SF Chronicle article sounds familiar

September 3, 2006 - 5:08 pm 4 Comments

Maybe it’s just me, but this SF Chronicle article sounds a lot like the article I wrote.

Neva Chonin
Sunday, September 3, 2006

Live! Rude! Girl!

“The Net is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.”

William Gibson

She calls herself Bree and posts her video blogs on YouTube.com under the handle lonelygirl15. She says she’s 16, but looks older, and claims she’s homeschooled by her religious parents. She has a purple monkey hand puppet, a lazy eye and a mysterious shrine to ye olde occultist Aleister Crowley. Her best friend and video editor is Daniel, a geeky emo-boy who posts using the nomenclature danielbeast and adores Bree from afar.

It seems everyone adores lonelygirl15 from afar. Her deceptively insipid videos average a million views apiece and inspire both parodies and tributes. In pure headline-speak, her celebrity comes down to: Boys want her! Girls want to be her! The New York Times, Business Week and the London Times want to write about her! So much love! So many conspiracy theories!

Conspiracy theories? Oh. Oh, yeah. Many of us have a wee problem with lonelygirl15. She doesn’t exist — well, not outside of YouTube, anyway. Bree, forgive me. I want to believe in you, but all clues point to fakery (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The videos are slicker than K-Y Jelly, with professional lighting and editing techniques that scream of postproduction. The narrative sounds formulaic and scripted, and lonelygirl15/Bree is not an especially convincing actress.

“Random” events look rehearsed, and considering her fame, those devout and overprotective parents must surely have caught wind of their daughter’s online shenanigans. Most damningly, online sleuths have found that the domains for her two fan sites (lone lygirl15.com and lonelygirl15fanclub.com) were both registered before she posted her first video.

Bree insists she’s real. A real human, walking around in meatspace with the rest of us. Many people, including New York Times blogger Virginia Heffernan, go along with this because, after all, why not? They like believing in lonelygirl15, and parodying her, and swapping theories about her, and imagining her sitting out there somewhere with her purple monkey and Aleister Crowley. It beats watching Leekspin.com 10,832 times in a row.

As with the last big Internet meme, “Snakes on a Plane,” and all the viral cults before it, the creative energy that swirls around lonelygirl15 is far more interesting than the object that inspired it. The online world would be dull indeed without its fabricated stars. If lonelygirl15 didn’t exist, it would have been necessary to invent her. Which is why someone did.

The mastermind’s identity remains an open question. Are the video diaries viral marketing by a network building an audience for a future series? A clever promotion for the bands whose music plays on lonelygirl15’s soundtrack? A Thelemite conspiracy? A right-wing Christian conspiracy? A Mormon conspiracy?

So far, the likeliest theory suggests that lonelygirl15 is a project by a coterie of artful prankster(s). Brian Flemming, the filmmaker behind the faux documentary “Nothing So Strange,” has been fingered as a possible suspect. He denies the charge, and the mystery plays on. I’m hoping Bree will start wearing berets and brandishing Kalashnikovs and delivering sermons on how the fascist Internet preys on the life of the people. We’ll see.

But enough about Bree. Let’s talk about me and what I’m watching on YouTube this week. All can be found by running a search on YouTube.com’s main page.

1. Geriatric1927: A 79-year-old widower who thought he’d give this crazy technology a whirl and wound up being the most popular vlogger on YouTube. If George Clooney jilts me and Stephen Colbert is busy canoodling with Jon Stewart, I’m gonna marry Geriatric1927.

2. Bolivia Bug: Cute? Terrifying? The fourth caterpillar of the Apocalypse? You tell me. JUST DON’T TOUCH IT.

3. Two Chinese Boys: It is what it is. Two Chinese teenagers in front of a monitor, lip-syncing to the Backstreet Boys, Jessica Simpson and other pop icons. I can tell you’re wondering what’s so special. To which I reply, all that is truly special eludes description, so discover them. Worship them. They’re like Jesus, in a way.

4. Cat Massage: A cat massages a puppy. Conversation ensues.

5. Gizmo Flushes: Another cat. This one compulsively flushes a toilet so he can watch the water go round and round. In “Jurassic Park,” the world went to hell once the velociraptors learned how to open doors. Now cats have learned to flush toilets. You do the math.

6. ChurchCommittee Channel (find it in YouTube’s channel listings): Nothing brings the funny like zealots who don’t know when to shut up. ChurchCommittee collects clips of political stupidity that range from Ann Coulter describing how “swimmingly” the Afghanistan situation is going to highlights from “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” Mmm. Stephen Colbert. Am I the only one who develops a patina of sweat just reading his name?

7. AMDS Films: A Parisian mash-up whiz takes on Hollywood and wins. Score one for France. My favorites: An homage to “The Matrix” and Keanu Reeves’ transcendental blankness in “Neo Waits for the Ghost Train” (episodes I and II) and “Hamlet 2006,” the Bard’s masterpiece as interpreted by Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron.

What are you waiting for? Start surfing. The world’s gone to hell. Bush is still in office and Christopher Meloni was robbed of his Emmy. Get on the Internet.

Neva has been sitting in front of her iBook for 10 hours straight at nchonin@sfchronicle.com.

A credit might have been nice. 🙁

4 Responses to “SF Chronicle article sounds familiar”

  1. Aunt Vancie Says:

    So Sue!!!

  2. Neva Chonin Says:

    Hi, Addlepated —

    Really, I see no more resemblance between our articles than there is between all the other articles/essays written about Bree in the last few months. Yours goes into greater detail than mine, for one thing. And truth be told, I’d never heard of your blog before someone suggested I check out this entry. You’re a good writer, though.


  3. addlepated Says:

    Sorry Neva – you’re right; we were just both reporting the facts. It had been a long day. 🙂

  4. Neva Chonin Says:

    Not to worry! Gave me a chance to read your blog. 🙂