LonelyGirl15 and YouTube

I’m guessing that everybody online (and a hell of a lot of people offline) has heard of the LonelyGirl15 story. Essentially, what was touted as the personal vlogs of a 15/16 year old girl was a series of fictional pieces created by professional film producers. LonelyGirl15 has the most subscribers of anyone on YouTube by a massive margin – over 40,000 subscribers and the videos have been viewed more than 3 & 1/2 million times. The vast majority of people subscribing to her videos thought they were genuine when they subscribed but a lot of people started to suspect all was not how it seemed before too long.

There were a few telltales, many people thought the lighting was too good and consistent, others thought her “room” was just too perfect. Personally, the things I saw as giveaways were that it would be close to impossible for her to keep the videos secret from her parents (as was supposedly the case) and the storyline running through the videos was simply too clearly defined and too linear. Life doesn’t have a “story arc” the same way that a TV show does. LonelyGirl15′s story was too “Dawson’s Creek” to be true.

In the end, some very determined sleuthers found incontrovertible evidence that the videos were fake. The first big piece of the puzzle was someone discovering the lonelygirl15.com domain had been registered before LonelyGirl15 existed on YouTube. Suspicious. Then someone actually traced the whole thing to a high profile Hollywood agency. When this broke, the makers posted a notice on the LonelyGirl15 forum admitting that they were film makers but proclaimed that they were independent which was somehow supposed to make a difference.

There was more than a little uproar on YouTube when what was obvious to anyone with a clue was finally made official: LonelyGirl15 was a fake. Her name wasn’t Bree, it was Rose. She wasn’t a home-schooled 16 year old, she was a New Zealand born 19 year old aspiring actress. Honestly, the way a lot of YouTubers were outraged and professed deep hurt and betrayal was pretty fucking pathetic. Get a sense of proportion people, we’re being lied to about why the Bush administration was so keen to invade Iraq – I think we might be able to agree that someone faking a few videos is pretty damn inconsequential.

Here’s a video I did for YouTube explaining why I think the whole hoax is a good thing.

I’m actually disappointed that they had to “come out” earlier than they planned to. I’m interested in what they thought they were going to achieve. At some point, they were going to have to come clean and admit they were lying to everyone. To describe it as anything other than lying is being a weasley sack of shit. And unless they were deeply delusional, they must have known it would generate a pretty angry backlash.

It’s a pretty weird storyline they appear to have been developing as well. Under the surface they seem to be setting up that “Bree” is a devil worshipper or something equally wacky. Some very sharp eyed observer spotted a poster of famed occultist Aleister Crowley on her wall and for a while she’s been building up to a “religious ceremony” that falls on solstice and involves her learning some ancient language. Seeing as she’s going to the big solstice baby eating (or whatever) ceremony this weekend, I did the following “response” video after she posted a video talking about the solstice.

Doing responses to popular videos on YouTube is a good way to get lots of views – it’s pretty much leeching off someone else’s popularity, something I have no hesitation in doing. I’ve had two responses to LonelyGirl15 accepted before and they generated about 10,000 views between them (about 20X more than average for me). I don’t think they’ll accept this one which means I won’t get as many views. First, I’m not sure if they accept video responses at all now and second, the fact that I talk about “Bree” being a virgin will probably work against me.

Now I’m waiting for the next fake to be uncovered on YouTube. There will undoubtedly be more and anyone who wants to fool people will learn from the mistakes of the LonelyGirl15 makers. The next fakes will be more subtle and will include deliberate production errors to see more “natural”. And people will be even more pissed off when they get uncovered.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “LonelyGirl15 and YouTube

  1. the more of this kind of thing there is, the better. eventually, self-produced video entertainment will become equivalent to self-produced music entertainment, self-produced books, cartoons, comics, and so on. the means of production more and more belong to people and less and less to corporations. as a would-be anarchist i just love this stuff. so of course some of the shit gets co-opted – that’s the way it goes. mr. angry, you are also an example of how cool it is that people can get themselves out there in ways that were never possible until very recently. as my philadelphia relations would say, it’s a beautiful thing.

  2. I think the possibility for new types of storytelling is almost limitless. Imagine what you can do with a combination of blogs, videos and games. And best of all, readers/participants can be part of the story and influence its direction. I think their only mistake was to lie.

    People got totally immersed in Lord of the Rings without thinking it was true. People got totally immersed in Start Trek without thinking it was real. Okay, apart from really stoned hippies. You don’t have to make people think something’s true to get them totally involved.

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