Canned reality on the Internet

Canned reality on the Internet

The latest trend on YouTube and other Internet fad sites is for companies to post surreptious ads for their products or services in the guise of regular people doing regular things. So, for example, CourtTV set up a blog for a fictitious woman who catches her husband cheating for a show on private eyes hired by jilted spouses.

Or in the latest example, Creative Artists Agency, a Beverly Hills-based talent agency, has created a fictitious homeschooled teenager of a religious family who is posting YouTube diaries on the sly. It’s the same old Hollywood caricature of a middle American families—repressed, angry parents (who happen to let their deughter have an unsupervised Net connection in her bedroom?); rebellious free-spirited but good-natured daughter like a canary in a cage; strong, well-meaning boyfriend who wants to help her escape the restrictions and experience “real life.” It’s all a little too canned. (Here’s “LonelyGirl15’s” YouTube page and a blog post that discusses this and similar phenomena.

First, who fell for this? The videos themselves give it away. The lighting is too bright, the video edits too precise, the lines too canned. Even the video compression is too good. Compare it to real homemade videos posted on YouTube. Not even close.

Apart from the business ethics and the questions regarding “reality Internet”, there is the problem of how how this once again slanders homeschoolers. Yep, they’re raising a generation of socially awkward kids who can’t relate to the outside world and will rebel at the first chance. Puh-leeze. And for what? Creative Artists isn’t saying, but it’s probably either to flack somebody’s pilot script or it’s a kind of public audition for the two kids in the videos. Either way, it’s lame… and unfortunately the public laps it up.

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  • Well, not unless you tell me what they were. They are rotated in automatically by the Ad network and I can’t do anything about them unless I know what they were. Also, this sort of thing is best discussed in an email directly to me.

  • I’m not sure what’s optimistic about the story of a homeschooled girl rebelling against her religious parents by hooking up with a boy driving a wedge between her and her parents.

    As for me, I think it’s quite obvious why she’s an Internet phenomenon. She’s a pretty teenager with a repressed sexuality—at least that’s how the world sees her. You should look through your daily dose of spam to see what I mean.

    Is that too cynical? I’ve been online for a long time.

  • Sorry, Tim, still not buying it. The quality of the video alone tells me that it’s professionally produced.

    And by my reference to spam, I meant the amount of spam that entices men to view unchaste photos of teenage girls. Our society is creating an unhealthy appetite in the adult male population for “seemingly wholesome but not really” teen girls. I think this plays to that.

  • Tim: Frankly, I hope you’re right. I’d love to see something popular online that wasn’t manipulative and cynical.

    And you can thank Melanie for the new feature. She suggested it.