Thursday, March 19, 2015

Vlogging as Fictional Dramatic Narrative

                In 2006, YouTube had only been around for about two years.  Due to the ease of use of recording from webcams and uploading videos to the site, many people became video bloggers, or vloggers.  On June 16, 2006, the YouTube channel lonelygirl15 began and dealt with Bree, a teenage girl who initially posted just everyday things about her life.  But on a discussion board about the show in early August 2006, a fan decided to know every single little thing about the show, and other fans joined in the effort.  It was then that some fans noticed some discrepancies in the videos, which led them to believe that the vlogger was a fictional person.  For a short time, everyone was watching the lonelygirl15 videos to determine if they were a real series or just a fictional one.  By late August, lonelygirl15 was said to be a fake by major reporters investigating the story.  While interest from major media faded after that revelation, lonelygirl15 continued for another two years with an ongoing storyline of Bree being caught up in a cult called the Order. 
                While initially set up as real, lonelygirl15’s use of the vlogging format as fictional dramatic narrative opened up new possibilities in dramatic content.  While fourth-wall-breaking has been a staple of movies and TV for years, now there was a justification: these videos were meant to be recorded by someone who knew he or she was recording.  Secondly, the interactivity, whether real or implied, of viewers responding to the videos and the subjects in the videos responding back, gives a closeness not found in other dramatic media.  In other dramatic media, the viewer, while certainly enjoying the product, is removed somewhat from the story.  The use of fictional dramatic vlogging, therefore brings an intimacy with the viewers not found in other more traditional media.
                The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was one of the most well known fictional vlogs that used the format well to tell a complete story, that is, an updated version of Pride and Prejudice.  Lizzie Bennet in the first episode speaks directly to the camera and shows T-Shirt with the opening line from the original book, the T-Shirt in question being given to her by her mother.  Lizzie Bennet acknowledges she is a grad student living at home with her sister Lydia and her mother, who desperately wants to get married.  As an example of the interactivity, “Lizzie Bennet” did Q&A videos where she answered real questions from real fans.  The show ran for 100 videos over several different channels, including one by Lizzie’s sister Lydia and another three which enable the creators to tell stories from Pride and Prejudice that are not directly related to the main character.  After the series ended, the same production team worked on an adaption of Jane Austin’s unfinished novel Sandition, followed by Jane Austin’s Emma.   They are currently working on The March Family Letters, an adaptation of Little Women.
                Another notable fictional vlog updates Much Ado About Nothing to a fictional New Zealand high school, in this universe called Nothing Much To Do.  There are three channels associated with telling the story.  The first two are Nothing Much To Do, which is Beatrice’s site, Benaddicktion, Benedict’s site. Both of the sites have Beatrice and Benedict talking directly to the camera and are frequently joined by their friends, also speaking directly to the camera.  The third channel is Watch Project, which involves minor character Ursula’s attempts at more documentary style videos, which capture more of the action of the group, for example, she takes a video of the costume party that Pedro throws for the character, whereas Beatrice’s and Ben’s videos they do not show the party outright but talk about it in there videos; Watch Project also features amateur detectives Dogberry and Verges in their attempts to sniff out a case.  The show lasted 81 videos across several channels, and the production company Candle Wasters have finished filming a new Kickstarter funded series called Lovely Little Losers, based on Love’s Labor’s Lost.

              The fictional vlogging format, also called vlogseries, is an interesting offshoot of vlogging, using the format to tell a dramatic story from beginning to end.  With adaptations of Jane Austin and William Shakespeare, the format is just beginning.  Hopefully more and more production companies will release dramatic content in the vlogging style, telling more fascinating stories in that style in the future.  

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