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September 7, 2006

More LG15 Links

Still fascinated by the speculation about the LonelyGirl15 videos on YouTube and whether they are the real confessions of a precocious, homschooled teen, a viral marketing scheme of some kind, or something else altogether. In some sense, for me at least, the speculation is at least as interesting as whether the videos are "real" or not (although I'll admit that I'm taken by the narrative of growing up in a strict religious family), and because I'm in the mood to procrastinate today, I figured I'd point to a few LG15 links rather than doing some real work.

Via thedayislikewidewater, Adam Sternbergh's New York Magazine article on LG15, which describes the series as a kind of David Lynchian narrative. Stenbergh points to gohepcat's YouTube videos that question the authenticity of Bree's videos, noting that gohepcat has become a character in the LG saga. Sternbergh concludes that "maybe this, and not some NBC shows for sale on iTunes, is the future of television--or the promised land of a new narrative form." I'm not ready to make such grand pronouncements yet, although I think it's clear that there is a fairly refined narrative sensibility at work here (and that sensibility wouldn't preclude the possibility that LG15's story is "real").

Alexander at GayGamer.net, operating under the assumption that Bree's story is fictional, has a good read on the ways in which participants in alternate-reality games (ARGs) become enmeshed in the game. And Tanner at The Means' Blog also has an interesting read, praising the LonelyGirl15 narrative as "a great example of how New Media and Internet technologies can be used to create unique and dynamic new forms of media," while commenting on the ways in which viewers become "co-conspirators" in perpetuating the fiction.

Friday AM Update: Via milowent, an LA Times scoop that emails sent from an LG15 account were sent from the offices of the Creative Artists Agency. In the same post, milowent quotes a "letter" posted on one of the prominent LG15 forums from "the writers" of Bree's story. I'm not convinced that the forum post is genuine, and if it is, the writers tipped their hands way too quickly. As usual, Virginia Heffernan continues to provide a good play-by-play of the ongoing saga. More later, but I have to teach in a few minutes.

Update (Sat AM): New LG15 video is up. Mostly plot filler, so it's not that interesting, and now that the scripters have pulled back the curtain, it seems like some of the recent enthusiasm has faded.

Update 9/12/06: NYT reports on Jessica Rose, the actress commissioned to play Bree in the LonelyGirl15 storyline. Sounds like LG15 is fading gently into YouTube obscurity (via Risky Biz; also see Virginia Heffernan's Screens).

Posted by chuck at September 7, 2006 1:59 PM

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Even the desire to know whether it's based on the/a girl's life or is somehow entirely "fiction" freaks me out. That is to say, this freaks me out on every level.

Not that everything relates to The New Yorker, but Brandenn Bremmer, similar story, became rather hotly debated on the internet as well, and I still get tons of hits for my little discussion of it. And so does emdashes, I think.

Posted by: zp at September 7, 2006 9:44 PM

You know, I've been trying to figure out how to deal with the gender issues with LG15, because that aspect has been troubling me quite a bit. The whole suburban/rural religious captivity narrative subtext (complete with a purity pledge), which riffs off of older epistolary novels and diaries, is a bit troubling. There's so much focus on the "clues" that the actual story gets lost. But I think I'm hopelessly enmeshed as a "co-conspirator" at this point.

Can you explain further why "this freaks [you] out on every level?"

Posted by: Chuck at September 8, 2006 12:48 AM

Latest news : a confession by the writers of this experimental form of "vlog-based interactive fiction". A shock among conspirators...

Posted by: HarryTuttle [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 6:49 AM

Actually what interest me most is its filmic aspect. The (very inspired!) scripting of a home-made video, its acute grasp of the vlog identity (yet with an uncommon artistic cinematography and editing) and its split into episodes (that is nothing like TV series or teasers or anything else). There really is a new media form emerging up for analysis.

Posted by: HarryTuttle [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 6:58 AM

Of course, the question remains: is that a real confession or did someone hack into the board to make that claim? Notice that they don't identify themselves, but only claim not to be part of a large corporation. Of course that could be part of the game, too.

I'll admit that it's a well-crafted ARG/narrative, one that has lots of people utterly captivated. We'll see how it plays out.

Posted by: Chuck at September 8, 2006 7:50 AM

New media? Old story?

If a new, popular, serial, narrative, "claims to be real" media experience (and all these words once described the novel form) is emerging, it's interesting that it would do so containing the age-old, same-old content that Chuck described (described well, I think) as,

"suburban/rural religious captivity narrative subtext (complete with a purity pledge), which riffs off of older epistolary novels and diaries."

This description of the content (and the form a bit too), in particular, sounds like Pamela, and an "origins of the novel" type thing . . . were you trying to imply that, Chuck? Or were you thinking of something else? 19th C captive narratives?

Add to that a layer of girl trapped in tower by repressive guardian and the story sounds awfully familiar.

I think what really bothers me is that, in this case (like, probably, the previous cases of the early novel and the fairy tale) the reader-consumer is soliticited as an agent that is allowed to imagine that he might intervene and "save" the girl in all her princessly virginity.

That this experience (the experience of belief/participation in this particular narrative suspense) is being realized (because, in all the media and regardless of whether the story is fiction or claims to be something real, the reader-consumer's experience IS real) yet again, in a "new media" just makes me tired. If new media does new things, now that would be interesting.

Can we please become invested, as an audience, in something other than a young woman's purity now?

The comparison to Brandenn Bremmer (as far as his story appears in the NYer) does bear on the "gender" issues of the narrative's content, but also (these, I hope I've argued are inextricably twine) on way in which what can be known and what can be "done" structures the narrative form. The suspense is created using very different stakes.

For most of the audience (ie people who didn't know him) the story begins when he's dead and the story becomes "Who Killed Brandenn Bremmer?" Another familiar plot, but one in which the audience is invested in the victim's lost potential, in a search for "truth" and "justice," and one in which there is not a strong a call to "save" . . . Although there was that, just a bit. But it didn't hinge on his princessly virginity so much.

Sure, the LG15 may be well-crafted and somehow new but there is a lot of well-crafted new media out there. I think it's right to ask if iLG15's sensational popularity depends upon it's well crafted new media engagement with a deeply conservative (that is, very old and very familiar) story.

Posted by: zp at September 8, 2006 9:22 AM

Yes, much of that, particularly the connection to Pamela and other early epistolary novels, was implied in my admittedly elliptical comments. There's a major rescue narrative being put into place here, and I can't help but speculate that part of the appeal has to do with these sensational elements that feed the conservative storyline you've described.

Posted by: Chuck at September 8, 2006 9:37 AM

I never heard of Pamela or Brandenn Bremmer.

LG15 is not crying for help... she remains anonymous to prevent stalkers to find her! There are lots of REAL virgin teenagers on YouTube, why LG15 is singled out?
There is more than the narrative. I assume the vast majority of these half-million viewers have no clue about the occult subtext... (the conspiracy theorists are the minority) they naively believe she's real and watch her because she's cute.

I don't understand this distinction between reality and fiction. Reality TV already address this paradigm. Knowing it's manipulation doesn't stop viewers to follow and... believe.

The riveting appeal is elsewhere. In the virtual community spirit generated on YouTube I'm guessing. Being part of a trend is more important than whatever the subject/content is. Of course LG15 cumulates a lot of web-specific addictive interests (hot teen, romance, regular posting) that helped kick-start this fame.
But I like to think the well crafted videos help
the long-run momentum.

Posted by: HarryTuttle [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 10:04 AM

Posted by: Anne at September 8, 2006 11:57 AM

The videos are well-crafted so far, and the narrative arc is clearly a compelling one. I don't think that LG15 has to "cry for help" for this story to be a sort of postmodern twist on the captivity narrative. She even has to ask special permission to go hiking/swimming, and the strict religious parents are a major plot point (even if the identity of that religion (occult? pagan?) is never identified.

No matter the motivations, the skill with which the crafters of Bree's story is impressive (and it's not beyond the realm of possibility that these crafters are Bree and Daniel). I agree with you about the question of whether it's "real" or not, btw, although that seems to be an animating question in most of the forums.

Posted by: Chuck at September 8, 2006 12:00 PM

Thanks for the link, Anne. I like Danah's take on the whole thing quite a bit. I'd thought about name-dropping Jenkins myself, but I've been doing that a lot lately.

Posted by: Chuck at September 8, 2006 12:08 PM

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