Men from "drunk girl" video say they were duped

A new twist in a viral video

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published November 13, 2014 3:15PM (EST)

        (YouTube/Stephen Zhang)
(YouTube/Stephen Zhang)

In a revelation surprising to no one who's ever watched a clip go viral, it looks like there was even more fakery involved in that video of the woman pretending to be drunk on Hollywood Boulevard than it originally revealed.

The clip, created by 20-year-old filmmaker Stephen Zhang, shows a "tall, hot brunette" in high heels shambling around L.A. sipping out of a paper bag and asking for directions, while several male strangers approach her and instead offer to take her to their homes. "I got a waterbed, I got all that," says one, while another gentleman asks her to "hang out and go back to my spot" and yet another tells her, "I'll take you to my place. I got some more beer too." The clip has racked up more than 7 million views in five days. As Salon's Jenny Kutner notes, "Of course people behaved deplorably; that’s how they’re known to behave on Hollywood Boulevard."

Yet here's how else people behave on Hollywood Boulevard – like performers. According to a Wednesday report on the Smoking Gun, it wasn't just the girl in the video who was acting -- and the men involved are now saying they were duped. TSG says that "According to two sources familiar with the clip’s production, the men in the video were approached on the street to take part in a 'comedic, hidden camera' video" and were told by Zhang and associate Seth Leach it was "student video." The men were apparently not given release forms regarding their participation. One of them is a local street musician. Another is a tour bus driver who's posted on Facebook this week that he'd believed he'd done "a favor for some camera crew guess this is what I get for being agreeable to someones project… it was supposed to be a funny skit." [sic] Another  man, Mike "Mokii" Koshak, works for a tourist operation. His supervisor told TSG that he'd been asked to "say a couple of lines for a comedy sketch" and "was taken advantage of." And Koshak has shared a message he received from Leach in which Leach says, "The important thing to consider, is that this video is going to get you well known and have a future with us and our company… We are going to be huge and you are a part of it. Just go with it, dude, you are in our team now and we will take care of it." It's funny because if you watch the video, you'd get a sense that men who say things like "Just go with it" are to be strenuously avoided.

TSG says that on Facebook, Leach has now vowed that he's "heading out to LA again tomorrow and creating some more viral videos for your viewing and learning pleasure!" So we've got that to look forward to, I guess. And whatever the filmmakers unleash next, consider this story an object lesson about exploitation and consent. It's just not the one you originally thought it was.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Consent Going Viral Seth Leach Stephen Zhang Street Harassment The Smoking Gun Viral Videos Youtube