Can we celebrate November 20th as the airdate anniversary of the greatest webseries episode ever (or at least ONE OF the greatest ever, even if you don’t love AoJE)? Personally, if I ever had to pick a “Webseries Appreciation Day”, it would be then. Not because there weren’t more significant dates prior and not because it’s the most dramatic and not because nothing since has had any significance. But because I legitimately believe that “Kidnapped” marked the new ways in which webseries could go. They could go outside. They could go “off plot”. They could realistic without sacrificing interest. They could introduce music in a way that was significant to the story and significant to the viewer. They could show off a specific landscape/cityscape (not simply through transmedia).
Basically, “Kidnapped” was and remains revolutionary in the field and I just want to remember it always.
So my lovely sister suggested that I make a masterpost of all my favourite web series, so I started off by listing all the web series I’ve ever watched………and there are a lot. So many that I think I might have an eensy bit of a problem. But moving swiftly along, here’s my own not so little list of all the webseries I’ve watched all-the-way-through and want to ramble about in alphabetical order. As always, these are my own thoughts and opinions, and you are perfectly entitled to have different ones. Because this list is so long, I’m putting it under a read-more (cause otherwise this would seriously fill your entire dash) but above the read-more I’m gonna put a list of the web series I talk about so you can see if there’s something you want to check out :)
The thing I love about Jane Eyre is that she is not your typical heroine. In any sense of the word.
She’s plain, soft-spoken, and virtually friendless at the beginning of the novel.
She’s clever, but doesn’t tend to show it.
Before the start of the book she has had almost no experience with the outside world.
She has incredible strength of character but it’s not immediately obvious. It’s a kind of quiet courage that’s fairly easy to overlook.
I mean her favourite pastime is drawing for Pete’s sake.
She is a secondary character. She is not the kind of person you base a whole book around, because, in novels, exciting things don’t tend to happen to people like her.
But her story is one of the most beautiful ever told.
She was a heroine I could truly relate to, but also admire. Someone who didn’t have it all together and who wasn’t perfect, but who knew what was right and trusted her gut. She believed in herself and what she was capable of.
She proved you didn’t have to be a gorgeous, sassy, sword-wielding, goddess to warrant your story being told. That you could be “poor, obscure, plain and little” and still have one of the greatest love stories of all time.
And that is not something to be taken for granted.
“You’re only a secondary character if you let yourself be!” Lydia Bennet exclaims in one of her vlogs, in response to a fan-submitted 4th-wall breaking question. Lydia’s vlogs were introduced a few months into the Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ run, until which point Lydia was clearly and explicitly a secondary character to Lizzie’s story. In the original Pride and Prejudice, Lydia is even more of a side-character, with little in the way of actual agency or fully-fleshed personality.
Yet LBD took Lydia’s minor (obnoxious) character and decided to give her a separate platform. Lydia’s vlogs were largely unnecessary for the larger story (indeed, I know of many viewers who discovered her videos very late in the game), but they provided her character with greater depth and significance. Lydia’s bold statement served as both an example of her strong-willed, confident personality, and a wink at the audience, who, yes, largely viewed her as a secondary character.
LBD tried to make good use of their secondary characters, and despite their noble efforts (and that brilliant line by Lydia), the show largely failed to live up to their own expectations. Maria Lu’s vlogging, for example, was cute as a stand-in for the fans, but ultimately ends up entirely pointless when rewatching. As a character who was introduced entirely in her own sub-series, Maria’s vlogs didn't add to an existing character or give her further depth. Gigi’s videos were similarly a missed opportunity in terms of fleshing out her character, but in the other direction - her videos were purely plot-driven.
The struggle of how to have a cast of characters who are equally central to the story and equally their own characters is not easy, but different shows have come up with different solutions. Nothing Much to Do, for example, opted to have several separate channels with clearly defined “main characters”. They also stumbled at times (the constant “hacking” of Ben’s channel), but by having one channel that largely dealt with the specific “side” characters, NMTD managed to give additional depth to characters who may have otherwise been exceptionally minor (and are in fact minor in the original play). In Earnest, meanwhile, struggles to distinguish each channel (nonexistent out-of-world) across characters, in either tone or styling, despite having individual characters who are each “main” in their own story.
Which leads me to the wonderful Green Gables Fables’ December 2014 vlog project. Before December, GGF had introduced several characters in Anne’s main channel videos - they appeared as her friends and schoolmates, as people who she interacted with frequently and as the people she chose to share.
Anne’s story - originally and modernly - is highly episodic in nature. It makes sense that there wouldn’t be any sort of consistent side-vlogging by these other friends, especially since they are largely very different. Furthermore, GGF is extremely careful in its social media - characters are found on the websites that suit their personality, and not just everywhere. It wouldn’t make sense for any of these characters to have consistent vlogs (at least, not at our current stage).
And so December rolled around, with the announcement that each of the characters in Anne’s creative writing class (which includes almost all of the secondary characters we’ve met so far) would be making weekly videos to share online. Out-of-world this news was greeted with cries of joy. In-world, most of the characters seemed uncomfortable with the project, addressing this discomfort directly.
If LBD had maybe struggled to give proper agency to those clearly defined additional characters, GGF managed to integrate their stories far more smoothly into the larger narrative. Their vlogs - different in style, tone and film-quality - were all deeply personal, at least in the sense that they reflected the individual character being presented. Jane was not as naturally comfortable on camera as Ruby, and Gilbert did not discuss the world around him the same way Josie did. Watched in sequence, it was furthermore striking to note how smooth the transition was from each of the secondary videos to Anne’s “main-stage” - Anne felt like she was in exactly the same position, if not the same place entirely (much higher filming quality, more confidence, etc.) - just another girl making vlogs, with no more or less status in terms of larger story.
Secondary characters provide these stories with an additional perspective, and a way to see our main character through another’s eyes. It’s pivotal, in my opinion, but often clumsily applied (Autobiography of Jane Eyre, as much as I loved it, did not develop the Thornfield channel enough to justify having a singular video, as wonderful as that video may have been). But they’re also important in terms of creating a fully-realized world outside of a single protagonist. Vlogs often feel very isolated and insular, and though GGF is not quite as diverse in cast as NMTD, it’s arguably done a better job of letting the characters speak for themselves.
Shows can’t simply mimic others in introducing and expanding on their secondary characters. What works for LBD won’t work for NMTD, or the other way around. While most shows thus far have avoided the question entirely and kept their casts small and tight, I’d love to see more shows taking chances like GGF did in December - show us your world. We’re here, ready to soak it in.
Starring: Pilot (The Autobiography of Jane Eyre), Robin (The Misselthwaite Archives), Eppie (Classic Alice) Kitty Bennet (The Writing Majors), Pug (From Mansfield with Love), Rusty (Green Gables Fables), Jaques (Lovely Little Losers) and Turtle (The Misselthwaite Archives)
so far from where i’ve been:my soundtrack for charlotte bronte’s jane eyre
i.paradise -coldplay | ii. alice - cocteau twins | iii. how soon is now - the smiths | iv. flaws- bastille | v. save me - gotye | vi. glory box - portishead | vii. love - daughter | viii.higher love - james vincent mcmorrow | ix. dust to dust - the civil wars | x. passion play - william fitzsimmons | xi. keep the streets empty for me - fever ray | xii. poison & wine - the civil wars | xiii. nights in white satin - the moody blues | xiv. san cristobal - mal blum | xv. calgary - bon iver | xvi. bronte - gotye | xvii. white houses - vanessa carlton | xviii. hurricane - ms mr | xix. together - the xx | xx. no light, no light - florence + the machine | xxi. things we lost in the fire - bastille | xxii. viva la vida - coldplay | xxiii. blood - the middle east | xiv. bel air - lana del rey |