British terms is the equivalent of moving to Alaska or Canada. The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet follows up on Lydia’s life after the havoc that George Wickham wreaked on her and her family. Since the book itself doesn’t come out until September 29th, I am going to keep this review spoiler-free.

I will have to say, though, that this post will have spoilers for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and all the videos in relation to them (Lydia Bennet’s channel, the Pemberley Digital videos, and Maria Lu’s videos), so like I said, if you haven’t seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries yet, watch the playlist first.

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet looks into Lydia Bennet’s life after her sister decides to finish her video blog. Lydia is undergoing counseling in between finishing community college and has no idea where life will take her next. For the longest time, Lydia saw herself as the wild, carefree party girl but that lifestyle led her to making a huge mistake that almost cost everything. So this story centers on Lydia figuring out who she is outside of the lifestyle she used to have.

Changing one’s life doesn’t overnight, however. Even as Lydia makes progress in improving herself, she  comes close to backsliding into her party girl persona when she hits some obstacles that keep her from pursuing her dream of studying psychology. Even though Lydia has her family, she takes this journey of self-discovery on her own. And all the while, the people she’s closest too start adjusting to their new lives as well. The story is realistic in showing Lydia’s desire to change and her fears that she will never be seen as something other than a semi-famous YouTube sensation or the wild party girl. And even though the incident involving George Wickham’s attempt of distributing a sex tape to the internet is over, everyone in Lydia’s life is still walking on eggshells around her.

The good news is that life takes Lydia in a whole new direction. Her relationships with her cousin, Mary, her sisters, and her parents start to improve once she makes an effort to turn her life around and not let the setbacks she faced get to her. When one door closes in Lydia’s life, another one opens and she takes the courage to walk that new path, even though it’s not as safe or as certain as the life she thought she would have. But at the same time, the new life of Lydia Bennet is a promising one.

So for anyone in the LBD fandom who wanted more of our favorite double-jointed redhead, pre-order this book on Amazon and see where Lydia Bennet goes next. You might find it more surprising than you think. Major kudos to Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley for keeping the spirit of Lydia Bennet alive. The only thing that would top this is if there was just one more video from Lydia Bennet to promote the book and give the YouTube viewers some much-needed closure. But what are the chances of that happening?

Social Media Storytelling

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Back when I was in college, I fell head over heels in love with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a YouTube web series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Ever since that series became an internet sensation, many other literary classics have become adapted into a web series format such as The Autobiography of Jane Eyre (based on Jane Eyre) and Nothing Much To Do (Much Ado About Nothing).

But my new favorite web series so far is The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy, an adaptation based on the story Peter Pan by JM Barrie. I linked a playlist to the entire show so far here:

Feel free to watch it right now. The episodes are 3-6 minutes long, so it will only take a few hours to catch up.

One interesting aspect about The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy is that there’s an interactive aspect that goes beyond YouTube comments.

This video advertising the Kensington Chronicle mentions that people can ask the characters for advice and that there are “Neverlandians” on Twitter. The Twitter accounts are fictional, but part of the experience because the show sometimes shouts out to the fictional Neverlandians. One such instance is the upcoming play Panlet, which you can only see being “performed” on Twitter tonight. Subscribe to the list here after catching up to the show.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I am participating as a fictional Neverlandian. My Twitter handle in the New Peter + Wendy “transmedia” experience is @neverlandslayer. My character, Teresa Delacruz will be “performing” in Panlet as Queen Gwendolyn.

Enjoy the series and wish me luck on my performance!

A note: The series gets a bit PG-13 in the Season 2 episodes. There is some cross-dressing and implications of pre-marital sex and same-sex relationships. This is still a good series, so I’m hoping you can look past that.

The Patterns of Affinity in the Autistic Mind

So my dad was channel surfing through the news stories and my ear catches a sound bite about a man who has an autistic son who learned to communicate through watching Disney movies. As I watched the story, I saw a lot of myself in the autistic child, who I learned is now 23 years old.

The news piece about Ron Suskind’s son mentioned something called “affinity therapy” in which role-playing is used to develop social skills. As I thought about all of the things that I obsessed over as a child and the things I obsess over now, I realized that I did something along those lines as a kid. And like Owen, I was drawn to a certain type of character as I grew up.

My first obsession was Sailor Moon. I had some episodes on VHS (that’s the thing they used before DVDs to watch things, millenial readers) that I would watch over and over. The episode that I remember most of all is the episode in which Usagi/Serena is revealed to be Princess Serenity. Up until that point, I had no idea of any sort of princess, but what really got my attention was Usagi/Serena didn’t want to be a princess after Mamoru/Darien was taken away from her. In the past, I watched heroes who went into danger unafraid of anything. This was the first time that I ever saw a hero who was afraid and expressed her fear. As a child, I would watch that particular tape over and over again and sometimes pretend that I was a Sailor Scout. I also pretended to be things from other anime shows, but Sailor Moon was basically the start of it.

Anime continued to be an obsession up until my high school days, when I discovered a novel that changed my life forever. Pride and Prejudice featured Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman who was a lot like myself at the time: outspoken, witty, and a bit presumptuous. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she was wrong and to change, which was very different from the chick lit and young adult novels I read that had a lot of self-centered characters. But what really drew me to her was that she had her vulnerable moments and admitted her fears out loud. This was later shown in the YouTube adaptation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which became my obsession during my last year of college.

Although I never pretended to be Elizabeth Bennet, I did some theatre in high school and college and the roles I liked most were the outspoken, talkative, young female characters. Theatre became a concentrated form of “affinity therapy” because I was always playing a part in some shape or form. The best role I ever had was when I got cast in my friend’s production of The Boys Next Door. I played the role of Shiela, the love interest of Norman. Like the most of the others, my character was someone with special needs who lived in a group home. In spite of her disability, she was able to find love. And although I am no longer acting, a good percentage of my brain space has memorized entire episodes from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which includes costume theatre segments that had me in stitches.

One particular experience of affinity therapy happened shortly after I started obsessing over Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The character I loved most was a super strong blonde character who had a vulnerable side that I could relate to, who hid that same vulnerability because it didn’t fit with the expectations others had of this particular character and yet he/she had such a dynamic personality that I rooted for him/her and wanted him/her to have a happy ending after all the heartbreak and pain he/she went through.

But wait, you ask, are you talking about Spike or Buffy? Yes.

My Buffy obsession eventually led to me cosplaying Buffy, meeting the guy who played Spike at a convention, and writing fanfiction, all of which I think fall under the affinity therapy umbrella.

All the characters I ended up loving had courage and showed their vulnerable side to the world, even when they didn’t know they were doing so. I haven’t really had the courage to do the same until now.

I want to post about my Asperger’s Syndrome more often and share my experiences of being on the autism spectrum. Lately it seems that poetry has been the best way for me to express that.

I wrote a poem back in middle school and my teacher, years later, shared that poem with some parents of autistic kids. These parents apparently saw their children’s mind in my poem, which was about feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere because my interests and ideals were different from everyone else’s. If a poem I wrote all those years ago could touch someone now, I have to keep going at it so that I can reach out and let other kids, teens, and young adults with autism and Asperger’s know that they’re not alone.

Tonight, when I was taking a walk, I watched a thunderstorm in the distance. It inspired me to write the following poem. I hope you enjoy it because there is probably going to be more to come.

 

Primal Instinct

 

Lightning dances across the sky

In a show of beauty and danger

It dances to the symphony of crickets and frogs

Mixed with the cacophony of dog barks and car horns

And in the middle of this song is the rhythm of a runner’s feet

Pounding the pavement as they run nearby

Close enough to the storm to watch,

But far enough to be safe from shock.

The primal instinct of running is fear,

And yet these feet do not run away from the storm

They dance a fine line between risk and safety

Knowing that home isn’t far away