Friday, September 08, 2006

Girl Trouble

Today's article in the Los Angeles Times, "Mystery Fuels Huge Popularity of Web's Lonelygirl15" describes what appears to be a viral marketing campaign on YouTube and MySpace centering on the angst of a supposedly homeschooled teen vlogger named Bree.

Many people are citing the work of Henry Jenkins to interpret how the site has generated both buzz from sympathetic online visitors (from subcultures of teens, former and present home-schoolers, scientific professional amateurs, etc.) who are drawn into the narrative and communities of skeptics who pull the plot-line apart. Jenkins has pointed out in Convergence Culture, particularly in his opening chapter on the TV show Survivor, that fan communities can include "spoilers" who engage in detective work that magnifies attention on discrete clues, such as suspiciously scripted settings or situations. A "Message from the Creators" confirmed fan suspicions of an elaborate hoax.

Internet ethnographer of teen culture Danah Boyd has weighed in on the LonelyGirl phenomenon, by analyzing the visual and verbal rhetoric of their webwork as indicative of film-making technique. Theories about the maker of LonelyGirl abound, but Alternate Reality Game creator Jane McGonigal has already denied involvement.

What the LAT story doesn't mention, is that "Bree" has inspired a number of mash-ups and parodies, including my favorite "I am the Very Model of a Popular YouTube Auteur," which gives a send up of the whole YouTube confession genre. Furthermore, I'm surprised that copyrighted material, such as popular songs, was used so liberally in a trademarked product.

Watching the episodes, I was struck by the rhetoric of the actress who plays "Bree" as she established her ethos in her opening video by citing other YouTube personalities. In other words, she explicitly says that she understands the genre. It is precisely those conventions about self-revelation and self-masking that may have drawn in so many spectators, such as the now betrayed MonkeyFemme, who sent supportive e-mails and a "helping hand" to "Bree."

Personally, if I am going to engage with the drama of a YouTube narcissist, I want it to be a little more high-concept with better editing, like Noah takes a picture of himself everyday for 6 years or Me: Girl Taks Pic of Herself Every Day for Three Years. In general, I like YouTube performances that don't present the ubiquitous talking head and instead engage with the responsibility of virtuoso performing for an outside audience, like FunTwo's canon on guitar or this Rollerblader playing music on bottles.



Blogger andy said...

lonelygirl15 on the 11 o'clock news last night.

12:24 PM  

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