Wednesday, February 07, 2007

For Every Generation there is a Lonely, Mysterious Girl, Pt. 1

It's been awhile since the folks behind the you-tube driven phenom Lonely Girl 15 confirmed that the so-called vlog of Bree, a lonely, home-schooled teen, was in fact "not real." That is to say, that they confirmed that Bree is a character played by an actress. Whether or not this makes her "not real" is open to some debate.

I didn't begin watching Lonely Girl until a few weeks ago. I'd known about the series for some time, but it wasn't until I read this piece by the ever astute MZN that I decided to look at some of the videos.

I wasn't immediately sucked in. I thought the form was interesting and I found Bree mildly charming, but I wasn't really sure why the series was so popular. But then I watched a few more, and the mystery began to unfold.

I won't go into a detailed plot summary here (if you are interested you should check out the Lonely Girl entry on Wikipedia or else visit the lovingly-detailed LGpedia), but I would like to touch on how some of narrative strategies and themes of Lonely Girl have made me a potential victim of what fan-forum users call "lonelycrack." I think the "turn" for me happened when I saw this video:

I like this video for a number of reasons 1) Bree discusses her religion in a way that is guarded and odd -- seemingly programmed; mystery! 2) Bree responds to Daniel's vlog, thus introducing an additional point of view 3) the conflict b/w Bree and Daniel is enacted via vlog/media, and thus invites the viewer to mediate (indeed, a number of viewers began to post vlog responses to Daniel and Bree) 4) the vlog also gives us a sense of this conflict as happening in real time.

LonelyGirl reminds me more of a novel than a television show -- something like Turn of the Screw or Dracula or Rebecca (also, of course, a great film by Hitchcock). I think this is because one is forced to question the reliability of the narrators; Much like a novel that includes letters and diary entries, LonelyGirl pivots and swivels not only between points of view but also between points of address. What a character says and how she says it depends upon her intended audience. The fact that we are all here listening is (sometimes) irrelevant.

One of the most fascinating things about LonelyGirl is how the show used new media to "trick" the audience. This is similar to the supposed panic that swept the country after the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. LonelyGirl also used the youtube platform in way that allowed viewers to engage with the videos by posting comments and gathering in chat rooms and making response videos. It was through these same channels that the folks behind LonelyGirl introduced new characters .

LonelyGirl has inspired a number of spin-offs, and one of them -- OpAphid -- has been "cannonized" by the LG "creators" as the "official" LonelyGirl alternative reality game, thus establishing that fan-created videos could potentially become part of the "official" storyline. The OpAphid videos contain clues, puzzles, and backwards messages that supposedly come from "the Order," a mysterious group connected to Bree's religion.

As MZN points out, before the videos were revealed to be "fake," the task of trying to uncover whether or not the videos were real rivaled the developing intrigue between Bree and Daniel, and later Bree's religion. MZN notes that

It comes during this cycle of greater democratization and interactivity, with media users and makers coming together like never before. lg15 has been a contradictory phenomenon, at once drawing its energy from the web community and taking advantage of it.

This give and take dynamic with the audience is certainly one of the most exciting things about LonelyGirl. Yet my hunch is that only a small number of the total viewers make response videos and post comments. And I'd be curious to know how many viewers stopped watching once the gig was up. I imagine that there are many others out there -- like me -- who started watching and keep watching because we are intrigued by the story.

So what about this story? It reminds me of some other stories. Or perhaps I should say that Bree reminds me of some other characters -- other lonely, mysterious girls -- girls like Laura Palmer and Buffy Summers. More on that in Pt. 2


zp said...

Did I manage to post a comment on this? I'll check back later . . . ?

zp said...

Of course Lonely Girl would bring you back to the realm of the blog!

I totally agree with the "novel" likenesses you mentioned, I commented on this at Chutry Experiment a while back. I also thought the narrative had some fairy tale similarities . . .


milowent said...

just surfed in via google, good post.

"And I'd be curious to know how many viewers stopped watching once the gig was up. I imagine that there are many others out there -- like me -- who started watching and keep watching because we are intrigued by the story."

i've looked at this, and generally, lg15 is arguably more popular now than it was prior to their "outing". from my google surfing today (and i've been watching lg15 since mid-august), its now common for people to blog about lg15 as they would any TV show they love. that has only happened in the last month or so.