Social Networking and Breaking the Fourth Wall
Last night was the season premiere of The L Word. I was struck by the inclusion of a social networking site into the plot. The Chart, so the story goes, is a new online social networking site that leverages the graphic device they’ve used for several seasons, in which sexual contact between different characters are charted on a large whiteboard in Alice’s home (see the whiteboard on Homicide: Life on the Street for something similar).
In this episode, the characters discuss the new version of Alice’s chart, now an online site, where they’ll need to be upgrading the servers soon because of all the traffic they are getting. We see how active Shane is (of course, we know this).
But wait, what’s this?
A new character, Papi, has more hits than Shane.
And the hit count goes up, while we are watching!
Interesting way to introduce a new character. Later on the show, there’s a call made for Papi to reveal herself, as the hits (i.e., number of new people she’s had sex with) leap up improbably in 24 hours. Is Papi real? Are the hits real? Interesting to see the question of real or fake social networking identities appear in mass media.
That was all I was gonna blog about, but when I went to find a link to The Chart, I found this story. I was on the road when it was published, so I missed it entirely.
From the first season of Showtime’s “The L Word,” a chart mapping the relationships of the character Alice has been a central motif, growing to take over an entire wall. Starting Jan. 7 with the start of the fourth season of the lesbian-themed drama, the Chart is going live, both on the series and in the real world.
Looking for compelling Internet component (like all media executives), “The L Word” creator Ilene Chaiken realized that she could spin off the Chart as an advertiser-supported social networking Web site aimed at lesbians and their friends and families.
Users of OurChart.com will be able to create personal profile pages and then, like Alice, link them into charts of their relationships, whether sexual or otherwise. Three of the show’s cast members – Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey, who plays Alice – are among the site’s founding partners and will contribute original content to the site, as will other invited filmmakers and Ms. Chaiken, who is OurChart.com’s chief executive.
Great tie-in or shameless monetizing? And when the show starts to plug its own spinoffs, I dunno, smacks of inauthenticity.