Fine Brothers Entertainment recently created a YouTubers React video about Lonelygirl15, and it made me realize that this was ten years ago. I couldn't believe it. I remember when I started watching LG15--I was totally inspired, and even thought about starting my own video webseries about twins who had been separated at birth and were about to meet up again. Of course, I got too lazy to actually do that, and realized that the production behind that was actually quite complicated.
I didn't start watching LG15 until I was in college, and even then didn't start watching it until the second half of my first year (2008). So I had quite a lot of catching up to do, and by the time I started watching it, it was already revealed that it was a fake. I was already familiar with the concept of a YouTube series. What was revolutionary to me at the time was the concept of an interactive YouTube series, where you could be actively involved in the story. It was totally awesome. I was so engaged with the story, despite the massive amounts of plot holes. It was the Chosen One story before Chosen One stories blew up the YA literary/film scene. And it was independent.
Like most old videos, LG15 didn't age horribly well. Looking back on these videos, it's got all of the epitomes of Teen Drama--the overly beautiful teenagers, the overdramaticism, the bloodletting, the cultism, the sexual tension. There's hardly an explanation of how they get their money when they're on the lam, and there's SO MUCH focus on teen sex/relationships.
Totally stupid. But totally profitable.
Also, it's admittedly not totally stupid. These aspects of a show are all things that plenty of people can easily relate to: isolation within one's religious group, anxiety within close relationships, the question of innocence versus innocence lost--all coming-of-age themes, and even themes people reflect on well into their adult years. Most of all, the platform of the early days of YouTube for LG15 allowed for an awesome experiment in audience engagement, which the creators followed through on in a spectacular manner.
And really, those few-minute videos were the highlights of my days. I loved logging on to see a story develop. I remember the days when I would get the newspaper and scrounge through the black-and-white pages for the gold: the small bit of a story that was published on just one page, with an illustration, and I'd have to wait a whole WEEK for the next section. I (read: my mom) would collect the individual clippings until I had a full story, and I would watch the mystery unravel slowly, savoring each moment of intrigue. There were no Netflix binges back then, and YA serial novels were a thing of the future. Sure, we had The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew and The Babysitters' Club, but those got boring after a while, and there were more books than I knew what to do with. I wanted something quick, engaging, and that I could chew around in my head for a whole week while waiting anxiously for the next installment.
In today's fast-paced society, the rate at which people read actual books has significantly decreased. It's partially because there's so much access to information that it's difficult to keep focus on one thing. So there's this new thing that's happening: a magazine that's releasing short stories in serials.
I LOVE this idea, and it's not just because they'll be releasing my story in a couple of months. It's because it's awesome. Whenever I get bored and want a quick fix of creativity: BAM, head over to monthlyfiction.com and catch up on the latest story. It's like a webcomic, but for people who don't really like comics or who prefer more of a focus on narrative and not just dialogue. You can see the story develop in small chunks, one part released per day, EVERY day, for a month. And then when you're done? Another story! Wheeee. It's like sugar: a little bit of sweetness in the morning, just enough to keep you addicted and coming back for a little bit more every day--only, without the physical crash. I like how my brain stews in the images for a while, too.
I'm glad that serials are making a comeback. It signals a new change in reading culture--one that associates with, and has developed from, a past kind of culture. I'm excited to see where the continued integration of digital publishing platforms will direct the whole experience of literacy, especially with promising new methods of engaging reluctant readers. ALL KINDS OF YES.
And to Bree, who died (spoiler alert) dramatically in a 12-part finale: applause for you. It was a pleasure to be a member of your experimental viewership.
PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST
Blog not recommended for sober consumption.