Video: Lonelygirl15 exposed

Helen Popkin
updated 8/9/2007 3:37:25 PM ET 2007-08-09T19:37:25

Lonelygirl15, a cyberspace superstar also know by the offline moniker “Bree Avery” died under mysterious circumstances in a nondescript medical facility Aug. 3 in or around Santa Monica, Calif. while participating (possibly against her will) in some vaguely explained cult ritual involving DNA or something. She was 17 … or there abouts.

While there is no official coroner’s report, the smart money is on exsanguination. This is evidenced in a video taken by friends who watched as members of the evil secret society, “The Order,” drained lonelygirl’s rarified blood, transfusing it into their leader.

“She tried so hard to be a hero, but things just got out of hand,” said Jonas W-something, moody trustafarian, lonelygirl’s sort-of boyfriend, and one of the pals who filmed her death and then uploaded the video on MySpace.

It was a tragic and actually somewhat anticlimactic and frankly lackluster end for the adorable small town girl whose meteoric popularity on YouTube, “a global repository of mostly homemade videos,” made her the unofficial face of Web 2.0.

“Lonely girl was sweet, a science geek, a possible Satanist — there were hints — and a great big mystery,” said Brook Gladstone, co-host of “On the Media,” a National Public Radio show that kept tabs on the lonelygirl15 phenomenon. As Gladstone discussed on air last September, “Avid fans tuned in to her video musings, mostly filmed in her bedroom by her pal and potential love interest, Daniel. And viewers weighed in with comments and video responses to her and the community that had formed around her on YouTube.”

At the height of her popularity, lonelygirl’s viewership passed one million. She was a 2006 superstar in the Year of Viral Video. Sharing the spotlight with pirated Saturday Night Live videos and Mentos-Diet Coke experiments, lonelygirl was arguably a driving factor behind Google’s $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube, as well as MySpace’s addition of short-form video to its social networking site.

That year also marked the end what AdWeek described as “viral video’s age of innocence.” Indeed, as big business struggled with the conundrum of how to make money off the short-form video market, lonelygirl’s age of innocence was drawing to an end as well.

Lonelygirl loaded her first video blog on YouTube July 16, 2006. Titled “First Blog/Dorkiness Prevails,” the 1:35 minute entry is loaded with typical teenage girl “ums” and pauses, as well as attention-grabbing flattery for the most popular kids on YouTube. “Hi, guys…Um, so, this is my first video blog,” lonelygirl stammers as Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” plays in the background. “Um, I've been watching for a while and I really like a lot of you guys on here. Um, I really like paytotheorderofofof2. You're really funny, and, um, your videos are always really interesting and you seem really nice.” Her concern about being “stalked” is accented with a quick cut of a woman screaming courtesy of her best friend Daniel, whose editing antics and unrequited love became an integral, albeit tiresome, plot point.

With the social acuity of a 5th grader and the hotness of someone older than 16, lonelygirl had her charm. The pink feather boa, safari hat, purple monkey puppet, and the Aleister Crowley shrine on her dresser attracted both a fan base and a tight circle of friends who would later attempt and fail to save her life. Trading messages via public postings on YouTube and MySpace, that tragically failed to alert the authorities, lonelygirl and her new YouTube BFFs unraveled the truth behind the wacky religion that wanted her blood.

These friends included Jonas, who she totally made out with and may or may not have had sex with, Taylor and her slutty sister Sarah from Texas, Neutrogena Employee of the Month Spencer Gillman, and some other people.

It was this group of photogenic pals that provided shelter and drama to lonelygirl and Daniel when they finally left her bedroom to embark on some convoluted cross-country trip to find the truth … or fight the future … or whatever. Continuing to post messages and plant clues online, the group even reached out to the social networking populace to help in their quest… or… escape or summer road trip… Unfortunately, infighting, rivalries and murdered parents plagued whatever it was they were doing, as evidenced in video and blog posts from all parties. One wonders if hormones remained in check, and clearer heads prevailed, lonelygirl might still be alive today. For example, how come nobody bothered to ask for help directly from Fox Mulder – the guy has like 30 MySpace profiles.

In the end, lonelygirl choose to sacrifice her life to save her friends, committing herself to participate in the religious ceremony from which they tried in vein to save her. And while she slipped her mortal coil Aug. 3, there are those for whom lonelygirl 15 died in September 2006, when it was revealed that she never even existed. The whole thing was a multi-layered production by a group of California filmmakers taking advantage of the format to get their big break. Perhaps they succeeded, but they broke a few hearts along the way.

After the revelation, formerly lonelygirl follower bravegirl5 posted this vlog: “You know it just sucks, because there are so many people who made video responses to lonelygirl’s videos and you know what, they’re gonna feel stupid now because they got caught up in the drama and said everything about Bree was bull…”

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