The Writing Majors (Betwixt Productions, 2015)
When I originally wrote in my Literary-Inspired Web Series recommendations post that I was hoping to put some reviews up, I wasn’t planning on starting with The Writing Majors. However, it is one of my favourites and the creators (Betwixt Productions) have just started to release another series, so to support them I’ve moved this review to the front of the line. One reason I wasn’t planning on starting with this series is that most Literary-Inspired Web Series are adaptations of classic literary texts, with a smaller number reimagining the lives of the writers themselves. But The Writing Majors is by far my favourite of these, imagining Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, and Oscar Wilde as flatmates studying creative writing at university. Watching The Writing Majors as it was released, I initially had no idea how invested I would become in the series. In a way, it crept up on me so that, even though I was watching it alongside series which, at the time, I would have considered favourites, this was the one which stuck with me long after it had finished. The Writing Majors has fast become one of my favourite series to rewatch, and I love it more and more every time.
As a series, it is, essentially, a crossover but one which incorporates some of the biographical elements of the writers rather than their fictional creations. It doesn’t follow their lives exactly, instead taking general themes and using those as the foundation of the narrative; as a whole the series is more of an episodic study of university life rather than an exploration of the writers themselves. The biographical elements of the narrative are more like fun treats for those who recognise the tales. This is true even from the world outside the main characters: other writers make an appearance, including Shakespeare, Jack Kerouac, and the Brontës, and it is fascinating to see how these vastly different writers interact with each other.
However fun the biographical elements of the series are, the real strength lies in the characters. Emily, Jane, and Oscar are all so endearing and realistic that you can’t help but become invested in their videos and their development over the course of the series. Their interactions with each other feel natural: it is easy to see these three as flatmates who are learning how to live with each other and, above all, how to love and support each other. They are all flawed characters, yes, but it is their flaws which make them so relatable. These are university students learning how to live on their own and discovering who they are as people; the last episode, in which they prepare for the world outside of university, is wonderful in its understated catharsis. It has the same nostalgic excitement that is true of saying goodbye to university friends before you all begin the rest of your lives.
Anyone who has read my reviews here for even a short length of time will have picked up that I have strong views about the portrayal of romance in media. One of the most important storylines of The Writing Majors for me was Jane’s struggle to reconcile the fact that she genuinely doesn’t want a relationship at present with the fact that the world around her seems to be pushing her to be in a relationship. I have rarely seen this sort of storyline in any piece of media, but it is such a realistic portrayal of a common college/university experience. There is a general assumption that you will go to university, where you will meet lots of new people, and you’ll find at least one person you want to be in a relationship with. Seeing somebody on screen articulate how I often felt at university, when I was enjoying making lifelong friendships rather than looking for romance, meant more than I can accurately express. There has been one quote in particular which has stayed with me from this storyline: “So, do I have a ‘friend zone’? Yes. Yes, and it is a very special and important place that I allow people whose company I enjoy come into. And it’s a good thing.” (Episode 3: ‘The Friend Zone’, 3:19-32) I would love to see more examples of media which places such a high value on friendship in a world so focused on romance.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Betwixt Productions are in the process of raising funds as they begin the release of their next project: Horizons. There are many reasons that I’m excited about this series (not the least of which is that it’s inspired by H.G.Wells’ writing) but above all, I am excited because this is a creative team my own age who I trust to bring great characters, solid narrative, and beautiful cinematography to media. Writing this review has made me want to rewatch The Writing Majors again. But it has also made me more excited to see where Betwixt Productions go, not just with Horizons, but in the years to come.