Lonelygirl15: An Online Star Is Born

Emmy award winning television host Ellen DeGeneres speaks during the Tulane University Commencement in New Orleans on Saturday May 13, 2006.
AP Photo
With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.

Just who is Lonelygirl15? If you're wondering, you're not alone. The online videos have been the hit of the blogosphere, and the admission that the star, Bree, appears to be a Hollywood creation has bloggers abuzz. Plus, what do bloggers have to say about Ellen DeGeneres being tapped as Oscar host? And, a blogger for the New Republic may be the latest example of how not to respond to critics.

And Lonelygirl Is ...?

Since May, Lonelygirl15's brief posts on YouTube have become an online phenomenon, launching a Web mystery that nearly 2 million viewers have been following: Who is she?

The girl, who calls herself Bree, appears to be an innocent, home-schooled 16-year-old, pouring her heart out in her bedroom for her video camera in the privacy of her bedroom. Her two-minute videos often tell the drama involved in a typical teen life, especially focusing on her friend Daniel's crush on her. Each video features a title, like "Boy Problems," similar to a diary entry. But Bree is rather telegenic for a mere 16-year-old, causing some to question whether she's just the latest product in a new viral marketing campaign. Lonelygirl's creators came forward with a statement that claims lonelygirl15 is part of their "show." They thank their fans effusively for tuning into "the birth of a new art form." They are not, they insisted, "a big corporation," writing:

"Our intention from the outset has been to tell a story — A story that could only be told using the medium of video blogs and the distribution power of the Internet. A story that is interactive and constantly evolving with the audience."

But the statement also added to the intrigue surrounding Bree's identity. "Right now, the biggest mystery of Lonelygirl15 is 'Who is she?' We think this is an oversimplification. Lonelygirl15 is a reflection of everyone."

The statement's authors wrote that they are "in the process of building a website centered around video and interactivity."

And, as it turns out, the New York Times has cleared up some of the mystery surrounding the vague statement today. Just who is Bree? She's Jessica Rose, a "20-ish resident of New Zealand and Los Angeles and a graduate of the New York Film Academy" and the masterminds behind her videos are several screenwriters. The videos appear to be the early serialized version of what eventually will become a movie, the newspaper says.

So what do bloggers think about this admission that Bree is not genuine? They certainly were talking about it. Lonlygirl15 was the most searched term on Technorati over the weekend. Many were happy to have some closure, even if they still aren't sure what it all means.

Fake or not, Lonelygirl15 has some loyal fans. "So i'm OBSESSED over this whole lonelygirl15 dilemma...it's crazy...i'm hooked and i can't stop watching," Courtney Havok writes on MySpace.

But a blogger over at the LonelyGirl15 Fan Club questions what the creators mean by their statement that they're creating a new art form. "A new art form? No. I don't thinks so. A new medium for an old art form? Yes. That's more like it. Are they now going to advertise their wares so to speak to try and lure thousands of hopefuls into their offices to film little short mini-movies for a price? I hope not. That would be a travesty," the blogger writes.

But not everyone was a fan in the first place. "I am not big on soap operas (which her 'content' essentially is at its core). The interesting part, for me, is her construct and her mass effects. Hopefully, these filmmakers have one good one (or more) up their sleeve for these willing audiences. I suspect they do," a blogger at the Fallon Planning Blog writes.

And some, like Davy Sims, aren't so thrilled that the Internet is being put to use this way. In a post titled, "Lies, Deceit and Streaming Video—It's What the Web Was Invented For," Sims writes "if you are not living in a soap opera already, the internet and social navigation is here to help you create one all for yourself."

And The Oscar Host Goes To ...

Ellen DeGeneres has been tapped to host next year's Oscars, the Academy of Motions Pictures Arts and Sciences announced. While she has hosted the Emmy Awards and Grammys, it's the comedian's first time hosting the Oscar show. Many bloggers reacted with joy over the announcement, but were skeptical about whether the show would be entertaining.

"I think Ellen is a fabulous choice, and she proved herself worth when hosting the twice postponed Emmys back in 2001," a blogger at Give Me My Remote writes. "YAY Ellen!"

"If anyone can make an overlong, boring show like the Oscars fun and playful, Ellen's the gal to do it," Lexie Feinberg writes at Cinema Blend.

But not everyone is a fan. "Didn't I warn you back in January that Jon Stewart would be a poor Oscar emcee? Yes, and all I got in return were 1,472 nasty emails and no thanks. Now Ellen DeGeneres?! I say no thank you and, excuse me: zzzzzzzzzz," The Envelope blogger writes.

And others are unsure even a good host can make the Oscars enjoyable. "Among the many problems the Oscars telecast has, is its length. But the host has very little control over that," Adam writes at Entertainment: Critical. "He or she can't whisk Halle Berry or Gwyneth Paltrow away when they start on their 12 minute long crying jag."

Cinefille agrees the quality of the show depends on more than just the host. "Good choice? Bad choice? I'm not quite sure. Ellen DeGeneres absolutely has the capability to host an entertaining award show. But really viewership depends greatly on the nominated pictures not the host," she blogs.

Just imagine the reaction after Ellen actually hosts the show!

What Not To Do If You're A Blogger

Have you ever wanted to get back at someone writing those nasty comments about your latest posting on your blog? Well, you're not alone. Even a professional blogger with a prestigious magazine got fed up with his critics and took matters into his own hands, anonymously blasting those who criticized his posts on his own blog.

Lee Siegel, a senior editor at The New Republic and creator of the Lee Siegel on Culture blog for tnr.com, was suspended after editors discovered he was using the Internet alias "sprezzatura" to attack critics and defend himself in a war of words that developed between him and a reader "jhschwartz"

The humor in this, some find, is that Siegel was generous with praise for himself in his anonymous comments. As Andrew Sullivan blogged, "(Siegel) was dumped for writing for his own comments section under a pseudonym. But what's quite wonderful is what he actually wrote about himself."

For example, when a reader attacked Siegel on Aug. 27, Siegel responded in the comments section of his blog with: "You have quite an obsession with Siegel! Sounds to me like you're an envious young writer …. Every young writer in NYC has it in for poor Siegel it seems. They all write like middle-aged hacks. He has the fire and guts of a young man (I assume he's middle-aged himself, or somewhere near there.)"

And then there was this comment: "I'm a huge fan of Siegel, been reading him since he started writing for TNR almost ten years ago."

Siegel told the New York Observer that he never realized this was wrong to do at the time — since this is "cowboy territory with very few boundaries" — but bloggers were more clear on where to draw the line.

"I don't understand—and have never had—the compulsion to create an alternative persona to either praise or defend myself," Shakespeare's Sister writes.

And the American Prospect's Ezra Klein says Siegel should have resisted the temptation. "The temptation to create a new persona and rally support for yourself in comments can be almost overwhelming. Almost. But most of us resist the urge, take the lashing and move on," Klein blogs.

But Slate's Jack Shafer questions if Siegel really did anything so wrong. "Siegel's role in pseudonymously posting flattering material about himself and criticism of others appears shocking," he writes. "But practically every Web site with a comments area implicitly sanctions the practice of sniping at foes from a camouflaged position. One could argue that if Siegel's critics can blast him from the dark, he should be allowed to do the same to them."

Others were just thankful for the entertainment. "Hilarious. And it couldn't have happened to a better magazine," Daily Kos writes.

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By Melissa McNamara