Reading the strange Internet saga of Lonelygirl15, I was immediately struck by how closely the real-life story resembled a major plot thread in William Gibson’s latest novel "Pattern Recognition."
Gibson’s always had his finger on the culture’s electric pulse. This is the guy whose 1984 ur-cyberpunk novel "Neuromancer" imagined virtual reality years before the Web made it possible. Gibson’s some kind of vortex, a divining rod. In ancient days, he’d have been a holy seer, prophesizing the future, or maybe they’d have burned him at the stake.
In "Pattern Recognition," Cayce Pollard is a coolhunter who spends her days ferreting out tomorrow’s trends and her evenings obsessing over a hypnotic, anonymous series of video fragments called The Footage that appear at irregular intervals on the Internet. The moody, DIY footage quickly develops a cult following as followers attempt to decode whether it’s a cynical corporate marketing ploy for an as-yet-unrevealed product or an organic, freeform expression of artistic creativity.
Pollard, who is hard-wired to tell the difference, is flummoxed because she can’t get a bead on it and wants to imagine an unsullied world where such a thing might really exist, untethered to commerce. When a megalomaniac millionaire marketer hires her to find out, she begins to question herself. If it’s real, and she exposes it to the harsh winds of consumerism, she will have killed something precious and rare and beautiful. But she’s got to know.
Enter Lonelygirl15. A week ago, this videoblog’s appealing blend of teen angst and reverse-slick production values had hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers transfixed as to her identity. Three e-sleuths thought they had it wired when they traced electronic footprints back to Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills and an Encino lawyer.
Yesterday it emerged that Lonelygirl15 was not an organic outpouring of teen life nor was it a CAA ploy, but rather the brainchild of three aspiring filmmakers “who dreamed of using the various technologies of the Web…to both build a rich identity for a character and to let fans influence the story’s direction.”
The scheme they hatched in a karaoke bar last April has now paid off with CAA representation, so I suppose they’re now launched on a lifetime of slick corporate manipulation that is all the more slick because it pretends not to be.
Bummer! And here I thought that someone at CAA or in the film world had actually read Gibson’s book and dreamed up a realtime killer ap. Sheesh. I should know better.