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Lonelygirl15 (also known as LG15) was a fictional YouTube series that ran from June 2006 to August 2008, disguised as a factual vlog of a 16-year-old girl named Bree Avery. For a time, the show’s eponymous YouTube channel was the most subscribed channel on the site.
The YouTube channel lonelygirl15 was created on May 12th, 2006. The account posted two videos, “Paytotheorderofofof vs. Dinosaur” and “YouTubers Secret Language”, making references to other popular YouTube vloggers at the time, Paytotheorderofofof and TheWineKone respectively. She also subscribed to hundreds of YouTube channels. Her first vlog, titled “First Blog / Dorkiness Prevails,” was uploaded on June 16th. As of April 2012, lonelygirl15’s channel has more than 273,000,000 views, receiving an average of 125,838 per day.
On July 5th, 2006 a YouTube account for Bree’s friend Daniel was created. He was introduced as her video editor and romantic interest, although the two could not be together due to Bree’s religious beliefs. By August 24th 2006, the account had just short of 10,000 subscribers, with approximately 500,000 views on some of the episodes. On February 4th, 2007, the channel had 80,654 subscribers and was the most subscribed channel on YouTube.
Suspicion of Hoax
On July 16th, 2006, a YouTuber named Bukanator, who had been commenting positively on her videos from the beginning, announced he had created a fan site lonelygirl15.com on July 16th, 2006. He began posting theories about Bree and Daniel’s videos, providing commentary about their relationship as well as a forum for fans of the channels. Three days later, internet culture blog Liquid Generation posted the domain information for the fan site, noting that it was registered on May 12th, 2006 -- a month before she uploaded her first vlog. To cover up this discrepancy, Bukanator claimed Daniel created the site to tease Bree about how she could become an online celebrity, registering the domain name as a joke.
YouTube commenters suspected the videos were fictional from her earliest uploads, partially due to their above-average production and editing quality. The first response videos doubting Bree’s existence were published on July 20, 2006 by YouTuber gohepcat, but they have since been removed. Additionally, blogger Brian Flemming notedthe videos created a story arc that seemed too well-developed to have occurred in real life:
School Work in Summer… -- establishes Bree’s protective parents
The Danielbeast -- introduces Bree’s geeky editor, Daniel.
Grillz -- shows the two having fun together.
My Parents Suck… -- introduces the conflict between parents and Daniel.
Daniel Responds -- a soliloquy from Daniel.
Daniel Returns -- the story arc resolves.
After the series was revealed to be fictional, the videos took a serious change in direction starting with the video entitled “A Change In My Life”, in which she addresses her religious beliefs. Her participation in occult practices was first alluded to in the August 6th, 2006 video titled “What Did Daniel and Dad Talk About?” when a shrine is shown in Bree’s room with a framed portrait of Aleister Crowley, the founder of Thelema. YouTubers used clips from this video to argue that she was a Satanist. In the videos following this one, her involvement with occult practices became a reoccurring theme, evolving into a complex story with multiple characters.
On August 7, 2006, YouTuber HyeMew joined the forum at lonelygirl15.com in effort to lead an investigation into who was making the videos. The same day, he created a fake Myspace account for Danielbeast, which many viewers considered authentic, as a way to verify who was actually connected to the show and who were fan-made characters. Several forum users came together to find discrepancies in the videos, with architects and botanists pointing out flaws in the episodes, as well as people creating fake Myspace profiles to trick Bree into revealing her IP address. This investigation garnered the attention of journalists at Businessweek, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Magazine and David Pogue’s Blog, who published articles on the analysis provided by these forum members.
Exactly a month after HyeMew launched his search, Lonelygirl15 was officially revealed to be fictitious by its creators through a message on the forum. Most early reactions were negative and seeking more information on the identity of “Bree.” On September 9th, a TMZ commenter posted a link to a Myspace account for an actress named Jessica Lee Rose, revealing her real name. Others also found her Blogspot, sharing personal photos of her on SiliconValleyWatcher, various blogs and YouTube. In 2007, Rose was named the “Number One Web Celeb” by Forbes Magazine and she won a Webby Award for Best Actress for her work on lonelygirl15.
On September 13th, 2006, The Los Angeles Times was the first to publish the names of the three filmmakers behind the show: Miles Beckett, Mesh Flinders, and Greg Goodfried. The three did an exclusive interview with Wired in December 2006, revealing behind the scenes information about the history of the narrative. They also went on to host a panel at South by Southwest Interactive in 2007 on the show, discussing how their YouTube commenters and forum users uniquely shaped the way the show can interact with its fans.
After the show was revealed to be fiction, it was covered by the New York Times, USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and New York Magazine. Jessica Rose was interviewed by Reuters in September 2008 on the future of her acting career. That year, two of the three filmmakers, Beckett and Goodfried, went on to create EQAL, a media and technology company. EQAL continued to produce the series in the LG15 universe, and began building social media networks for celebrities. In 2010, the San Franciso Chronicle published a look back on the filmmakers, stating that the third filmmaker, Flinders, had gone on to social media consulting.
In September 2011, a podcast called New Mediacracy recorded a reunion interview with original cast members Jessica Rose, Yousef Abu-Taleb (Daniel) and Jackson Davis (Jonas) about the highs and lows of being one of the first successful series on YouTube.
Some YouTubers parodied the show by either revealing the camera crew behind their own vlogs or by spoofing Bree’s bedroom set and style of talking to the camera.
The New York Times Magazine – A Single-Camera Dramedy, Just in Time for the Fall Season
Los Angeles Times – Mystery Fuels Huge Popularity of Web’s Lonelygirl15
New York Times Magazine – ‘who is interested in a story when all your investment in the characters within is false’
Los Angeles Times – Lonelygirl15 Video Blog Is Brainchild of 3 Filmmakers
fn30 SiliconValleyWatcher – SVW Exclusive: The identity of LonelyGirl15
Top of the Tube – lonelygirl15 revealed : jessica rose aspiring actress
New York Times – ‘Lonely Girl’ (and Friends) Just Wanted Movie Deal
New Mediacracy – Episode 29: The One That Reunites the Cast of lonelygirl15