The white-hot spark of a YouTube user named LonelyGirl15 has set the dry timber of the summer Internet community ablaze. Ostensibly the video blog of a teenaged American girl named Bree, the 23 videos posted so far have chronicled a budding romance with a boy named Daniel, but there’s a twist: Bree’s family is very religious, she is home-schooled, and she has pledged a “purity bond” with her father. Even stranger is the fact that Bree’s religion is never named, and in fact on various comments on YouTube she has said that it is not mainstream – “We’re not Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or anything like that.” There’s also a mysterious picture of famous occultist Aleister Crowley on Bree’s bedroom wall, above a candelabra which she’s vehement that Daniel not light. And wait – that Crowley picture is new – it used to be something else (could that possibly bear a resemblance to Baphomet?) A dark twist, indeed.
Buzz has it that the videos are too pat, too scripted, and too professional looking to be anything but some sort of viral campaign. Indeed, the clues are there. Bree initially gained an audience by making engaging and humorous videos featuring popular YouTube users. She’s very cagey about revealing any personally revealing information about herself, often completely dodging uncomfortable questions. Perhaps more telling is the fact that a vanity website under her name was registered on May 12 – almost two weeks before she showed up on YouTube. Those following the saga wonder how she knew she would become an Internet sensation before posting a video (her excuse: Daniel did it to tease her).
Even more interesting than the videos themselves has been the reaction around the Internet. “Is she or isn’t she?” is a common refrain, not to mention a (very civilized, of course) small rebellion on Wikipedia about the deletion of the LonelyGirl15 article. Fingers are pointing in all directions as to who might be the mastermind. Two comments on Metafilter implicate Haxan Films. Mike Monello from Haxan originally thought it could have been Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman promoting Cathy’s Book. Another Metafilter comment questions whether Brian Clark from GMD Studios could be involved. Indeed, Clark looked like ripe pickings, especially given his interview with ARGN where he said:
What new technology or ideas would you like to include in future ARGs?
Video community. I’m starting to think that discussion boards are an interesting way to do community but not the penultimate. I’m really looking forward to doing an ARG project where the basis of player community might be more immediate or visual, auditory. Look at what people are starting to do with video blogging. I start to wonder if there are ways for the community of players to communicate with each other beyond just the written word.
Others suspected Brian Flemming, who has been taking a keen interest in the ongoing saga. Indeed, when reached for comment on the possible Clark/Flemming connection, Brian Clark responded, “One should be careful in taking a denial from Brian Flemming at face value. Never have I met a more accomplished or fearless reality hacker: there’s no doubt the government has files somewhere with both our names and notes like ‘didn’t intend to crash Asian stock market’ because of the reality hacking in ‘Nothing So Strange’.” However, Flemming has since issued an unequivocal denial of his involvement, and Brian Clark says he doesn’t know who the puppetmaster might be.
So the question remains: is she or isn’t she? Certainly, the Internet is no stranger to crying “Fake!” on honest-to-goodness real people, but the clues stacking up in favor of Lonelygirl15 being the front for a viral campaign are nothing to sneeze at. If this is, indeed, a marketing campaign, it is reminiscent of the Who is Benjamin Stove? ARG, in which the sponsor wasn’t revealed for months. Either way, Lonelygirl15 has made some serious ripples in cyberspace and gotten people talking about everything from videoblogs to viral marketing to how Wikipedia should be run.
Join the discussion at Unfiction.com.
September 1, 2006 at 1:57 am
i think she is going to be advertising pornography. she seems so innocent and naive and charming. shes pretty, young all alone and daddys never around…then she comes out with the swimming video….when are we going to see a vid of her accidently leaving her cam on while she gets carried away??/it sadly seems only a matter of time. Daniel dos NOT swim COINCEDENTAL….so he can take body shots of her in water…BREE in car is in backseat before swim arrival…whos in front? its too good tobe true. and like you said who at 16 has 800 on photo software
September 3, 2006 at 2:19 am
Interestingly, the only reason I initially watched her videos when I came across her on YouTube was cuz I thought her cute. But that Crowley poster thing piques my interest, especially after being inundtated by posts about her over the past week.
Nothing hotter than teenage American girls in the suburbs that dig the occult!
September 5, 2006 at 12:25 pm
According to her MySpace page, her hero is one Richard Feynman, who according to wiki was one of the Manhatten Project scientists.
Really, no matter how homeschooled they are, no real teenage girl would have Feynman as a hero.
September 5, 2006 at 12:36 pm
Uh. Don’t you guys have anything else better to do? Wars in the Middle East, Tsunamis in Indonesia, Oil Crisis, George Bush ruining this country, etc, etc, and all you guys can do is obsess with the validity of some webcam girl?
September 5, 2006 at 12:54 pm
actually, in the swimming video she IS in the front seat. She is sitting backwards, and if you watch the background, it looks like she is travelling backwards. Also, you can see the side mirror in the window, to the right.
September 5, 2006 at 2:11 pm
“Nothing hotter than teenage American girls in the suburbs that dig the occult!”
Dude, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard as the occult typically only deals with things that are not healthy physically, mentally, or spiritually.
September 5, 2006 at 4:12 pm
She isn’t in the backseat. If you look off to her right (the left side of the screen) you will see the passenger side mirror. She is facing backwords in the front seat.
September 5, 2006 at 9:17 pm
FreshAir, I find it a little ironic that you’re coming to an ARG news site and complaining that people here are playing a possible ARG. 😉
September 6, 2006 at 10:31 am
The video “Bree The Cookie Monster” has Bree rate three cookies. The scores in order are “10”, “12”, and “06” (not just “6”). 10/12/06, or October 12th, 2006, would be this year’s birthday of Aleister Crowley.
ARG sounds likely.
September 8, 2006 at 8:04 am
This is too funny. This message will probably not even be posted. The date is a horror movie release with Bree in it. Yes folks, this whole thing was a marketing campaign that took you all as fools. And you know what? It worked. Everyone will go see it and make oodles of cash for the studio. I gotta hand it to everyone involved–this has to be one of the greatest marketing ploys to hit the net since Blair Witch.
September 8, 2006 at 4:01 pm
@ James Farley:
Perhaps you missed the point before you labeled us all as fools. You see, we were never totally convinced one way or the other as to what was happening with this whole lonelygirl15 phenomenon. That’s why the question was asked at the very beginning: Is she, or isn’t she? So, if by being skeptical and curious, we are fools, then we’ve been fools for an awful long time.
September 8, 2006 at 5:34 pm
Yeah, she is facing backwards in the passenger seat of the car — possibly so you can’t see the crew members or equipment in the back seat? And I think it’s a little strange that a highly religious, asocial fifteen year old with ridiculously strict parents would always have freshly waxed eyebrows. Just a thought. Man, though, whatever this viral marketing is selling, I’m buying.
September 8, 2006 at 7:23 pm
OK. So if it is a movie then why can’t I find anything about it on IMDB.com. Was uTube payed to put lonelygirl on top? Will this a uTube exclusive movie or a theater release?
September 9, 2006 at 1:52 pm
I’m a 16 year old and I’m into all the things Bree is into. Is it really that unbelievable that a girl can take interest in scientists and music that’s not on the radio? Do you guys not remember what it was like to be a teen or were you all idiots back then?
September 10, 2006 at 9:58 am
My money is on a movie production. She doesn’t look awkward enough to be doing all that spontaneously. Nor does the boy.
September 11, 2006 at 2:21 am
Yeah… taking it further from Sloppy Joes comment. This thing looks too made up and commercial. Sounds like Alernate Unreality. Another ARG which seems to be based on the BWP is http://www.idiedhere.com . I came across this one here itself. Amatuer but nice and believable.
And can’t figure out any reason to believe it;s meant as a marketing ploy. Hehe..it’s from India. Why would they wanna market anything like this?
September 12, 2006 at 3:27 am
Chorazin: You really don’t know anything about Feynman, do you? He was my hero in highschool (and I’d say still is). Go to a library or bookstore and read, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”, and you’ll quickly see why a science oriented teen would find the man very cool.