Yesterday, the New York Times reported the revelation that "Lonelygirl15" is a New Zealand actress Jessica Rose and not a homeschooled teenager named "Bree," who has a computer obsession and time on her hands. For the past four months, "Bree" has been uploading videos of her trials and tribulations onto YouTube.com, drawing fans (many of them) from all walks of life. "Bree" had so many fans, that the YouTube Lonelygirl15 videos spwned a fan site devoted to Lonelygirl15 gossip, which yesterday was expressing feelings of loss and disappointment at the exposure of "Bree" as a fictional character. "Bree" and Lonelygirl15 was a film project of Creative Artists Agency and seem to have been some sort of test drive for a major motion picture. The New York Times reports that the revelation was in part due to a fan finding a trademark application for Lonelygirl15 that reveals the enterprise as a commercial endeavor.
Whether because of its commercial nature or its "fraud" (as one contributor to the project worried), fans admit that the appeal has burst. The fantasy and intrigue was sustained because "Bree" was believed to be real. Now that she is truly fantastic, the site -- its draw -- has waned significantly, if almost entirely. "Part of the appeal of the series was that the serious-minded, literate Bree offered an unbeatable fantasy: a beautiful girl who techy guys had something in common with. On learning that Ms. Rose was an actress whose interests, unlike the scientific and religious issues that fascinated Bree, ran to parties and posing, one fan wrote, 'Very cute, but she's realy not into Feynmann and Jared Diamond! (I'm heart-broken ... But a wonderful actress, had me fooled into thinking she was a geek like me.)'"
So I have these two thoughts about Lonelygirl15. For readers of this blog, I may sound like I am repeating myself (see "More on L'Affaire Frey" and the A3Groopie expose). But the repetition in life is worthy of repetition on this blog (not to assume there is a distinction, mind you).
One point is a trademark issue: who's to say that a trademark application can't be for a person's moniker, their call-sign, or whatever you call your "stage name" on-line. Certainly, that is how trademark's function -- as a source identifier that is distinctive of you or your goods and distinguishes your goods (or you) from those of another (or others). Use in commerce is a prerequisite, but how much use and how much commerce is a much debated question. And, thanks to the anonymous source doctrine, it doesn't matter that people don't know the source of the good (it doesn't matter that people don't know who "makes" Lonelygirl15), as long as they understand the source is consistent. It seems Lonelygirl15's trademark application shouldn't necessarily have been a tip off of "Bree" fictional nature. The fact that it was a tip-off says something interesting about how her fans think of the role of commercialization in peddling "fantasy" versus the "truth."
Another point is this: the reality of "Bree"'s fictiveness is only less of an attraction if her fans thought that her physical reality and theirs would someday collide. Given the irrationality of that fantasy (that someday some intriguing and good looking superstar will walk into my life, befriend me and adore me), isn't the more realistic play the game where we give into our imaginative capacities and create fantastic worlds where Bree and her fans can chat on-line about books like "Guns, Germs and Steel" and string-theory? Who is to say that the community of fans she gathered around her isn't real enough? Why sustain the unreasonable fantasy of someday meeting and becoming fast friends with Lonelygirl15 and accept the gift of a community of fans and stories and thoughts about the world that she has given you?
Hat-tip to my indefatiguable friend, Bill McGeveran, for this story.