Bloggy Question 36: Mom, I Got the Part!

Needy or Not?

For those who come looking for a short, thoughtful read, a blogging life discussion, or a way to gradually ease back into the week. I offer this bloggy life hypothetical question. . . .

You had almost forgottnen lonelygirl15. You’d even seen the video story on YouTube about a 15-year-old homeschooled girl and her strict religious parents. The series of videos had a huge international following when it was revealed in a New York Times interview that lonelygirl15 was an actress. At the time you didn’t know what to think when that happened. Mostly you didn’t care.

This morning you read this in the Blog Herald.

You may have heard about one of the latest YouTubes making the rounds — the one about the bride who freaks out about her hair on her wedding day, and proceeds to have a meltdown resulting in her cutting her own hair.

You may have also heard about the tidal wave of publicity, once people heard that it was, in fact, staged, with actresses, a script, and a contract. In fact, it turns out all principals involved were interviewed on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and Inside Edition. . . .

You start to care about both of those news stories later when you get a call from an actor friend. . . His next job is too familiar.

He’s explaining how he’s going to be in a video, even mentions a YouTube release. He tells you the plot.

He’s going to be in an office working at a computer, when his boss, a woman, stops by to crticize what he’s doing. Her reprimand will be loud enough to humilate him in front of coworkers. When she’s leaves his cubicle, he gets two minutes demolish the office. He breaks everything, but the chair.

You ask who the client company is. He mentions the name of a furniture manufacturer.

He’s thrilled at the offer is $25,000 and a possible career . . .

How do you respond?

–ME “Liz” Strauss

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  1. says

    I guess I’d say “Congratulations!” How is it any different than getting a part in a commercial? The chair manufacturer is paying for brand recognition, just like with an ad, right?

  2. says

    Hi Chris,
    Except that it will be market on YouTube as a true story if it goes out like the first two. Everyone will think that he’s a guy who “went postal.”

  3. says

    The first time I watched that it was three in the morning. I thought it was hilarious. I got my husband to watch it the next day. He watched it standing up.

    We both think the funniest guy is the one in the back on the computer not doing anything. :)

  4. says

    I think if you are not willing to be part of a fake video on YouTube you shouldn’t be going into acting! You want a career of faking roles and if you can get away with one on YouTube it shows you are a good actor. A viral YouTube advert would be a great item on an actors resume.

    If you turn it down due to ethical concerns than the television and advertising industry is definitely not the right place for you.

  5. says

    Hi Vincent,
    Stansislavski said “Acting is believing.” What you say makes sense, except that in most acting the “tacit contract” with the audience is that the audience knows you are acting . . . especially in commercials.

    Usually when when people “act” and don’t tell us they are acting, we think of that as a “con” or “fraud.” Where’s the fairness to the audience in lonelygirl15 or the wiggged out bride, if they’re led to believe it’s real when it’s acting?

  6. says

    Liz, I’m going to have to differ with you on this one.

    A con or a fraud usually implies separating folks from their money. YouTube doesn’t involve a money exchange on the viewer’s part, does it?

    Maybe I’m more cynical than most, but I don’t believe most of what I see. I consider “Reality TV” a misnomer too.

  7. says

    I think there is a different standard applied to YouTube and than to other mediums. When LonelyGirl was exposed as a fake she was reported throughout the press and became even more popular. Wigout bride is another example, they became more popular and famous after it was revealed they were fake.

    Compare this to any fake blog attempt. When these are exposed there is an enormous backlash.

    So are people expecting YouTube to be fake? The reaction seems to be “you got us on that one!”

  8. says

    I hear Vincent, but how long do you think that will last? One or twice and it’s interesting. Now folks will be looking for it. Which means that if you go thre with a sincere authentic message, you won’t be believed.

    And the one who is false next will not be AS POPULAR as the last, because it’s been before. So perhaps we are seeing the next evolution of YouTube in the making. . ..

  9. says

    I guess, Liz, I’m with Vincent here. I apply a completely different standard to a YouTube video than to a person I’m in a relationship with.

    I consider YouTube to be mostly silly entertainment (and remember I already said I don’t hang out there so I may be off base on that). If it’s scripted rather than spontaneous doesn’t matter to me.

    Besides, paying my buddy $25K to be part of a scripted video doesn’t seem much different to me than a few teen-agers getting together with a video camera saying, “OK. This is what we’re going to do.”

    Scripted is scripted, regardless of whether there’s money involved.

  10. says

    Yeah, Chris and Vincent,
    I see your point, EXCEPT for the audience . . . that’s where you’re not hearing me. At least it doesn’t seem like you are.

    When a bunch of kids does it, the audience KNOWS that it’s scripted. It’s not polished. It’s not fished. It’s a bunch of kids in dress up clothes.

    But when a marketing company wants to sell jeans and they get a bunch of kid actors together to act like they are a bunch of kids putting on a show — when they are paid shills.

    Then the audience has a right to know that it’s not the same thing. That these are kids pretending to be kids putting a show and they doing it for the purpose of selling jeans.

    That’s the reason Saturday morning cartoons all say “Stayed for this message from our sponsor.”

  11. says

    Now that the truth is out about YouTube vids like lonely girl, viewers will take everything with a grain of salt, believable or not, but at least we now know and it’s best that way.

    Have a bright Monday Liz!

    Oh and the back dorm boys are hilarious!

  12. says

    Hi Tisha!
    I’m thinking in the direction you are. That YouRube has lost some of its YOUness.

    Glad you enjoyed the BackDorm boys. They’re so funny.

    Happy Mondy, do what to let those other cultures know Idon’t represent all Americans onlty those that are off their rocker. :)

  13. says

    I wonder if the sticking point on this one is that YouTube is “supposed” to be amateur video and our scenario is professional video. I can see where folks might get grumpy about the pros encroaching on “amateur turf”.

    Personally I don’t buy into it. It’s not like it’s the Olympics or anything. Oh, wait. That’s a bad example…

  14. says

    Hi Chris,
    That very well could be it. At least it’s the assumption from the view that what you see is authentic and tranparent. If it’s a play it on that level — a play put on by the players that you see for your entertainment.

    I guess an analogy might to find out after all of these years that Al Yankovich was doing his parodies in direct payment from the bands he parodies. that the record studios wrote the new lyrics, and that all along the hated his job. That he did it only for the money.

  15. says

    PS. I still feel Like I’ve been conned before even when there was no money involved. My big brother sued to ‘con” me all of the time. That’s the big brother who had me trained to a whistle.

  16. says

    I guess I see YouTube more as simply another distribution channel for video content. I mean mainline video content providers like NBC, CBS, Sony, etc. are now directly feeding YouTube video content (at least according to your favorite crayon covered reference anyway.)

    I would think we’ve passed the naiveté point. We’re now in “viewer beware zone.”

    So I still say “Good on ya!” to my friend for his $25K score.

  17. says


    I can see your discomfort with this situation. Without explicit notification that the scene is staged, a viewer might feel duped when she finds out the real story. Your friend is knowingly participating in such planned dupery. Except if no claim to authenticity is explicitly made, there is no reasonable expectation that it’s not a setup. How many old “America’s Funniest Videos” were obviously staged, but Bob Saget and company put them on anyway – and people watched and laughed. YouTube is a giant web 2.0 version of AFV; it consists of people’s attempts to get noticed, and unless someone lies about who they are and what they are doing, caveat emptor!


  18. says

    Hi Mike,
    I see what you mean and I love your phrase ‘planned dupery.” I think you should add that to your blog’s very special lesicon. :)

    I just hate that we’re developing a cynical world view in which we need to start looking at what we see with defensive eyes rather than eyes of compassion.

  19. says

    Hey Mike,
    But we wouldn’t put up with that behavior on blogs. Blogs that do that are criticized and and considered bad. . . . . so what’s the differenece? That writers don’t make money?

  20. says

    Video has always been a medium of suspended disbelief from the earliest days of Charlie Chaplin. Maybe that’s why I have an easier time with planned dupery (it is a great term) with it than I do with the written word.

  21. says

    Hey Chris and Mike,
    Wiat.Wait. This will work . . . .

    Let’s start a rock band called “Planned Dupery.” Then we can do music videos and put them on YouTube. We don’t have to be able to play anything because of Lonelygirl15, we can lipsync and pay some cheap studio musicians to play the real tracks like they do on sitcoms. :)

  22. says


    With respect to your more serious comment about self-censorship in the blog community, I think that reflects the fact that different online communities have different sets of social norms. I remember back a few years when I started blogging, there were many more pseudonymous bloggers. The community started to say “Unless you share your real identity, we can’t trust that you’re leveling with us”, and so most who wanted to be part of the conversation came out from behind the mask. No such ethos has evolved in the YouTube space. I can’t speak for MySpace or any others. I’m a blogger, plain and simple.


  23. says

    How true, Mike. Different cultures have grown up in different spaces and developed in different ways over time.

    You are a blogger. I agree with that.

    Plain and simple == now way, do I agree with either. :)

  24. says

    Yeah. Some of us were recently tortured by the Back Dorm Boys too. Of course we were the ones that didn’t get The Life Aquatic either.

    Actually my experience was about the same for both. I stayed through the bitter end thinking it had to get funny eventually. Isn’t the guy in the back of the shot going to do something? Bill Murray and Owen Wilson can’t help but be funny, right?

    I have friends who loved it and told me it was one of the funniest movies they ever saw. But it was painful for me to watch…

  25. says

    Back in the late 80’s I was part of a new product rollout for IBM, and we rented out the auditorium for a customer soire where I talked about the exciting world of switched data communications!

    It was definitely an impressive venue, and the largest crowd I ever spoke to (although I think most people came for the ensuing museum tour).

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