Lonelygirl15 is bogus
September 8, 2006 3:04 AM   Subscribe

It's official. Lonelygirl15 of YouTube fame is fake - an elaborate narrative created via a Hollywood talent agency. More details of how the plot came apart here. Previously discussed here.
posted by zaebiz (106 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
danah boyd has post-game analysis, too, but I'm holding out some hope it's not all a lame sham, that it's still got some heart. I guess we'll see in a few days whether the next video's any good, after the "revelation."
posted by cgc373 at 3:08 AM on September 8, 2006


And soon, the moral question posed by subsequent suicides of lonelyboys.
posted by Wataki at 3:35 AM on September 8, 2006


Riana Giammarco, a Rhode Island 20-year-old who curates a lonelygirl15 discussion board (one of several on the Web) says the mystery is the principal draw for her.

"I like the community aspect of the mystery — getting together and trying to figure it out," Giammarco said in a phone interview. "Though I would still watch if there weren't a mystery, the videos wouldn't appeal to me as much."


Same old story with this generation: I want bull tension. realityboring
posted by toma at 3:48 AM on September 8, 2006


I was trying to keep relatively quiet despite getting called out on this one (sorry, eatitlive, for not jumping into the thread.)

Why? I'm not sure, professional courtesy to another storyteller, I guess? Maybe I was hoping this was some young talent with some promise. I didn't get quite as much harrassment as Flemming did, but it has still been damn strange for the last couple of weeks having to tell people (including folks from Haxan!) that I had nothing to do with it. Now, finding out it's from CAA, I can take the gloves off and join the chorus of critique.

The way they announced "the truth" is another example of what I would think of as a string elementary mistakes (ranging from camera choices to lighting to trying to record too many segments in one shoot) -- the single most challenging part of any "hoax" or "immersive story" is how you do the reveal. If you do the reveal poorly, the audience will turn on you and rip you apart. If you do the reveal well, the audience become conspirators, people "in on the secret" and they become evangelists. In the age of sideshows, it was called "turning the tip", in online immersive storytelling we frequently call it "the wink" (example of a wink). Letting the audience discover the truth for themselves is always more satisfying for them than hitting them in the face with it: no one likes to feel the fool.

My least favorite part is their argument that "we are witnessing the birth of a new art form". *cough* Sorry, this isn't a new art form, there have been alot of us practicing immersive storytelling in one form of media or another since ... hmmm ... at least 1938.
posted by bclark at 4:00 AM on September 8, 2006 [7 favorites]


Same old story with this generation: I want bull tension. realityboring

I love it when another generations generalizes into generations ! I want generalizations, detailsboring !
posted by elpapacito at 4:06 AM on September 8, 2006


It sounds like they went to a heck of a lot of effort in this. (Including using a professional makeup artist on that entirely-too-foxy actress.)

The most obvious question is "why?" Just what was the point of it all? I don't for a moment believe that it's just for the sake of a "new art form". Somehow or other eventually they intend to sell something, or advertise something. What? (The "Complete Bree" commemorative DVD, complete with special unreleased video never before seen?)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:20 AM on September 8, 2006


It's official. YouTube fame is fake.
posted by pracowity at 4:22 AM on September 8, 2006


Hey, bclark, thanks for the interesting take. Around the same time as Welles' triumph, Dennis Wheatley wrote four works of crime fiction that took a different slant on immersiveness: they came as a dossier including all sorts of actual evidence, telegrams, hair, cigarette butts, etc. Most notable was Murder off Miami. Another ancestor of this meme, I think, albeit not deceptive.
posted by imperium at 4:24 AM on September 8, 2006


Ok LPC: What really, specifically, is interesting here?
posted by toma at 4:30 AM on September 8, 2006


Now it would be really funny if the Telling It All guy was just an out-of-work actor from California.
posted by Hubajube at 4:32 AM on September 8, 2006


She wouldn't pass the Turing test.
posted by NewBornHippy at 4:38 AM on September 8, 2006


I just watched a couple of the lonelygirl15 videos and I thought they were pretty good, actually.

Can anybody tell me what the music in this video is?

Also, interesting comment, bclark. And thanks for a nice post, zaebiz.
posted by sveskemus at 4:42 AM on September 8, 2006


Can we start a pool on how old the actress really is?

Whatever I might have believed or not believed about it, no way was she fifteen.

I call 23.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:50 AM on September 8, 2006


"Loneylgirl15 is bogus" is a summary I reached well before this revelation. It was like watching a Meg Ryan movie writ small: a shadow of the banal; interesting to only those whose lives were devoid of interest and unworthy of attention or analysis beyond that needed to disregard it entirely.
posted by boo_radley at 5:07 AM on September 8, 2006


Her eyebrows always weirded me out.
posted by liquorice at 5:13 AM on September 8, 2006


Agreed with bclark - the reveal was very poorly done. A post on a forum? Come on. At least knock up a quick website (they had weeks of warning) or blog with a countdown.

And with the number of times that this art form has been 'born', it's enough to make me believe in reincarnation.
posted by adrianhon at 5:21 AM on September 8, 2006


Lonelygirl15 is a reflection of everyone. She is no more real or fictitious than the portions of our personalities that we choose to show (or hide) when we interact with the people around us.

*sticks finger down throat*
posted by languagehat at 5:23 AM on September 8, 2006


Who cares if it's bogus if it's interesting? I realize that's a debatable point that the videos were interesting, but really, does it matter at all if it's real or not?
posted by shawnj at 5:24 AM on September 8, 2006


I'm sorry. This was my first time watching a Lonelygirl15 video. Am I to understand that anyone thought she was just a reg'lar teen-ager making professionally-lit and -filmed and -edited and -scripted videos in the privacy of her bedroom? As I watched the "Pluto" segment, I kept waiting for the cut to the Gap logo.

and Lonelygirl15 discussion boards?!? Jeebus. Borrow a life if need be.
posted by the sobsister at 5:27 AM on September 8, 2006


Who cares if it's bogus if it's interesting?

that's a big if.
especially in this case. unlike languagehat, I need no finger for this to yak.
posted by Busithoth at 5:27 AM on September 8, 2006


especially in this case. unlike languagehat, I need no finger for this to yak.

Your favorite band Youtuber sucks!
posted by shawnj at 5:34 AM on September 8, 2006


Just to be clear: it's not the videos that make me want to barf (they're no better or worse than average), it's the soulless marketing jargon I quoted.

does it matter at all if it's real or not?

Christ, I hate this attitude. It's bullshit like that that's gotten this country in the mess it's in. Does it matter whether there were WMDs in Iraq? Does it matter whether Saddam was behind 9/11? Does it matter who really won the last two presidential elections? Does anything matter? Look, a shiny thing!
posted by languagehat at 5:42 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm with sobsister - I never got into these videos, because the girl always creeped me out with her big head too close to the camera.

But did people actually think these were authentic? They are so far removed from the typical youtube video, where its considered quality if the camera isn't dropped or shaking violently. The editing and music alone are enough to tip off that something isn't entirely authentic with those videos...
posted by rsanheim at 5:49 AM on September 8, 2006


Does it matter whether there were WMDs in Iraq? Does it matter whether Saddam was behind 9/11?

For crying out loud. It's entertainment were talking about here, not politics. Whether it's real or not only affects the context of the story, not the story itself.

I'm not trying to say nothing matters, because I hate that attitude, too. What I'm saying is that in this instance, with a debatably immersive story, it doesn't matter if it's true or not because it's still debatably entertaining.
posted by shawnj at 5:51 AM on September 8, 2006


If she was real, you're losers for giving some attention-whore what she wants. If it fake, you're suckers. Either way, don't watch that shit.

This whole"YouTube Celebrity" phenomenon makes me want to go on a three-state killing spree. There was an article on Boston.com about some townie around here who has gotten some sort of development deal because of her YouTube videos. I watched the linked video, and it was a homely girl with buck teeth miming to some novelty song. I was so impressed that I can't even remember what it is. That was the whole thing. Who would bother watching more of that? It makes you dumber to watch people do stupid shit.

Also, the girl had a bunch of glowing comments from people who were obviously stay-at-home fatladies.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:54 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


make it four-state, mayor
posted by matteo at 6:01 AM on September 8, 2006


At least most people know who Lil Loca really is...
posted by PenDevil at 6:05 AM on September 8, 2006


The tidbit I like is from that second link:

There is a FAKER out there.

Look at the "Address" bar above and see that my username is lonelygirl15... the faker is lonelygurl15.

posted by dreamsign at 6:10 AM on September 8, 2006


make it four-state, mayor

That's tougher than it sounds in Massachusetts, because most four-state paths lead through New York, which is pretty big. There's a thin strip of New York after Connecticut, but Connecticut is crawling with cops because the whole state is a speed trap.

You could start in Mass. just across the state line from Vermont and just west of the Vermont/New Hampshire border, go into Vermont, move across New Hampshire and head for Maine, but New Hampshire is a bitch to cross east/west (the two major arteries run north/south) and you probably wouldn't make it to the Maine border.

Then the judge would call you a failure. Plus, when you're tried in New Hampshire, you could be executed if you are black or retarded.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:12 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


The "official" forums are giving MeFi a run for our money on the snarky quotient!


"Not even M. Night Shyamalan could botch dramatic tension this badly." (link)


We have a snark gap!
posted by bclark at 6:19 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Woah - I didn't realise that people truly thought this was real. I watched one of them and the minute I saw the video quality and the skill at which it had been edited (for a girl who claimed it was her first time fidling with a webcam) I knew someone was having it on.

Way to go internets for taking all summer to figure this one out...
posted by jimmythefish at 6:26 AM on September 8, 2006


To enhance the community experience of Lonelygirl15, which you have already helped to create, we are in the process of building a website centered around video and interactivity. This website will allow everyone to enjoy the full potential of this new medium. Unfortunately, we aren't programmers. We are filmmakers. have sold our souls along with any remote semblance of a capacity for reason.

A pseudoviral campaign on YouTube for... an unlaunched YouTube clone? Noise.

Really, what's the appeal here anyway? You'd have to be deranged to find that digesting webcam style diatribes from a fifteen year old girl is even close to being worth your time. Or very alone. So alone.
posted by prostyle at 6:28 AM on September 8, 2006


Thankfully her wikipedia page has been re-posted an unlocked.
posted by delmoi at 6:41 AM on September 8, 2006


You'd have to be deranged to find that digesting webcam style diatribes from a fifteen year old girl is even close to being worth your time. Or very alone. So alone.

I only watched a few minutes of the vlogs, and found them insufferable, however her deletion from wikipedia irritated the hell out of me. She's much more interesting fake then real.
posted by delmoi at 6:51 AM on September 8, 2006


"The most obvious question is "why?"

Why do we talk around the water cooler? Why do people like to tell stories around a campfire? Why go to haunted houses on Halloween?

Why are we looking at this a 'a bogus fake'? People were trying to tell a story. In today's enlightened society, you can't just tell a story in dated conventional ways if you want to emotionally affect your audience. Perhaps a generation or so ago, a guy could tell the story around a campfire about a man with a hook for a hand terrorizing a city with relative ease. He just found something hook like and hid it in his jacket until the opportune moment when he'd present it dramatically, hiding his own hand in his sleeve, and the crackling fire would add to the drama and shock, causing the others around the campfire to gasp or squeal or pass out.

Nowadays, to tell that same story, you'd need a team of special effects guys hiding in the bushes, full orchestral score, hired actors to portray the reenactment, and a bunch of lawyers on hand to deal with the fainters when they came to, begging them to sign nondisclosure agreements and threatening them not to sue.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:51 AM on September 8, 2006


you'd think Hollywood would spend more time and energy actually making good movies than trying to trick people into watching shitty movies.

likewise, if they're going to make shitty fake YouTube videos, dont hire a chick who can't act and then spend time and money editing it like NO teenager ever would.

did people really need the NYT and the LAT to convince them that this was bogus? are those the 38% who still believe in Bush? are these the ones who gave Milli Vanilli a Grammy?
posted by tsarfan at 6:54 AM on September 8, 2006


"In today's enlightened society, you can't just tell a story in dated conventional ways if you want to emotionally affect your audience."

Yeah. Books, television, plays and movies are dead.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:56 AM on September 8, 2006


Now what? Who inhabits Seahaven after Truman leaves the show?
posted by yeti at 6:57 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to say nothing matters, because I hate that attitude, too. What I'm saying is that in this instance, with a debatably immersive story, it doesn't matter if it's true or not because it's still debatably entertaining.

Oops! I now understand what you were saying, and I truly regret having aimed my fire at a fellow hater-of-that-attitude. I'll try not to go off half-cocked next time.

People were trying to tell a story.

Yes, but what people, and what kind of story, and why? These are the same kind of people who try to "tell stories" in TV commercials. Fuck 'em.
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on September 8, 2006


Boooo-urns
posted by Mister_A at 7:04 AM on September 8, 2006


tsarfan:are you saying that the Grammy is a respect-worthy award wrongfully given to Milli Vanilli? Oh, c'mon. It was perfect for them. Come to think of it, they should give this girl a grammy too.
posted by micayetoca at 7:11 AM on September 8, 2006


This Lonelygirl chick actually makes the Rachel Blake videos for The Lost Experience look more believable and realistic. I made the mistake early on of blaming the acting, but again, compared to Lonelygirl, emmy. It's just that this medium is very difficult to make look real when it isn't.

That's perhaps why YouTube is so popular. I think audiences are tiring of Hollywood's brand of entertainment. They're going back to what we human beings used to do before 'talkies.' Before we got into the habit of buying overpriced snacks and sitting in a darkened movie theater staring at a screen and ignoring each other.

Now we're entertaining each other. I kinda like it!
posted by ZachsMind at 7:13 AM on September 8, 2006


dont hire a chick who can't act

thats not fair.. I've loved watching these videos.. the bree character is wonderful (and cute) and the story is great. most people knew it wasnt "real" from the beginning but still loved it. i find the whole thing much more entertaining than any hollywood movie ive seen in a while..
posted by petsounds at 7:14 AM on September 8, 2006


Christ, I hate this attitude. It's bullshit like that that's gotten this country in the mess it's in. Does it matter whether there were WMDs in Iraq? Does it matter whether Saddam was behind 9/11? Does it matter who really won the last two presidential elections? Does anything matter? Look, a shiny thing!
posted by languagehat at 8:42 AM EST on September 8 [+ 1] [!]


I double-plus second that. Does it matter that the tobacco companies said nicotine was not addictive? Why? Because it made people buy a product under false pretenses that tehy would not have otherwise? Gee, I wonder what lonelygirl is selling. A movie? Clothes from the Gap?

If it didn't matter, they wouldn't have tried to make it seem so real. They wouldn't have put it where so may other real video diaries are being posted. IT matters, because it's not an art project, it's marketing.

Reality matters. Believe me I can get into movies or alternate reality gaming as much as the next guy, but I hate being lied to. And yes, they lied. If you creeate something with the expectation that reasonable people will believe it is true and it is not, then you are lying. Whether or not you explicitly stated that it was true is completely irrelevant.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:15 AM on September 8, 2006


So who the hell got my flowers then?
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:18 AM on September 8, 2006



Now what? Who inhabits Seahaven after Truman leaves the show?
posted by yeti at 9:57 AM EST on September 8 [+] [!]


Freedy, Jason, Michael Myers, and some co-eds. Oh, and some zombies.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:19 AM on September 8, 2006


dangit! It worked in preview I swear!

This Lonelygirl chick actually makes the Rachel Blake videos for The Lost Experience look more believable and realistic. I made the mistake early on of blaming the acting, but again, compared to Lonelygirl, Jamie Silberhartz looks like she deserved an emmy. It's just that this medium is very difficult to make look real when it isn't.

That's perhaps why YouTube is so popular. I think audiences are tiring of Hollywood's brand of entertainment. They're going back to what we human beings used to do before 'talkies.' Before we got into the habit of buying overpriced snacks and sitting in a darkened movie theater staring at a screen and ignoring each other.

Now we're entertaining each other. I kinda like it!
posted by ZachsMind at 7:19 AM on September 8, 2006


Come on, y'all lonelygirl fans. You don't have to sneer at the folks who found the videos interesting (and I wouldn't sneer at them) to realize that this quote is utter horseshit:

She is no more real or fictitious than the portions of our personalities that we choose to show (or hide) when we interact with the people around us.

What self-congratulatory garbage. And yes, it *is* indicative of a kind of marketingspeak that really doesn't give a shit about the line between truth and lies, and *is* something that should be slapped down like Oprah's initial defense of James Frey.
posted by mediareport at 7:25 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


"If you creeate something with the expectation that reasonable people will believe it is true and it is not, then you are lying."

Pasta, I've been painted with that brush before. To paraphrase Clinton, "it depends what your definition of reasonable is". Heck, I got email just this week from some poor soul trying to prove to me that Bill Gates isn't really dead. I would have thought reasonable people would have recognized that it was unlikely that they missed Gates being killed in 1999 and just now stumbled upon it.

To put it another way: when people feel foolish for not realizing something was fiction and feel manipulated as a result, they use the phrase "lie" (or propaganda ... or disinformation) and when people feel foolish for not realizing something was fiction but don't feel manipulated as a result, they use the word "hoax" (or stunt or viral marketing).

I wouldn't go so far as to call Lonelygirl15 a "lie" -- because you haven't been manipulated into anything (except to pay more attention to it.) Those who believed it were true and are now disappointed could fairly call it a "hoax". Others (like myself) probably recognized it was a hoax at first glance ... so we might call it an "attempted hoax".
posted by bclark at 7:28 AM on September 8, 2006


A fake blog! No!

Am I the only one who remembers The Spot, which has been running since something like 1992. I remember reading it as an undergrad using Mosaic on Sun IPX boxes. Sheesh.

So let me join the chorus of "this is not very new". I'm sure it's new to the target audience though.
posted by GuyZero at 7:37 AM on September 8, 2006


Oh, I'm not the only one 'cause waxpancake mentioned it in the first comment of the previous thread. Heh.
posted by GuyZero at 7:38 AM on September 8, 2006


And it was actually different thread now that I re-read it.

I'm getting a D- in reading comprehension today.
posted by GuyZero at 7:40 AM on September 8, 2006


bclark - I wasn't referring to you specifically, and I certainly don't feel foolish, because I never watched these videos.

Lie, hoax, fraud, deception are semantic distinctions. Again, the context in which the video is presented leads you to believe that what is being said in it is true - you have been manipulated into believing it is true - you gave it/them your trust.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:47 AM on September 8, 2006


But again, please tell me Mr. Pregnant is really pregnant!

;-D
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:11 AM on September 8, 2006


The most obvious question is "why?" Just what was the point of it all?

Well -- and I'm just guessing here without actually reading any of the links -- but if it was staged by a Hollywood talent agency, I would think it would be to get publicity for some of their talent.

Like, you know, this chick.
posted by moonbiter at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2006


Presumably the cookies that Brea rates in Brea the Cookie Monster are actually Cakes of Light?

"The secret ingredients, are faeces, semen and blood!"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2006


But Chupacabras are still real... so at least we have that
posted by AspectRatio at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2006


"Official"????

Someone creates an account called "The Creators" and post *1* message saying its all fake. I don't follow at all how that makes it official. Is it the incredible cleverness of the name that fools people? How about I make an account here called "MeFi Creator" and then go about stating numerous random "facts" about Meta Filter?

Regardless of whether it is real or fake, the "evidence" presented here is weaker then WMD's in Iraq...
posted by Bovine Love at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Stay-at-home fatladies
posted by tristeza at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2006


In today's enlightened society, you can't just tell a story in dated conventional ways if you want to emotionally affect your audience.

I think that you could never cook,
A vblog as emotionally affecting as a book,
But sadly, until youtube falls,
I'll never read a book at all.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:25 AM on September 8, 2006


I don't like Jellyfish, they're not a fish, they're just a blob.
They don't have eyes, skin or scales like a cod,
They float about blind, stinging people in the seas,
And no-one eats Jellyfish with chips and mushy peas,
Get rid of them.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:38 AM on September 8, 2006


Pasta, sorry -- didn't think you were referring to me specifically, I just had a flashback to similar discussions about my own work.

I don't want to be the one responsible for making Bree cry!
posted by bclark at 9:00 AM on September 8, 2006


Seems to me that since the surprising popularity of a previous videoblog series on YouTube, EmoKid21Ohio, many people have been trying to come up with the "next big thing". The Lonelygirl15 series appears to have been the succesor to EmoKid21Ohio. I wonder what viral videoblog series these wacky YouTubers will come up with next.... I, for one, am intrigued enough to keep tuning in.
posted by ceibo at 9:29 AM on September 8, 2006


What Bovine Love said.
posted by keswick at 9:30 AM on September 8, 2006


Making comparisons to Iraq or tobacco companies is a little much...the whole world that these characters inhabit is essentially fiction; it's not like they made false claims that extended to the real world like Powell or Phillip Morris. And even if the videos did make such claims, they certainly will not lead to the deaths of thousands/millions (well, I don't think so anyway). As far as I can tell, the "realness" of the videos was something the viewer had to decide for themselves because it wasn't explicitly stated. However, certain people insisted that Iraq had weapons, and tobacco companies insisted that cigs were safe.

Fans of these videos apparently feel some sense of connection or emotional response to the characters. I'm not sure why, but they do. Although these characters are fictional, the emotional response is real. That's what I thought was meant by saying that it doesn't matter if it's real or not.

These videos do nothing for me, but if the speculation that they lead into a horror movie is true, then I'm going to be a little interested.

Oh, and I think The Mayor was talking about Brookers.
posted by giantfist at 9:57 AM on September 8, 2006


That's what I thought was meant by saying that it doesn't matter if it's real or not.

Yes, that's exactly what I meant.
posted by shawnj at 10:14 AM on September 8, 2006


Seems to me that since the surprising popularity of a previous videoblog series on YouTube, EmoKid21Ohio, many people have been trying to come up with the "next big thing". The Lonelygirl15 series appears to have been the succesor to EmoKid21Ohio. I wonder what viral videoblog series these wacky YouTubers will come up with next.... I, for one, am intrigued enough to keep tuning in.
posted by ceibo at 12:29 PM EST on September 8 [+] [!]


I'm working on a project called "Serial Killer Calculus" A serial killer in full menacing attire will explain topics ranging from Simpson's rule, the chain rule, and integration over polar coordinates. While working problems on the blackboard, he will occaisionally yell epithets at a mop that he believes is his mother.

All I need is someone very familiar with calculus. Oh, and a serial killer.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:26 AM on September 8, 2006


Just watched one of the episodes for the first time, the swimming one. I know this might be a classic case of hindsight bias, but people actually thought that was real? For serious? The editing, lighting, and especially the sound, were WAY too good. The absence of a background fuzz on the diegetic soundtrack indicates they were using microphones, that alone should have been a dead giveaway.
posted by Ndwright at 10:28 AM on September 8, 2006



Fans of these videos apparently feel some sense of connection or emotional response to the characters. I'm not sure why, but they do. Although these characters are fictional, the emotional response is real. That's what I thought was meant by saying that it doesn't matter if it's real or not.


It's called Ego Involvement. It has been a fundamental component of advertising and marketing for decades.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:33 AM on September 8, 2006


Well just so long as no one ever discovers that John Titor is fictitious, my worldview will remain steadfast and true.


...what?
posted by ZachsMind at 10:36 AM on September 8, 2006


The short films are entertaining, and there's a mystery behind them that gets people to interact with the video and website. This type of media, however long it's been around, really is a new form of entertainment. You are not just sitting back and reading or watching, you are doing your own research and playing along trying to "solve" it. Which in some ways makes you more committed to it than to a book or a movie, because you actively participate.

I think it's brilliant, though if it's going to be developed mostly to get me to buy a product or go see a certain movie, that will suck. But as an alternative to X-Box or film, sign me up.

I also think it would be interesting if film makers started using this as a sort of mini-prequel to their films. It extends the narrative. In the same way that films put out supporting materials after their films has been released, like the time travel "book" in Donnie Darko.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:44 AM on September 8, 2006


Am I the only one who remembers The Spot, which has been running since something like 1992. I remember reading it as an undergrad using Mosaic on Sun IPX boxes. Sheesh.

The Spot started in 95, but I vaguely recall it, I must have that Michelle in a bikini pic somewhere on an old harddrive.

And I'm amazed that the emails would trace back to a talent agency, you'd think they'd send them from someplace offsite, especially after the anti-Al Gore fake grassroots ad got outed almost the same way, by emails tracing back to a PR firm.
posted by bobo123 at 10:58 AM on September 8, 2006


James Frey wasn't a fraud, he was a visionary!

It seems that every day the old paranoid advice of "believe nothing" and "trust no one" gets confirmed more and more.

Actually I don't terribly care about the story itself (I've only vaguely heard about it), but the implications are depressing. You see, commercial interests really have taken the web away from everybody else. Individuals just can't compete with commercial agencies that have large budgets and email lists they can use to disseminate their message. Pretty soon the web will be as much of a wasteland as television -- fake shit being sold to drooling morons as "reality" when it's all stage-managed and created by committee. Just like that "Dear Emily" crap (remember that a few weeks ago?). Ersatz human-interest stories about people who've never really existed for the same sort of public some wit was thinking about when he coined the term "boob tube".
posted by clevershark at 11:08 AM on September 8, 2006


onlyconnect, I don't think this is really a good example of the new media you're talking about. The "Who Is Benjamin Stove?" game seems much closer to what you're describing. Without the implied 'reality', the Lonelygirl shorts are just serialized fiction, and that's as old as the hills.
posted by maryh at 11:12 AM on September 8, 2006


Since this is a fake - I'm going to go out on a limb and make the crazy assumption that it's popularity wasn't just accidental (it wasn't just people stumbling upon it) that they DID something to make it get noticed.
I'm curious about what they did in the beginning, when that first video was released, to get so many people involved in this.
Everybody wants attention (99.9% of the content on YouTube is living proof of that), but these guys GOT IT.
How?

(And no, I don't believe that merely "having quality" would be enough. Remember, this wasn't accidental fame, this was a plan. I doubt they'd leave it's popularity to chance.)
posted by Tbola at 11:24 AM on September 8, 2006


This is just a guess, but I bet they had a few hundred people click on it a bunch of times and forward it to their friends. Once it's on the most watched and highest rated pages, and because the first frame features an attractive girl, it pretty much has enough momentum to keep going.

Has anyone tested youtube to see how robust it is against manipulation, repeat clicks from the same computer, etc?
posted by Pastabagel at 11:36 AM on September 8, 2006


By "had a few hundred people" I mean "paid students, ordered employees, etc."
posted by Pastabagel at 11:37 AM on September 8, 2006


Now I'm just curious to see how the whole thing ends. Will Bree and Daniel ever hook up? Or will she die during the initiation ceremony first? Or perhaps at the party Daniel is taking her to?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:42 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Onlyconnect: filmmakers (and studios) have been building "extended realities" for a while. Ever since "Blair Witch" they've been fascinated by it. Sometimes, they (or we) even get close to getting it right. Other times, they (or god forbid, we) are very very far from getting what actually makes it work.

I think you're right, Maryh, although you can reach back further than Stove (even in my own body of work, Stove is a "light" experience and a recent work) or even more recently than Stove and find similar examples. It isn't just the implied reality, though, that's missing -- sometimes linear storytellers have an inherant misunderstanding about what "interactive" is. The lack of constant interaction was part of what made Lonelygirl15 suspicious (as that's what people would do naturally in a social medium anyway.)

A few years ago, I was a participant in week-long retreat trying to grapple with some of these issues. At the core, it turned into an extended discussion about the difference between "games" and "narratives" -- a thorny question, since any good game uses rules to create narratives (which is why you can tell a linear narrative of, say, a basketball game after the fact, even though that emerged "spontaneously" from a set of participants adhering ... or NOT adhering ... to a certain set of rules.)

Some filmmakers are so used to the idea of the "single author narrative" that the idea of opening that up to interactivity seems to them the equivalent of "letting the audience talk during the movie -- shut up and let me tell my story, then you can go and talk about it amongst yourself." Conversely, many game people (and interactive artists) fail to understand how much of narrative arises from ambiguity that the audience has to work out for themselves (which is why most interactive narratives suffer from being more the former than the latter.)

Must. Stop. Checking. This. Thread!
posted by bclark at 11:42 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Everybody wants attention (99.9% of the content on YouTube is living proof of that), but these guys GOT IT.
How?


Does anyone know which hit a critical mass first: the popularity of the videos or the speculation on whether or not they were real?

Maybe the people behind the videos were the ones to really start pushing the speculation on whether or not it was real or fake, because that aspect of the whole thing seems to have gotten the most attention...a good chunk of the views must be from people who aren't fans, but just trying to decide if the whole thing was a setup.
posted by giantfist at 11:43 AM on September 8, 2006


Has anyone mentioned that this is another example of Americans ripping off English entertainment (EmoGirl and EmoKid21)? And, as always, doing it poorly?
posted by CCBC at 12:09 PM on September 8, 2006


"filmmakers (and studios) have been building "extended realities" for a while. Ever since "Blair Witch" they've been fascinated by it."

I'm still waiting for the real sequel to Blair Witch, when we find out that Heather, Josh & Mike were mystically transported back in time and were burned as witches for having camera equiptment.

...It could happen!
posted by ZachsMind at 12:39 PM on September 8, 2006


In other news, the DVD Release Party for Improv Everywhere is at the end of this month. What these guys got going makes this Lonelygirl fiasco look like a sock puppet theater reject.

I strongly recommend The Moebius and Best Gig Ever for the uninitiated.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:44 PM on September 8, 2006


I hope she still posts about the aftermath of her role in the secret ritual. You know, bruised, crying, a pentagram carved in her forehead, and disillusioned.
posted by effwerd at 1:22 PM on September 8, 2006


God damnit, some asshole removed my section in her wikipedia entry!
posted by delmoi at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2006


God damnit, some asshole removed my section in her wikipedia entry!

Previously.
posted by prostyle at 2:19 PM on September 8, 2006


onlyconnect, I don't think this is really a good example of the new media you're talking about. The "Who Is Benjamin Stove?" game seems much closer to what you're describing. Without the implied 'reality', the Lonelygirl shorts are just serialized fiction, and that's as old as the hills. maryh

Onlyconnect: filmmakers (and studios) have been building "extended realities" for a while. Ever since "Blair Witch" they've been fascinated by it. Sometimes, they (or we) even get close to getting it right. Other times, they (or god forbid, we) are very very far from getting what actually makes it work. bclark

Are you saying that filmmakers have been putting out additional video clips that tie directly into the narrative of their story lines, because if so I haven't really seen it. I went to the Who Is Benjamin Stove site and this is really just blog entries and postings of "found" old letters and pictures, etc. Unless I'm missing something.

I agree that it's definitely related and that those sorts of projects have been going on for a while, but I don't think blog entries etc. have anywhere near the same visceral impact as the short videos. They don't go nearly as far in breaking down the "fourth wall" that exists in film or theatre and thus bringing the audience directly into the experience. Maybe I need to educate myself on your work, bclark -- the conference you describe sounds fascinating.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:24 PM on September 8, 2006


Purple Monkey holds a tell-all press conference. This does look suspiciously connected.
posted by zaebiz at 2:59 PM on September 8, 2006


The purple monkey is pretty funny.

Also, just to clarify above, I'm talking about video shot showing scenes that are supposed to have happened either before or after the events of the film in question, and not simply footage shot for the film that was never included, as in Blair Witch.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:20 PM on September 8, 2006


I want to add to the chorus of people who react violently to "does it matter if it's real, if it's interesting?". Either there is a vulnerable young girl at the mercy of satanists or there isn't, and you don't care which it is, as long as you get a bit of entertainment out of it? Watch a snuff movie, why don't you?

I've been trying to think what bugs me so much about this thing as a story and I think I've put my finger on it.

There are essentially two parts:
  1. the parents are satanists who have shut her off from the world
  2. she communicates with the world by webcam
and they just fundamentally don't fit.

Her parents are oppressive, secretive fanatics, but they allow her to spend day after day in her room with a teenage boy? They allow her unmonitored broadband internet access in her room?

I think if this idea had come to me in development I would have had her start out a normal, rather spoiled, little rich girl. That would have explained the fancy tech, her skill with editing, her parents insouciance about letting her have boys in the room etc etc etc.

Then after a couple of carefree posts, the thing should have turned sinister, with her revealing that her parents had just joined some kind of cult or religion, and progressing the story that way, perhaps with the news that they want to take her out of school, then that they think the internet's a bad influence and will be cancelling it, and taking her computer away, thereby increasing the tension.

I'd have had her do a video from under the covers and talk about smuggling it to Daniel, who she wasn't allowed to be alone with any more, on a USB stick.

Then I'd have introduced the stuff about the "ritual" and had her go dark for a really long time.

I must admit, I kind of like what they've done. It's got the immediacy, the intimacy of the Blair Witch Project, because of the close-up nature of the videos. But the "is it real" stuff, when there were so many clashes between the story and production values, and so many holes in the story itself, was a bit distracting.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:53 PM on September 8, 2006


The swimming video was the first one I ever watched, and because I didn't know anything about the people I just assumed the dude she was with was a film student or something.
posted by liquorice at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2006


OMIGAWD! Renetto found out LonelyGirl is fake and he's having a cow!
posted by ZachsMind at 8:22 PM on September 8, 2006


This whole event could destroy the YouTube community! What about trust? What about sharing? The people of YouTube have up until now assumed that they can trust that one another is real! And now that LonelyGirl15 is bogus, who's to say that BowieChick isn't real? Or Emmalina? Or, uh This guy whoever the hell he is? What if none of these people are real except for Renetto? What if they're all tools of various production houses, realizing that no one has taken a television commercial seriously since 1973? What if they're trying to make me buy Pringles?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:34 PM on September 8, 2006


Category:Notable YouTube users

I'm not sure what to say about that.

The Spot, by the way, ran for less than 24 months ('95-'97), not counting its abortive 2004 revival. And Michelle, for the curious, was Playmate Kristen Herold.
posted by dhartung at 1:35 PM on September 9, 2006


Weirdly, I wrote a Gibsonesque prose fiction while at uni that predicted just this.

Totally unabashed self link.
posted by armoured-ant at 5:13 AM on September 10, 2006


Cat's out of the bag. I won't provide links since nobody's gonna read this, anyway, but you can search for "Jessica Rose," a 19-year-old New Zealander now living in L.A. trying to be an actor, and succeeding, as "Bree" of lonelygirl15 fame. Heffernan linked it this afternoon, and the story was broken by SiliconValleyWatcher.
posted by cgc373 at 4:19 PM on September 12, 2006


Link me!
posted by liquorice at 4:22 PM on September 12, 2006


>Huh. Okay, liquorice. Here's Heffernan, here's SiliconValleyWatcher, and a commenter at Heffernan's blog links to Jessica Rose's MySpace cache.
posted by cgc373 at 4:32 PM on September 12, 2006


Thanks for that. I wasn't...like, stalking this thread or anything, it just popped up on the top of my "My Comments" page and I'll admit I was a little curious over who this chick was. The comments on her youtube blogs are kinda weird. Stuff like "We still love you Bree, hope everything works out!" Like how when fans meet actors and treat them as their characters from movies. Strange.
posted by liquorice at 4:39 PM on September 12, 2006


You mean the actress isn't still a member of a satanic cult? What's her dad gonna say?
posted by ZachsMind at 5:10 PM on September 12, 2006


"Thank Christ"?
posted by cgc373 at 6:43 PM on September 12, 2006


Read her wiki entry and found:

Speculation exists regarding the music choices through out the video series; namely, the use of smaller unsigned bands to score each film. The addition of Band Name, Song Title, and Band website added to each video description further points to the assertion that these films are a marketing vehicle, not for a movie, but rather for CAA's unsigned music acts. The videos are simply a viral method to develop a fan base and following making acts more appealing to large label R&D executives. The eclectic nature of the music – strong variance in style, genre, and tempo, is in stark contrast to a girl who is homeschooled and otherwise insulated from the workings of pop music culture.

That seems about right to me. I've also long suspected that Grey's Anatomy serves a similar purpose. And then they released the Grey's Anatomy music video last week. Yup.

Is it possible that "they" are looking to build certain personas to identify with certain types of music, and then you identify with the personas and therefore identify with the music? And then you BUY the music.

and: sveskemus, are you in on this? or just into music?
posted by Eringatang at 9:04 PM on September 12, 2006


The people behind it have come forward and 'fessed up. The authors are two men and a woman in their mid 20's. The two people who appear in the video are actors they recruited. And her name seems to be Jessica Rose, age 19.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:11 AM on September 14, 2006


As I mentioned a couple of days ago, SCDB.
posted by cgc373 at 2:28 AM on September 14, 2006


Jessica Lee Rose speaks!
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:02 PM on September 15, 2006


*cracks up*

But she vows she will stay with Lonelygirl15 as long as the project continues and won't leave to chase her newfound fame.

"I won't leave it. I won't leave them," she said.


Oh, classic.
posted by liquorice at 4:16 PM on September 15, 2006


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