Before I explain the concept behind the series (affectionately termed The LBD), though, allow me to back-track a little. Growing up with cerebral palsy, and as a wheelchair user, I could not engage with the world in the physical way most of my friends did. Cue reading and, especially, Austen - for whilst I could not experience the feeling of jumping over a stile and getting muddy boots in reality, Lizzy Bennet took me there in my imagination. Equally, when her annoyingly loveable mother, Mrs Bennet, complained hysterically of 'such fluttering and spasms all over', I could laugh in empathy, because my muscles rarely did what they were told to and spasms (real, in my case) were a phenomenon with which I was only too familiar.
Through literature, I found a world in which I could participate on a level playing field with my peers, and the fact that Austen opened that door for me as a young girl is a truly a 'debt that I can never repay', to paraphrase Lizzy. As I got older, surrounded by able-bodied peers, I found ways to make the real world more accessible, as I became more able and independent, thanks to physiotherapy, determination and a tenaciously supportive mother - but reading was always my relief.
Naturally, therefore, when things collapsed for me physically in 2008, aged sixteen, I looked to 'dear Jane' for solace - except I was in such pain from the resurgence of spasms that I couldn't turn pages. I did the next best thing, and alternated marathons of the 1995 mini-series and 2005 film versions of Pride and Prejudice, which somehow got me through studying for my A-Levels and meant I was healthy enough to go to university.
Now, in my final year of English and Theatre Studies at Warwick, I am not only well but well enough to be on a mission to walk to collect my degree (the progress towards which I document on this blog) - and here is where I get back to The LBD. Simply put, I find myself once again indebted to an adaptation of Austen, in this case an especially brilliant series of video-blogs. I mentioned yesterday that during the last term it has been a slog to keep up physical improvement, because of the amount of academic work I've had to do, and this has been one of my fundamental coping mechanisms. Narrated principally by Lizzie Bennet, a post-grad in Mass Communications, the videos form part of her final thesis and detail every aspect of her life, following the plot of Austen's novel (I don't do spoilers, however many centuries a book has been around!). The series, co-created and -directed by Hank Green and Bernie Su, and written and acted by a wonderfully talented ensemble of people, is now nearing its end.
So, since the most recent episode (aside from an adorable Q&A mini-video) is entitled 'Gratitude', I felt I should express mine today. I want to say thank you to the whole team - to Hank and Bernie for the concept; to the writers (especially Kate Noble and Rachel Kiley) for their brilliance and fidelity to Austen (because, despite its contemporary setting, this is my favourite adaptation); to the cast (everyone - you're all fabulous - but especially Ashley Clements as Lizzie) for their passion and commitment to investing their characters with a new vitality; to the crew, for ensuring that every aspect of the production is realistic.
Not only has it been nice to know that it isn't just me who has a huge mountain of degree work to plough through but, as I get closer to my graduation, the videos have helped me realise that I can and will take the (literal!) steps I want to on the day of 'the final exam of my life' (to quote this modern Lizzie). After all, the hills I'm climbing to get there aren't half as unforgiving as those in San Fransisco - and reminder that means a lot.
So thanks, LBD, and congratulations on the well-deserved Kickstarter success - I hope you realise what a difference you've made to all of us viewers.
EDIT: I can't believe I didn't post a link to the videos last night, so here it is. Watch them, they're awesome: