Sep 23, 2022 • 38M


In the YouTube series 'Rational Creatures' four friends retell ‘Persuasion’ with lgbt storylines, telenovela vibes, gender swaps, sister issues, and the pure pressure of being 20-something.

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Hello friends,

Happy fall. This post is dropping as a postcard, a letter to you, a podcast episode, and a hooray for autumn.

We’re so happy to be able to share this conversation with the co-creators of the Rational Creatures YouTube series that retells the story of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Inspired by that viral video sensation known as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, aka LBD, Rational Creatures is powered by crowd-funding, inspiration, and friendship.

Series co-creators Ayelen Barrios Ruiz Pagano, Jessamyn Leigh, Hazel Jeffs, and Anya Steiner bonded over their love of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and their passion for seeing classic stories retold in contemporary settings. 

A young Latina woman in a plaid shirt is sitting thoughtfully, gazing to the side, with a background of a large painting behind her. Kristina Pupo is the actress playing Ana in the YouTube series 'Rational Creatures' based on Jane Austen's 'Persuasion.'
Twenty-something Ana is a Latina woman balancing the pressures of love and family and not getting any younger. Actor Kristina Pupo remixes ‘Persuasion’s’ Anne Elliot for the YouTube series ‘Rational Creatures’.

It turns out retelling literary classics on YouTube is an actual thing, and these creators have worked on other YouTube series that remix classic literature: Jessamyn Leigh created a series called Twincidents based on Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors, and Hazel Jeffs created Away From it All, a retelling of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Maddening Crowd - all four women worked on these projects together while dream-scaping a Persuasion retelling. And then they found themselves crowd-funding it, and producing it. 

Rational Creatures is powered by crowd-funding, inspiration, and friendship.

Apparently it’s hard to get traditional funding for a YouTube series - so the Rational Creatures series has been crowd-sourced and produced on a budget of about $17,000, for about 18 episodes. Season 1 was shot with a full cast of actors over five days in Chicago.

All our favorite characters are right here on YouTube: Anne Elliot becomes Ana, Fred is You Know Who, Louisa gets a gender switch and becomes Louis, and one of the most annoying sisters in literary history, Mary Musgrove, becomes Marisol, and that sister relationship is expanded on in the series in a way that is perceptive and fun.

Ayelen and Jessamyn told us that in this series the characters are remade to look more like their friends: They’re working, they’re dating, they’re LGBT, they’re diverse, and of course they’re pining extravagantly.

Powered by crowd-funding, creativity, Jane Austen, and friendship across geographical borders, ‘Rational Creatures’ just dropped its second season on YouTube. Pictured clockwise from top left are co-creators Anya Steiner, Hazel Jeffs, Jessamyn Leigh, and Ayelen Barrios Ruiz Pagano.

We’ve got tropes like friends-to-lovers, there’s romance, and there’s all kinds of pressures and sexual tension - basically some of our favorite things to tease out of Jane Austen’s stories, right? 

Ayelen and Jessamyn told us that in this series the characters are remade to look more like their friends: They’re working, they’re dating, they’re LGBT, they’re diverse, and of course they’re pining extravagantly. 

For this episode of the Austen Connection podcast we caught up with Ayelen Barrios Ruiz Pagano, who spoke to us from Toronto, and Jessamyn Leigh in Oregon. We talked about Jane Austen’s classic story of Persuasion, the characters of Anne Elliot, and Frederick Wentworth, and putting it all into a contemporary retelling with Rational Creatures

Two young men wearing sweatshirts lie on a bed, intimately talking and gazing at each other. The actors Benjamin Mills and Derek Quesada portray reimagined characters in love based on the characters of Benwick and Louisa from Jane Austen's 'Persuasion.'
Benwick becomes Ben and Louisa becomes Louis in the YouTube series ‘Rational Creatures’. Pictured: actors Benjamin Mills (left) and Derek Quesada.

Enjoy this episode, which you can hear by simply pressing Play above and streaming right here, or you can find it wherever you get your podcasts including Spotify and Apple.

And meanwhile:

You can follow the conversations about the series, the characters, and new episodes as they drop on the Rational Creatures series Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and of course on YouTube where you can see all the episodes as they drop - for free.

Have you watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries or any other YouTube retellings of classic literature?

Let us know your favorite characters, favorite themes, and favorite series here:

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Warning - these series are slightly addictive, and once you get into it you can easily spend a day with these classic literary characters navigating all the things in contemporary settings. Pure joy. 

We’re all, like the characters in a contemporary YouTube series, navigating our intriguing relationships, the joy of friendships, and the pressures of not getting any younger.

Good luck and have a beautiful weekend, friends,

Your epistolary Plain Jane

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  • Your weekend is covered. Because there is a never-ending supply of contemporary YouTube series that remix classic literature, many of them are created by women, and the Rational Creatures team has worked on a few of them together, including Jessamyn Leigh’s Twincidents based on Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors, and Hazel Jeffs’ Away From it All, a retelling of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Maddening Crowd. Enjoy!

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