The breakup was a setup


does anyone really care?

March 04, 2007|By TROY McCULLOUGH

In the end it was all a hoax.

But for days, a YouTube video of a breakup of two college students in North Carolina had mesmerized hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Questions about the authenticity of the breakup arose from the start, but the over-the-top theatrics were too much for most people to ignore.

Ryan Burke, a 22-year-old University of North Carolina student, had announced plans on his MySpace page for a breakup with his girlfriend, Mindy Moorman, a 21-year-old North Carolina State student. Burke invited the public to bear witness and promised a big show, which he delivered.

With a couple of hundred spectators gathered on the UNC campus on Valentine's Day, Burke first had a campus choir serenade Moorman with a rendition of the Dixie Chicks song "I'm Not Ready to Make Nice" and then launched into a verbal tirade against Moorman and her supposed infidelities. Egged on by the audience, Moorman loudly responded with her own accusations against Burke.

The 10-minute, profanity-laced exchange would have made Jerry Springer proud.

The now infamous video in question is actually several videos. Plenty of people in the crowd that day recorded the event and uploaded video clips of varying quality to YouTube. Some of the more popular videos have been viewed several hundred thousand times. In all, the breakup videos have been viewed more than a million times.

Several people have uploaded videos in response to the event - including a post-breakup interview with Burke and even a half-hearted attempt to re-enact the event.

And the reaction on the Web and in the media has been beyond what anybody could have expected. Some marveled at the oversized theatrics on display. Others were disturbed at how low reality-based entertainment had sunk. But nobody seemed capable of ignoring the event. There was just too much of a melodramatic narrative unfolding before viewers' eyes to be tuned out.

But last week Burke finally came clean: The event was staged, he said, to bring attention to the power of the Internet. He and Moorman weren't even really dating. And though his goal had been to get attention, Burke admitted that even he was surprised by the video's response.

"The fact that actual news agencies are interested was a surprise," Burke told the Charlotte Observer. "We did think it would get some media attention, but not from those outlets," such as newspapers.

Many viewers had suspected a setup from the start. And nobody really appeared to be too surprised by Burke's admission. The story behind the story was beside the point. A fiery car crash, after all, immediately draws one's attention, whether it's seen on the evening news or on a movie screen. It was the effort put forth that caught the imagination of the masses and allowed people to suspend their disbelief. And for their effort, Burke and Moorman have received the notoriety they craved.

"And so we've been had," wrote one of the YouTube video uploaders last week. "Ryan Burke has confessed to the hoax and quite frankly it's disappointing. Even so, the video itself is quite hilarious and well played out."

So, sure, it was all a hoax.

But in the end it didn't matter.

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