Modernized screen adaptations of classic literature are widespread enough to be their very own genre: we see them on the big screen regularly, and they’ve sprung up with even more energy on the Internet. Ever since The Lizzie Bennet Diaries swept onto YouTube back in 2012, many more updates of famous books have sprung up to join in on the fun. Everyone from Shakespeare to L.M. Montgomery to Louisa May Alcott to J. Sheridan Le Fanu (shoutout to any Carmilla fans reading this!) has gotten the contemporary reimagining treatment. There’s a great deal of innovation that comes with this format, often in ways that would never have been available to movies working off of similar goals — for instance, transmedia storytelling is a regular fixture in these kinds of productions. Characters often get personalized Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram accounts, filled with supplemental observations and interactions designed to enhance the main plot for fans of a series. On a representation level, these kinds of shows also frequently take the opportunity to reimagine older works with characters of color or LGBT protagonists, even going so far as to directly challenge examples of misogyny, racism, and homophobia in their source texts. All of this means that there’s an ocean of potential for clever storylines and interesting themes with such a setup. One of my personal favorite examples is also one of the newest: Canadian webseries All For One, an interpretation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. (Spoilers to follow.)
This time around, the inexperienced-yet-passionate hero d’Artagnan is envisioned as Dorothy, a college freshman with
As you’ve probably noticed, most of the characters’ genders have been changed for this version of Dumas’ adventurous tale, and it results in some very compelling role reversals: while The Three Musketeers is a fantastic book, it’s also very clearly affected by the sexism of its time in how it constructs women like Constance, Milady, and Queen Anne among the mostly male cast. All For One not only aims to mitigate this with a cast of complex and unique women, but takes the extra step in having these protagonists explicitly talk about feminism. Furthermore, institutional misogyny is a real factor in the plot, where problems like gendered emotional abuse and victim-blaming openly affect their lives. It’s both incredibly refreshing and a great example of how subversive these adaptations can be.
Of course, the show is more than just a soapbox for the creators’ opinions. It also has some fabulously written character arcs and fascinating relationships, which is no small feat for a relatively large cast sharing the collective screen time of
The great part of all these is how even recurring figures who appear less often are packed with their own complexities
Speaking of romance, this is another area where All For One changes the game. Book fans are, of course, aware that Constance dies in the original novel. After the well-documented epidemic of dead women-loving female characters or, at the very least, living ones with continually broken relationships, it’s easy to feel disheartened and nervous when a
Going into further detail about the series would probably result in a straight-up outline, so instead I’ll link the first season, which can be found below.
Should you have the time and inclination for a Twitter crawl, the transmedia element of All For One is an equally joyful experience. So: if stories about friendship, forgiveness, becoming an adult, fighting for your principles, and believing in yourself when no one else seems to are your jam, I’d recommend giving this one a shot. More than anything else, All For One’s strongest message is that it’s great to be an independent person, able to love yourself and stand on your own, but life is best experienced with the people you care about and connect with. More than any other new show I’ve fallen in love with so far in 2016, this is the one I hope comes back for another round of modern-day collegiate swashbuckling.