[Update: You might also be interested in my posts on lonelygirl15 (Sept 5) and lonelygirl15 – commodification of a social space? (Sept 13)]

So I’m right into this Lonelygirl15 stuff now. As with Online Caroline, people are really upset and angry once they realise that the character they’ve imagined real is in fact, fiction. I’ve come across two main reasons so far:

  1. They were tricked into participating themselves, not simply by watching and following the story, but by giving something of themselves in what they thought was a genuine interaction between equals – for instance, they offered honest video responses to the videos Lonelygirl posted. This is what Kaycee Nicole’s victims were upset about too (my PhD dissertation has a section on her – no, really, you can search the PDF and it’s brief and accessibly written, heh), and it’s also one of the things people who believed Online Caroline was real were upset about too – they had told Caroline about themselves and enacted a relationship and that was taken from them. Of course they’re pissed.
  2. The other objection is different. It’s perhaps best expressed in Renetto’s video response to finding out Lonelygirl15 was fake. Here’s a transcript of some of what he says:

    Look, Youtube is only for people like me, that film in good lighting and in bad lighting, and in my house but in my yard, and you know, I say uh all the time. Uh, and uh. And I don’t edit my videos and I don’t put really cool music to my videos, like Lonelygirl did. No wonder, cos she had a whole freaking production team! No wonder she’s like the second most subscribed! And no wonder she gets millions and millions of video views, it’s cos she’s cheating! And it makes me sick! (..) YouTube’s not for fake stuff! It’s for real stuff! (..) Kick her off of YouTube, she doesn’t belong here.

    LonelyGirl15 is cheating, and that’s not fair. The point isn’t that she’s fake, it’s that she’s gaming the system – “no wonder she’s like the second most subscribed!” (Of course, I might be over-interpreting – this video might be satirical… particularly in the light of his later video where “lonelygirl15” calls him and says she’s real…)

Actually I suppose both these objections are similar. They thought they were dealing with an equal, and then it turns out she wasn’t at all – she was fictional, so on a completely different ontological level than them, and she was using a production crew and pretending to be doing it all herself (or with Daniel’s help). Not equal footing at all.

9 thoughts on “why they get upset about fictions

  1. Jane McG

    Jill– great observaton re: the perception that lonelygirl was “gaming the system”… I find that critique much more trenchant than the former “I was tricked” one. The people who were most engaged wtih lonelygirl, from what I’ve observed, were fairly sure the character was not real… they were poking and prodding to find out more about the purpose of lonelygirl and to understand the mysterious details of the fiction. Thanks for the insight!

  2. steve

    At the risk of forcing “new” cultural objects into “old” cultural boxes, it’s intriguing how much these objections to online fictions echo traditional objections to tall tales and other “lie” stories. For those in the know, the fun comes from both laughing at the joke and laughing at those who don’t get the joke (and perhaps laughing at themselves once being the victim). Those who don’t get the joke feel like outsiders and laughingstocks at once.

  3. Jill

    Yeah, that’s a good point, Steve – that the fun is from getting the joke and laughing at those that didn’t, and of course being laughed at because you didn’t get it is no fun.

    The second reason’s different, though, and I think it’s interesting – Jane, I’ve also noticed that a huge amount of engagement with Lonelygirl is about testing to see if she’s real, and there are probably even more spoofs and take offs of lonelygirl videos than there are “is she fake” speculations – but then you get people like Renetto, or, well, if you just look at the video responses to Boy problems, for instance, there are so many apparently sincere videos with advice and “you really should talk to him instead of posting it to the internet” and such. Although even there there’s a game in the video comments where people post a video response from France, from Ireland, and finally there’s a Scottish guy says he really doesn’t have anything to add but saw there were no comments from Scotland… There are many games involved in playing YouTube.

    I wonder whether it’s ethically wrong to “game the system” of YouTube. Obviously I really enjoy the gaming, but players like Renetto obviously see it otherwise.

  4. […] Visit original post by Jill […]

  5. […] Talking more specifically about Serfaty, I want to discuss her discussion of ethics and her research design (specifically the three perspectives on blogs, as literary, social and personal spaces, and her point that if you view blogs as literary, then “no matter how ‘truthful’ diarists purport themselves to be, their version of truth, of character, or of protagonist is a fictional construction.” (p 10) (Note that the question of whether blogs are or should be “truthful” comes up again and again in the blogosphere and is a matter of real controversy. See for instance Jonathan Delacour, me, Lonelygirl15.) […]

  6. […] Het geheel herinnert aan de affaire rond lonelygirl15, het meisje dat met haar serie video’s op Youtube een hele schare bewonderaars trok, tot uitkwam dat haar karakter fictie was. Teleurstelling en boosheid alom. […]

  7. […] I also want to talk a little about hoaxes/fictions online – when a pseudonymous video, blog or similar gets really popular, people always figure out who’s really behind it – i.e. who is the author. Some examples: Karen26, lonelygirl15 (see also my post on why this upset people so much), the Vote Different ad by ParkRidge47. […]

  8. […] Honesty – how truthful do you want to be in your blog? There are plenty of examples of fictional blogs that have presented themselves as real. When readers discovered they were fictional, they felt cheated and became very angry (I’ve blogged about why readers get angry at this. On a smaller scale, most bloggers leave out the ugly bits and maybe play up the good stuff, as in the quote from Lars Tangen in this blog post. I’m not saying you need to be utterly honest (in fact, the more literary blogs get, the less factual truth matters, in my opinion, but you do need to think about this. […]

  9. Tammi Hartung

    Speaking to the issue of trust:

    Steve says: “[…]itís intriguing how much these objections to online fictions echo traditional objections to tall tales and other ìlieî stories.”

    The objection might come from two loosely related reasons: One, bloggers who are honestly presenting themselves, expect that others are doing the same. If, for example, a blogger says he is from Michigan, USA, people believe him. People are expecting their truthfulness to be met with truthfulness. Second, when consumers of literature (blog readers) pick up a book they are fully aware from which section of the bookstore they are choosing. The implicit contract between author and reader is determined. A reader who has chosen a non-fiction book only to find out it was all false, all fiction, would feel cheated. The same implicit contract seems to be equally applied to blogs. Because most blogs do not disclose whether they are fiction or non-fiction, it is assumed they are non-fiction. The negative, or hostile reaction to false blogs seems to come from being a victim of a bait-and-switch scam, and the reader feels cheated.

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