Suspension Of Belief

September 4th, 2006 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

lonely girl cookie monsterThe current trend in the blogging community is analysis and discussion of lonelygirl15, and we are ever-indulgent of trends. Hmm, no, that is not true. The fact of the matter is that lonelygirl15 is an example of our current thought process. Hey, you said, “BS, we really want to know what goes on in your evil little mind.”

We think you should be grateful that we’ve decided against sharing all the thoughts about laundry and whether or not to tell the husband that the vine has officially devoured the garage.

So, lonelygirl15 is a bona-fide YouTube phenomenon. She is, ostensibly, a lonely girl with a boyfriend (Daniel, who also videoblogs), living in an undisclosed location being home schooled by parents with supposedly odd religious views. Her video blogs are her way of communicating with the outside world. While many people out there are just along for the ride, enjoying her frequent video posts, others are trying to get to the story behind the story. Because, as is obvious, there is definitely more to this story.

Lonelygirl15 simply doesn’t add up.

There are inconsistencies — the fact that there is obviously a third person in the room filming her scenes with Daniel, the photo of Aleister Crowley, the fantastic lighting — that suggest this series of 26 videos is part of a larger project. If that is the case, we have no issue with the game, except we’d be happy if Ms. Lonely had more of a story to tell. The charm and goofiness wears off quickly, especially when you realize that the whole series is based upon that and not much else.

The backlash against lonelygirl15 is being driven by a small community in the blogosphere who believe that they are being sold something, what is being sold remains an open question, and not in good way. People don’t mind good marketing; if you can surprise a jaded audience, you deserve a corner office. The media has a long tradition of using continuing stories to sell products, and the whole notion of viral marketing (something we think most people really don’t get) is based on creating buzz without revealing your true purpose. There is clearly a strong interest in Alternate Reality Gaming (which, you will be surprised to learn is the purpose of this post), and there is, naturally, discussion around whether or not Bree, our lonely girl, is an attempt at creating a new kind of story.

YouTube, for many reasons, is the perfect forum for creating, enhancing, or extending Alternate Reality (also, known as fictional worlds). It is a natural expectation that series, whether they be in the traditional scripted forum or part of a bigger game, emerge on YouTube. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there are only so many stupid human tricks that a person can tolerate before they move on. Copyblogger (you do read Copyblogger, right?), however, believes that “YouTubers have stated no desire for that type of thing, and couldn’t be blamed for being upset.”

We’re not getting a real sense of upset from the YouTube community as a whole, but we can understand why people who are willing to be sucked into Bree’s world will be frustrated. It’s all about world-building, and whoever is driving this particular bus has missed a few stops. In addition to the inconsistencies in the story, there is also a lack of specificity. Creating a viable fictional universe requires concrete details, not broad slashes of generalities. There are differences between characters who smoke cigarettes versus Marlboros or Virginia Slims Menthols. Details reveal character, and lonelygirl15 prefers to deal with cliched generalities.

We are excited (excited!) by opportunities that new media is creating for storytellers. In the past, the cost of production was extremely high, the number of open doors was very low. But like all good books, movies, television series, even songs, there must be a good, solid story. believable character actions, a reason for people to keep turning the pages, in a manner of speaking.

In a way, we want lonelygirl15 to be exactly what she says she is. It would be interesting to see how all the pieces, inconsistent and not, come together. If this is part of a larger story, it will be equally interesting to see how the masterminds behind the project work through those very same inconsistencies.

[tags]lonelygirl15, bree, youtube, storytelling, alternate reality games, world-building[/tags]

File Under: Marketing For Introverts · Non-Traditional Publishing

2 responses so far ↓

  • n.l. belardes // Sep 5, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    If people are entertained what does it matter? The Web is just simply an illusion: the Internet, good fiction, bad fiction, videos… None of it is reality. Some kid starts selling office chairs through a Web Portal. He has some skills; he builds a site that makes him look like a large company. Next thing you know he’s got furniture piled up in his house to sell. Next thing you know after that he’s got a 10 million dollar company… Whether it’s a chair or a streaming video fiction or non-fiction tale, if people want the product, then there lies the value… on an artist level the value may come from just creating the art. It could be a sociology project for class for all we know… but that doesn’t matter… or does it?

  • Booksquare // Sep 6, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    It all comes down to story — and I think the bad videos are a temporary phase (that will last my entire lifetime). As people become more sophisticated about interacting with online media, quality matters. And quality is dependent upon creating a believable universe for the consumer to enter — if only for a short period of time.

    This is clearly an experiment at creating some kind of fictional world — it does not feel real — so believability is the key. Unless it is a sociological experiment, in which case, a lot of us are willing to be lab rats.