Deborah Yaffe

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Emma, Emma everywhere

By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 5 2018 02:00PM

Emma really does seem to be having a moment.


Last week, I wrote about plans for both a new filmed adaptation of the novel and a remake of Amy Heckerling’s immortal Clueless, the 1995 movie that updated the story to high school in Beverly Hills. I’d already taken note of a musical version of Clueless, which is opening soon Off-Broadway.


But I’d missed the news of yet another Emma-influenced project: a five-year-anniversary sequel to the 2013-14 YouTube series Emma Approved, a modern-day update from the people who brought us The Lizzie Bennet Diaries a year earlier.


Although I was a big fan of LBD, which used a vlog format and a clever set of in-universe social media accounts to update the story of Pride and Prejudice to contemporary California, I was less enamored of Emma Approved. (And don’t even get me started on the team’s third Austen-related effort, Welcome to Sanditon.)


EA’s contemporary updating seemed less compelling to me, and Joanna Sotomura’s Emma Woodhouse – in this version, the head of a lifestyle/event planning company – really was a heroine that no one but her creators could much like.


It’s too early to tell if the sequel, whose first weekly installment was posted on October 8, will prove more successful, although I’ll admit to feeling a certain nostalgic fondness as the familiar characters made their appearances, in the old five-to-six-minute episode format.


While the LBD creators’ two follow-up series both engaged in occasional inter-novel crossovers – LBD’s Caroline Bingley character became the bride of EA’s Mr. Elton character, for example – that approach seems central to the new series. LBD’s Mr. Collins has already shown up as Emma’s newest client, and characters have darkly mentioned a professional disaster involving Anne Elliot. We could be in for a video-and-social-media version of the first-ever Jane Austen fanfic: Sybil G. Brinton’s Old Friends and New Fancies, the 1913 book that freely intermingles characters from different Austen novels.


The sequel is scheduled to run for two months – far shorter than the original, which comprised seventy-two biweekly episodes – but that could change: Pemberley Digital, the creator of the Auston vlog series, is seeking a thousand Patreon subscribers, for a monthly fee ranging from $5 to $100. If the crowdfunding works, the series – and Emma’s current moment -- will be extended.


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