Once Upon a Story

I have recently been watching a YouTube adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. This series modernizes the novel and tells the story through a series of 5 minute YouTube videos. The series focuses on, Emma Woodhouse, a modern day matchmaker. Emma is driven and exudes self-confidence. She truly is the modern day example of the heroine that Jane Austen wrote of almost two centuries ago.

The series is entitled Emma Approved and is the second adaptation of a Jane Austen novel from the same team. The first adaptation was the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and was a surprising success. The videos, which featured Lizzie Bennet talking to a camera in her bedroom, told the story of Pride and Prejudice in an entirely new way. Lizzie, like Emma, is a heroine that Austen would be proud of.


I couldn’t help but think about while watching these videos that they are resurrecting story telling in a way that is well received in the digital age. Short YouTube videos uploaded twice a week allow for Jane Austen’s stories to reach a wider audience than she ever imagined. The videos are successful because they tell stories that are universally recognized and loved. The stories focus on character development while driving the plot forward in a way that allows the audience to become invested in the lives of these fictional characters. I believe that these videos are paving the way for a storytelling revolution. This revolution would see more and more adaptations of classic novels in a way that are increasingly accessible. The audience that the videos reach has not necessarily read the novel that is being adapted but might be interested in reading it after watching the videos. In this way, these videos encourage and promote reading as well as storytelling. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved have set the tone for a form of storytelling that will only continue to grow.

One Reply to “Once Upon a Story”

  1. I agree with much of what you said here, Kim. I think short, snappy modernizations like this help reach a wider audience, especially those learners who aren’t as reading-oriented. These videos remind me of the Sassy Gay Friend clips. Hamlet is probably the best…


    But… do you think that turning novels into bite-sized clips takes away from the “aura”? Do you think people will feel they’ve gotten all they can out of “Emma” after watching a few YouTube videos rather than picking up the book? And is that necessarily a bad thing? (To me, I think it is.)

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