Award-Winning Documentary “talhotblond” Uses Multi-Platform Approach

tall-blondeThe Seattle International Film Festival awarded Barbara Schroeder’s cautionary internet tale talhotblond with the Grand Jury Prize in its documentary competition last Sunday.

The true crime tale, which made its world premiere at Seatlle, narrates the bizarre murder of a young man in upstate New York — and a direct result of an ongoing false performance and hookwink of an assumed online identity.

The strange events leasding to homicide unfold after Tom, a 47-year-old ex-Marine, meets whom he is duped into believing is a “tall hot blonde” 18-year-old girl in an online forum of gaming site Pogo.com. His handle is “marinesniper.”  A cyber-strange and obsessive steamy online affair begins…

“Talhotblond” soon wraps “marinesniper” around “her” finger and before long drives him to commit the murder by preying upon his compulsion to preserve a fantastical online identity.

Law and Order: SVU recently had an episode based on this case.

Ms. Schroeder, a former investigative reporter for KTTV in Los Angeles, and a recognizable face from Extra!,  relied on transcripts of thousands of emails and IMs sent back and forth between the two subjects to gain insight into their perspective psyches.

She filed a number of freedom of information petitions to acquire the material, she contends. However, an insider at the court house slipped her the documents on the QT, most likely paid for it, as invesigative reporters tend to have such insider “informants” in the court system.

“The IMs read like a romance novel that ends like an action adventure,” said Schroeder.

She states she made the film to call attention to a seeming lack of laws to protect victims of internet fraud.

Academically, this calls into question of  “who” any of us truly are online — genderless handles like “HappyGoLucky” or “Fun331” can be man or woman to anyone; how “real” are chatroom interactions when it’s all zeros and ones in the fnal scheme?  Even if we use our real names online, do we act the same in cyberspace as we do in the RL (real world)?  Philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard contend that we all have “electronic doubles” that serve and interact online through emails, IMs, chats, blogs, and so on.

The documentary’s use of multiple platforms to tell a story — film, journalism, IMs, chats, emals — is a growing trend as old forms of narrative integrate with new media methodologies.

More and more cases of online originated tragedy and crime are arising, such as the case of the teenage girl who committed suicide when she believed a boy rejected her, a boy who did not exist, and the trial that came after, now held up by a Federal Appeals Judge who finds the prosection unsound and “so weird.”

The end result of this case may change how all our digital dopplegangers act.

The moral of al this…be wary of who you talk to on your computer, and givern yourself accordingly when you present yourself to others on the vast landscape of the Internets.

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