YouTube's Lonelygirl: Art or Hoax?

by Alexa Antonuk

Her name was Bree, a shy home-schooled teenager with a web camera. This past summer, she started posting video web logs (v-blogs), under the user name lonelygirl15, on the popular video sharing website, Youtube.com.

Bree’s videos were a hit. She was both good-looking and intelligent, and her confessional blogs, broadcast straight from her bedroom, brought thousands of browsing Youtubers to her homepage. The fact that her highly religious parents did not even know she had a webcam, along with the development of a chaste budding romance between her and her best friend, Daniel, kept viewers coming back. It was even rumored that lonelygir15 was an occultist, due to the eerie picture of Aleister Crowley over her bed.
But in early September, the all-too scripted story fell apart when it was revealed that lonelygirl15 was in fact a fake. Her name was Jessica Rose, and she was, in truth, a 19-year-old actress hired to play the part of a 16-year-old.

On the website set up by the show’s creators (which was originally purported to be a fan’s website), the authors of “Bree’s” saga posted a message revealing the truth. The posted message from the creators said: “…we believe we are witnessing the birth of a new art form. Our intention from the outset has been to tell a story -- A story that could only be told using the medium of video blogs and the distribution power of the internet.”

Youtube users were furious, while the creators believed they were pushing the limits of art.
What does this mean for the rest of us? “Bree’s” (or Jessica’s) videos were indeed a new form of media, but were they ethical? Is it fair to fabricate reality on a website so touted for its ability to bring real people and their homemade videos to the masses?

But the even bigger question: is this the future of media? “Bree” developed a cult status on Youtube, which sees millions of users each month. It is quite possible that the next O.C.-style hit will have its beginnings on a video sharing website such as Youtube.

I must admit that the lonelygirl15 narrative has pulled me in. It is a clear-cut example of media convergence — in this case, the birth of a TV series on the internet. It blurs fiction and reality and makes them into one.

However, although lonelygirl15’s creators are pioneers in creating a storyline with Youtube posts, it is really just the same old story, told in a different format. Like any story (whether in a book, film, magazine, or otherwise), especially one told in segments, it pulls you in post after post. The endearing romance, the creepy religion, or maybe the simple fact that “Bree” is just so darn adorable — all of these factors keep us engaged, like we are turning the pages in a book. The “power of the internet” is just another tool lonelygirl15’s creators used to keep us interested. This may be the “future of media,” but if so, the postmodern future contains an age-old story arc.

Lonelygirl15’s creators plan to continue the saga by including more videos and even an interactive website where fans can post their own parodies, satires, or responses to the new blogs. But why did lonelygirl15 become so popular in the first place? Maybe her popularity stems from her creator’s belief that “Lonelygirl15 is a reflection of everyone.” Or maybe lonelygirl15 is just a familiar story.

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marthahanna said...

were the creators of the "show" genuine or were they poking fun at youtube's obsessed viewers?

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