In the world of Austen Modernizations there are successes and there are failures and there are things in between. As a couple of us read Northanger Abbey together and as I prepare to tackle co-writing my own modernization of the story, I looked to see what else was out there. Two things came to my attention. First there is the book Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project #2). I have read two other books in the Austen Project. Eligible, I enjoyed and talked about here, and Sense and Sensibility, which I also talk about often and enjoyed very little. At least I got through both of those. More on that later…
The second thing that came to my attention was a YouTube vlog series, the Cate Morland Chronicles. There is a video at the end of this video to introduce you to the series. This comes off the successful modernized vlog series Lizzie Bennet Diaries (Pride and Prejudice) and Emma Approved (Emma). Northanger Abbey could be a delightful modernization. Clearly, since I plan to try it myself, I can’t criticize these efforts too much. I took on the consumption of both with excitement.
That is until I realized I just didn’t like them. It’s not necessarily a criticism of the content or the actual book/vlog, but my preference. I like the original Northanger Abbey. It is not my favorite Austen, but I see younger versions of myself in Catherine. Some people use literature, television, or movies to understand how relationships and society work. It is still easy to do so. It is also common that these people are corrected simply by being in the world. So many go through a phase where we realize that authenticity is something we crave in people because we see so much performance and manipulation among people. Many of us change and realize that sometimes you need to do both to get through life.
I am also just as much a fan girl as any version of Catherine. Getting lost in a good book universe or television show or movie is my favorite thing to do. I often prefer to focus on a fictional world when things in the real one get too crazy. For example, to get through the end of this election in the US, I am indulging in Luke Cage and Superman to be deep in superhero universes. We can discuss Luke Cage another day. We can discuss Henry Cavill ANY day.
My problem with these two modernizations was specific to them rather than their source. For the book, I just couldn’t get into it. The author of the Austen Project book focused on Twilight as the fandom of choice. It annoyed me to no end, especially because I feel Austen’s point about novel reading is that there is quality there. I would have gone with Harry Potter instead. I think she was trying to make a point about the gothic roots of Northanger Abbey, but it didn’t work for me. It was also so densely British that I couldn’t understand half of what was happening.
The vlog series had related problems for me. I tried to like it. In fact, I love a number of their choices. Their interpretation of the Thrope siblings is spot on. I think Cate as a complete and unapologetic fan-girl is apropos. What lost me was a mix of production value and this made of Mysteries of Udolpho television series. Vlogging is very difficult, but such a great storytelling tool. I suspect it will get better as they get more comfortable.
I am just not going to be there for things to get better for either book or vlog. I gave both as much attention as I could. I have so many other things to watch and read. I am in the middle of some weird Superman obsession and would rather watch Man of Steel over and over (I maintain this is my way of dealing with the US elections clusterfuck). I simply didn’t care enough about either story to continue watching or reading.
I encourage you to try both and let me know what you think. The Cate Morland stuff is still dealing with the nonsense of the Thrope siblings and Cate’s annoyance with them. Put your comments about them bellow!