This trope doesn’t really need explaining at this point, because it’s in literally EVERYTHING now, but why is that? Why has such a random thing become the most iconic aspect of the literary-inspired webseries genre?
The first LIW to include a baking video was Welcome to Sanditon, but the first one to follow the format that would later become more characteristic – in which baking happens but the focus is on the characters (or occasionally the plot) – was The Autobiography of Jane Eyre. This completely fabricated baking episode contained important character development for Johanna and was also extremely entertaining. The recipe was in the description, but the recipe wasn’t followed in the actual video, and unlike Clara’s Welcome to Sanditon episodes, it wasn’t meant to teach anyone how to bake anything.
The next LIW baking episode was in Green Gables Fables and is (I think) unique on this list in that it was adapting an actual plot point from the source material. So, while it counts as an LIW baking episode, it’s not quite as much of one as some of the others.
Next, of course, was the baking episode of Nothing Much To Do. As with most of NMTD, it wasn’t really revolutionary at all, but it cemented the mechanism for how these sorts of videos are done. In it, Beatrice and Hero actually do bake while also bantering around quite a bit and preparing us for Hero’s birthday, an important plot point coming up next. It’s a completely unnecessary video. It doesn’t teach us anything new about the characters. It has nothing to do with the source material. And yet what would we have done without it? It’s one of Beatrice’s and Hero’s most delightful vlogs (and the last one before everything becomes horrible), and therefore completely necessary.
The next LIW baking episode is also the most famous one: George Squared’s “A Baking Video” from Call Me Katie. If you’ve seen it, there’s no need for me to explain how amazing and iconic this episode is, and it was the first time an LIW used a baking video as a framework for a bit of actual plot (that was either original or had nothing to do with baking in the source material).
After this best of all baking episodes, everyone in the community has regarded the baking episode as a mandatory part of every LIW. Almost all of them are very emotional. Some actually manage to create a baked good. Others are actually plot. A few do both.
After going through all of this, I have decided that there are two main types of LIW baking episodes:
1) The video where something actually gets baked and nothing much else happens, but it’s ridiculously adorable and/or angsty the entire time.
2) The video where baking may or may not get accomplished but the video is actually part of the plot.
The first type is more common, but the second type is becoming increasingly popular in a lot of series (including the two most recent baking episodes, in The Emma Agenda and Middlemarch: The Series). The George Squared video also fits into the second category.
So what is it about baking videos that this community loves so much? Is it that they help contribute to the realism of these fictional characters’ YouTube channels? Is it that it’s just immensely satisfying to watch people bake? I mean, I care hugely about realism, as you can probably tell from my reviews. I also love watching videos of people cooking/baking things that I am never going to actually make, so…
Honestly, I think it’s a bit of both. Whatever form they take, LIW baking videos bring us closer to the characters. They make us feel good. They’re sweet, quite literally. And isn’t baking an emotional experience for all of us?
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 about Jane the Virgin is that it somehow always manages to punch. When I started watching it, I assumed it would just be a light-hearted trash show, but it isn’t. And this season has twisted my emotions in so many ways, often even manipulatively but I’m so very invested in Jane’s life that I honestly feel like it’s abandoning her (in her time of need? I dunno) to stop watching, and I can’t. I love the show, I do, I love Jane and I love that there’s still a sense of escapism in a lot of the show’s ridiculousness. But also… sometimes it hurts in a way that feels too strong. There’s a deep ache that’s reaching out beyond the screen into my real life, and that’s a really scary feeling. It makes it hard to separate myself from a show that obviously does not reflect my own reality.
Maybe if I was able to write about it critically, thoughtfully, disconnected, it’d be easier. But every time I try, I find myself feeling like the emotional side is overwhelming. I have an emotional response to the show, okay. It’s just… it feels like smaller shows I’ve watched (I always think of that other Jane, from AoJE, who remains my closest friend that doesn’t actually exist), when characters became my friends and their lives became inseparable from my own. Except here… here I can’t trust the writers, I can’t trust the narrative, I can’t trust the show as a concept to take my feelings into account. My feelings don’t matter here. I don’t matter, not to Jane Villanueva. I shouldn’t matter to her - she isn’t real. She shouldn’t be so real to me either, and yet she is.
Jane the Virgin is still probably my favorite currently-running TV show. I love it in all sorts of ways. But some days, it feels like that love comes with a lot of other bundled up emotions. Pain and sadness and loneliness, in a weird mashup. Some emotional dimension that I can’t quite wave away, but don’t know how to fully access either.
Maybe I should just go back to writing criticism and meta. Maybe it will help, in some twisted, roundabout way. Who knows.
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)
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.