What Makes a Good Literary Web Series?

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(Note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted in May. You can see the original here, but it might be better to just read the latest version. Spoilers of all series up until their last/latest episode to follow)
I love web series. And this isn’t the first time I’ve said as much.
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In particular, I love web series that are literary adaptations, because due to budgets and copyright laws, literary web series have to be particularly inventive in bringing classic stories to modern day, making them relatable to internet audiences. 
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This post is going to be a brief structural analysis of what, in my view, should be considered in a web series adaptation. (Based on series I’ve seen from beginning to end/most recent episode).
 
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Components
  1. Initial conceit (or, why does this character have a blog?)
  2. Audience acknowledgement & interaction
  3. How are other perspectives integrated?
  4. Inventiveness (with camera stuff, settings, etc.)
  5. Quality of Adaptation (modernization of problematic elements, captured the spirit of the original)
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Web Series Adaptations- Structural Analysis

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I love web series. And this isn’t the first time I’ve said as much.
.
In particular, I love web series that are literary adaptations, because due to budgets and copyright laws, literary web series have to be particularly inventive in bringing classic stories to modern day, making them relatable to internet audiences. 
.
This post is going to be a brief structural analysis of what, in my view, should be considered in a web series adaptation. (Based on series I’ve seen from beginning to end/most recent episode).
.
Components
  1. Initial conceit (or, why does this character have a blog?)
  2. Audience acknowledgement & interaction
  3. How are other perspectives integrated?
  4. Inventiveness (with camera stuff, settings, etc.)
  5. Quality of Adaptation (modernization of problematic elements, captured the spirit of the original)
.

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5 Things I Wish to See From Cinderella – REACTION

After Friday’s post, listing my expectations for the new Cinderella film, I actually went to see the movie on Sunday with my mom. As I said last time, Cinderella is my mom’s favorite animated Disney movie, so  perfect mother-daughter movie for us to see!
 
So how did things go? Well, let me preface to say this: it takes quite a bit for a movie to make me cry (though I find it gets easier and easier as time goes on). It has to hit a certain emotional spot. Even the last Harry Potter didn’t make me full out cry (though I did dry sob when I saw Lupin and Tonks).
 
Guys, I cried during Cinderella not once but twice. And the second time they were tears of joy, if you can believe that, right at the end. It was just so satisfying and validating and beautiful that I got really moved.
 
But for all this sappy emotion, you’re all wondering: did it meet my prior expectations?
 
 
(SPOILERS AHEAD!!)
 

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5 Things I Wish to See From Disney’s Live Action Cinderella

You know, there’s a lyric in “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” that I’m surprised doesn’t get more attention.

While we could chalk it up to needing a word that rhymed with “believing,” to say her heart is “grieving” still seems a strong choice of words for Cinderella. But I think this says a lot more about her character and her story, than any of the pretty, sparkly, shallow merchandise can.

In the original animated film, Cinderella’s father dies when she’s very young, but old enough to remember him and be affected by his death. Instead of getting love and support from family members in the wake of all this, her stepmother takes control and turns Cinderella into a servant in her own household. Because this is all narrated at the very beginning of the film, we don’t get a strong idea of just how hurt she was when all this happened. But that doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there. While she is strong enough to keep her head up high in the face of her daily servitude, every now and then, her fears, her grief, and her frustration overcome her. But she has to keep it as contained as possible, because if she doesn’t her stepmother will only make things worse, even throw her out, with nowhere to go.

This is a girl with a lot of heart and courage. Perhaps I’m biased since Cinderella is my mom’s favorite Disney heroine, but I have a lot of respect for Cinderella as a character. But because she was in an animated film in 1950 with a very short running time, a lot of her story was diverted towards the comedy – the mice, the dated blowhard of a king, the put-upon duke. And that was fine for that time and type of film. But as times have changed, people have defined Cinderella by the shallowest details of her story.

But tonight, with the opening of Cinderella (2015), this beloved Disney character gets another chance to prove her worth, beyond the merchandising, beyond her original film. I was wary of this film when I first heard about it, mostly because I was coming off the heels of Maleficent – which, while elements of it worked very well, would have worked better if it wasn’t so deeply associated with an iconic Disney film. But where Maleficent twisted Sleeping Beauty around, Cinderella seems to be truly honoring the original while giving her and her story the depth it deserves – but will it truly go the distance?

They say “a dream is a wish your heart makes,” so here are my dreams for this epic film to fulfill:

1. Confronting the Stepmother (literally and symbolically)

Rags and riches are a huge part of this story, but it isn’t just about the transition from one to the other. The stepmother loves to hold Cinderella’s poverty and dependence over her head. She’s all about pretending to give Cinderella a fighting chance, while placing every obstacle imaginable in her way. In this way, she attempts to make Cinderella feel worthless, to ultimately give in to despair. Cinderella unfortunately never gets to directly confront the stepmother in the original – though I’m sure she got a real kick of pleasure from her stepmother’s face when she pulled out that other slipper. But we see from the trailers hints of a real confrontation scene in the new version, which I hope will be satisfying.

But I don’t want this just for the drama. Because by confronting the stepmother, she has to also confront how the prince and how society might view her if she takes her chance at happiness. Even now, there’s still a lot heaped on those who have fewer opportunities, especially women. That they are somehow less, even when they are kind and caring and intelligent hard workers. But Cinderella, by confronting this and still choosing to go for her dreams, would be making a mature decision to assert her right to dream, to attend the ball, to face the prince, even if the worst should happen. And to show the prince, confronted with the truth, choose to stand by her side proudly. Instead of dreamily glancing over the issues, I hope the film acknowledge the prejudices associated with rags and riches, and ultimately show that they are wrong and do not matter.

2. Make it clear why she had to stay in her stepmother’s care – and maybe the early days of that life.

Even with a potential confrontation, people may fault Cinderella for not fighting back sooner.

Said people forget about women’s history.

Because for all she went through under her stepmother’s roof, had she stepped out of line it could have been so much worse. In the original film, when an innocent mistake of Cinderella’s was mistaken as purposeful insolence, her workload was doubled. What would happen if she actually stepped out of line?

Possibly, she would have been kicked out of her own home. Think Miss Honey from Matilda without an education. Or worse yet, think of another poor French woman – Fantine from Les Miserables. Forced into prostitution, she took ill and died.

But just because she was forced to take her step family’s behavior, and decided to take it with a smile just to spite them, doesn’t mean it was always that way. Perhaps the film will give an opportunity to see her early days under her stepmother’s thumb and being willful, leading to serious consequences (so more along the lines of Jane Eyre).

3. Show her spirit!

She calls the clock an old killjoy. She scolds Lucifer and Bruno when they’ve been bad. When given the chance to go to the ball, her lack of wealth, of even a dress, does not dissuade Cinderella from trying to take the rare opportunity for freedom (not love, note). She sticks her chin in the air in front of the woman who can hurt her the most, and proclaims her right, by royal decree, to go to the ball. Basically, all of this and more please!

4. Have the fairy godmother’s appearance be connected to Cinderella’s mother.

In many of the older versions of the tale, the person or force who gives Cinderella the opportunity to escape her life is connected to her deceased mother. In some it even is her. Since trailers indicate that we do get to meet Cinderella’s mother, I would love to see that connection drawn, to show Ella her mother in some way is still there for her (I’m a sucker for a good mother-daughter story).

5. A glimpse at Cinderella’s dreams.

Cinderella never discusses her specific dreams in the original film because, like wishes, if she told them they would not come true. Plus, I think she wants something that is all her own. It worked for the original film because by having the dreams be vague, people could project their own dreams on the song and character.

Bur now, I think showing that maybe Cinderella had specific dreams – perhaps to escape servitude, or serve in another house as servant, live abroad – would help the audience understand the stakes of going to the ball for her, what she wants from life.

That’s all for this week! Sorry for the late post. See you Tuesday!

Learn more about the blog here, about me here, and resources hereCheck me out on tumblr at kateeorgera.tumblr.com, and check out my links in the sidebar and below:

Until next time,

~Kate

To read my reaction to Cinderella, click here!

Three Musical Christmas Carols: Muppets, Magoo, and Scrooge

When it comes to musicals, songs are utilized to dramatize moments of high emotion – the characters are so emotional they have to sing about it. Thus, when adapting a pre-existing story to musical form, the creators look at the story for the emotional high points and parts that lend themselves to a musical number (think Legally Blonde‘s “Bend and Snap”) before creating the songs. In this way the addition of music does not feel superfluous, but feels like an expansion of the existing plot and characters.

With Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, we have a unique opportunity to look at multiple adaptations of the same, well-known story. There have been a number of musical versions, but I will be concentrating on my two favorites: The Muppet Christmas Carol and Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. 

Like many people in my generation, I am quite fond of The Muppet Christmas Carol. The addition of the Muppets, though hilarious, does not intrude much on this retelling of the plot, and the songs are quite splendid.

Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, on the other hand, was a classic from the previous generation, introduced to me by my parents. It’s actually considered the first animated Christmas special, beating out A Charlie Brown Christmas by three years, so that’s a pretty big deal. Other than the framing device of having Mister Magoo acting in the show on Broadway, this is a pretty straightforward retelling, actually. 

“Use the force, Scrooge!”

However, since these were both comedic adaptations with characters from other media, I’m also bringing in the musical film Scrooge starring Albert Finney and featuring Alec Guinness (before he was Obi-Wan) which was a more straightforward adaptation, for comparison. I don’t know this version as well, but I have listened to the songs, so I hope you’ll bear with me on this. 

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On Love Letters (and Other Forms of Communication): You’ve Got Mail & Lizzie Bennet Diaries

As I mentioned at the end of my post last week, I am writing love letters to strangers as part of the 12 Days of Letter Writing for The World Needs More Love Letters. Love letters, in this sense, are not about romance, but simply about sending thoughtful, handwritten notes to people who need some kind words. It’s not always easy to do, but it reminds me of how important it is to tell family and friends what they mean to us – because if the words of strangers can help that much, how much more can we bolster the spirits of people we know?

Anyway, when trying to find words to help people in uncertain situations, there are two things that keep popping into my head: The 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which I have discussed before on this blog).

 

The two works have quite a bit in common: two people who initially hate each other come to love each other – the guy, who seems like an entitled jerk, turns out to be a kind person, and the girl, wondering if she is too afraid to live the life she wants, faces massive life changes and takes the first steps towards doing it. All this with wonderfully witty, realistic dialogue and the Internet in play.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune… must be in want of a wife.”

They also both take a lot from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (whose birthday is today, btw). LBD is based directly on it, and in You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox compares Kathleen Kelly to Elizabeth Bennet for her inability to see past her pride and prejudices towards him (see above). Really, I could do a whole blog post on those similarities alone (and I might, just warning you now).

But, in the vein of love letters, I’m going to talk about communication in both works.

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Character Comparison: Prince Hans & George Wickham (LBD). Or: Why I Won’t Excuse Hans.

movies.yahoo.comhttp://charles-bingley.blogspot.com/2013/04/so-lets-talk-about-lizzie-bennet-diaries.html

Trigger warning: Discussion of emotional abuse.

Okay, so I know I covered Frozen last week. But this is something I’ve actually been thinking about for a year, and recent events in colleges nationwide, including my own alma mater, have spurred me to think about this, so bear with me.

One year before Frozen premiered, I started watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern vlog adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The show was a pioneer by engaging with its audience through social media platforms, and added new layers to the story through videos created by other characters. But the biggest, most talked about change the show made was in the handling of the relationship between Lydia Bennet and George Wickham through Lydia’s vlogs, The Lydia Bennet.

(Spoilers ahead!)

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The Art of the Fan Musical: Supernatural and Starkid

 

So, I watched Supernatural‘s 200th episode last week.

For the record, I don’t really watch the show. However, I figured I had enough of a working knowledge from tumblr to be able to appreciate the anniversary musical episode.

I always find musical episodes on otherwise nonmusical shows interesting, even if I don’t know the show that well, because, unlike on stage, there has to be a reason the characters are bursting into song. Whether it be a feverish hallucination, a Chicago-style daydream, or even a demon who kills by getting emotionally supressed people to sing and dance their feelings. These musical episodes also often provide anthems for long-standing themes and relationships in the show (see: “Guy Love” from the Scrubs episode “My Musical”).

But, Supernatural‘s musical episode, entitled “Fan Fiction,” is unique in that the characters from the show don’t actually sing about their feelings. Actually, the main supernatural-hunting brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, balk at the idea of musical theater (though Sam apparently ran tech for Our Town and Oklahoma in high school). But because Supernatural has a book series in-universe that is based on the lives of the characters, with a fanbase not dissimilar to Supernatural‘s real life fans, they were able to create a meta musical commentary not just on the Supernatural universe, but on how its fans enjoy it.

In short, the musical episode was created in the style of a fan adaptation. And when I think of fan adaptations, I can’t help but compare to the marvellous works of Team Starkid.

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