tangents:

  • another repetition that i should have included in the video but didn’t was lo’s long walk across the yard into a dramatic confrontation with audrina in the first episode of this season which was a clear repetition of lauren’s long walk across the yard into a dramatic confrontation from last season’s finale. again, the newer version was much weaker. also the previously discussed “whitney is good at work” scene.
  • robbe-grillet probably would have liked the hills: “But the new realism that Robbe-Grillet advocates with the nouveau roman is not the rendering of the “lifelike” and the “typical.” “In this new realism,” he writes, “it is therefore no longer verisimilitude that is at issue. The small detail which ‘rings true’ no longer holds the attention of the novelist . . . ; what strikes him . . . is more likely, on the contrary, the little detail that rings false.””
  • this season, though, for all its repetition and lack of emotion, is striking me as less nouveau roman, less l’ecriture feminine, and more…uh…clip show? “Clip shows today tend to offset such criticism by trying to make the frame tale surrounding the clips compelling, or by presenting clip shows without any framing device. A show might also diffuse the awkwardness by indulging in self-parody, explicitly acknowledging or intentionally over-playing the device.”
  • still, even if the art of the hills isn’t as cutting edge as it once was, the commerce is totally avant garde. from media week: “As MTV’s flagship hit, The Hills functions as a laboratory of sorts for the ad sales and marketing people, a venue where MTV can experiment with pod structure and an array of pod-busting initiatives. “
  • (related: the salary thing which everybody has posted already)
  • i haven’t seen last year at marienbad. i really really want to. netflix doesn’t deliver to korea so i wish people would stop uploading divx cam copies of the house bunny and get on that, please.
  • a french role playing game about the hills. i’m not kidding. (via HLJ)
  • my favorite book about repetition and reenactments
  • did anybody else hear an echo of mccain in the doug-lauren “yr house/yr laguna house” exchange?
  • also on politics, a correspondent sent in this very entertaining comparison of speidi and the clintons. not to horn toot, but i still feel that i set the standard for this sort of thing (also).
  • notes on lo
  • there are few things i dislike more than improv/sketch comedy. cats, fake cheese, joy. i like janeane garofalo, though i much prefer rush or sean to air america.
  • i just don’t know what do with overdosin. i just don’t. i feel much more comfortable with the fake virgin thing since i basically already covered it in my madonna/the madonna fake family planning discussion.

meh.

tangents:

  • a bit that got cut from the monologue: “if lauren and heidi are feminist heros, spencer is definitely some sort of existential hero. he’s stuck in this land of women where he is not in charge and can’t be, but he’s smart, he recognizes his situation and recognizes that he’s not in charge, that the old style of masculine posturing and action won’t do anything for him. therefore, he rebels by inaction, not by bowing up his chest or waving around his dick or shoving his hand up skirts, but by doing absolutely nothing. he rebels against his powerlessness by reveling in it, by embracing it, by spending all his time on the couch, growing out his ugly facial hair like some homebound Samson, playing XBOX and sleeping till noon.”
  • cause everybody knows / she’s a femme fatale.
  • i love justinbobby eternally for wearing a leather jacket to a pool party in los angeles in the summer.
  • the interface seems kind of retarded to me but i still think this is a very smart move (here’s a thought, mtv: most people who buy online music do it through itunes. in order to spend their money on your site, they will want to be comfortable with it. one way to make them comfortable is to give them something they are familiar with. so, how about ripping off itunes instead of giving me this confusing, laggy broke-ass wheel-carousel shit?)
  • this site, meanwhile, continues to be a total letdown. it makes nonsociety look good.
  • do i even have to draw the connection?  we can rebuild her, we have the technology, blah blah blah.
  • this report makes me almost as happy as when i heard that anecdote about michelle obama being able to recognize brady bunch episodes by the opening shots.  live every week like it’s shark week.

anniversary

July 31, 2008

“A typical week begins with producers calling the core cast members on Sunday and getting intel on what’s happened to them over the weekend. An e-mail update is sent to the staff that night so everyone can prepare for Monday’s ”story meeting,” in which the producers and story editors sit around and dissect the Hills girls’ personal and social lives. From that, they determine whom to film during the week. (On average, it takes editors four to six weeks to cull through the footage and put together an episode.) Lauren and her costars are forbidden to attend these meetings. ”I would love to sit through one of those,” says Lauren, ”because it’s really them being like, ‘Yo, did you hear what this person said?”’

OMG DREAM JOB!!! this is a really good article, maybe the best one i’ve ever read about “the hills.” there is a lot i would like to say about it but i am trying to avoid burning out and using up all my material before the season even starts. (unless someone wants to quote me in something that i can add to my sad, flimsy resume since i spent this year writing a blog about “the hills” instead of submitting stories to small literary magazines like i was supposed to and so now i have to build a portfolio and do tedious grad school applications at the exact same time that i am writing obsessively and at great length and hopefully with video illustrations about this (possibly final) season of the most important show on television.)

on a related note, today is my one year anniversary! thanks so much to everyone who read, commented, or wrote or linked to me, especially virginia heffernan, rex sorgatz, michael newman, and also crypto who i never ever link to but who is always writing the nicest fucking things about me.

117 posts (favorite #1,2,3)

126,000 words (roughly) (favorite #1,#2)

196 comments (favorite)

6 chapters of fan fiction (favorite)

50 songs (favorite)

8 videos (favorite)

75,844 hits (favorite)

i know this is crudely done, sorry. my brain is broken.

tangents:

lauren cries

  • the most worthwhile section of “the hills aftershow” has changed since the show came back from hiatus. that section, “ask the hills,” used to be about asking all of the girls superficial cosmo-quiz kind of questions about their lives (what movie made you cry? what was your worst kiss? what’s on your ipod?). since the show returned for the continuation of season 3, it’s mutated into “ask lauren” and it’s become less about superficial things and more about big issues, big questions (although of course there are still superficial things, there always superficial things). last week we heard lauren pontificate about celebrities and the falsity of dramatic acting and cinematic performance. this week, she’s talking about the nature of fame.

  • what does it mean to be famous? let’s ask lauren:

  • “it’s very up and down. i mean, for example, i’ll get to do cool stuff and go on the show with you and there’s all these people screaming and they’re all so nice. and then someone takes a picture and they put it on the internet and the same amount of people go and say how ugly and fat you look and tear you down.”

  • there’s a lot more there that i don’t have time to parse – check it out.

  • the show opens with audrina looking at a new apartment. here, as they have throughout this mini-season, the concepts of “space” and “distance” predominate – the way physical distance can equal emotional distance (audrina’s separation from lauren and lo in the guesthouse, how lauren describes audrina in the show open as becoming “more and more distant,” heidi’s desire to put “space” between spencer and herself), the way physical proximity can equal emotional closeness (the fact that lauren and lo are just “five feet apart” means they have “slumber parties” every night). note that one of the first things that audrina notices is that the apartment “is such an open space,” which justinbobby echoes. in reality, audrina is downtown but, metaphorically, she’s a world away from lauren and lo in her “little tokyo” loft. audrina herself notes feels like she’s “so far away from everyone,” but this seems to a good thing; she wants her physical distance to mirror the emotional barrier she feels between herself and the blondes.

  • visual idioms predominate: justinbobby doesn’t ask audrina if she wants to live in the apartment or if she thinks it would be fun to live there, he asks her if she “thinks she sees herself living there” [italics mine]. i.e. what he is asking her to do is to see herself from outside herself, in the third person, living in the apartment, as, of course, she might if she watched herself living there on the television show “the hills.” the first thing audrina says is that she “likes the view,” and justinbobby gives it the ultimate stamp of approval when he says it “probably looks pretty at night.” also, beyond language, the dominance of the big picture window in the compositions. the desire most of us have for good light in our homes is compounded by the need for good light to shoot an attractive television show.

  • also the way justinbobby’s sunglasses are hanging from his ears from the entire scene is ridiculous and great, the sweet, pure poetry of the banal.

  • next, my dear, lovely heidi. just like lauren became “the girl who didn’t go to paris,” now heidi has become “the girl who didn’t go to vegas” (well, actually, she’s the girl who went to vegas for a day and then came back with her boyfriend and his sister, but that lacks a certain poetry, you know?). it’s instructive to contrast the stereotypes associated with these two cities and how they tie in with the girls’ characters. paris, with its air of sophistication, fashion, and fantasy fits lauren: lauren stayed in college, she worked for a magazine (i know, it’s not exactly “harper’s” or “the new yorker” but it is a magazine that is read as well as looked at), she dresses with class (just go with me here, haters), expense, and sophistication. the fact that heidi was set to move to vegas is even more richly connected to her character. heidi is lower class than lauren, both economically and culturally. as she is forever wont to remind us, she came from a small town in colorado instead of super-rich laguna beach. she dropped out of college and, instead of working in the well-lit, comfortable offices of a fashion magazine, she got her start standing outside of clubs, “working the door” the ways whores “work the street.” when it’s time for her major, character-defining trip, she doesn’t go to haute culture paris, she goes to ho culture vegas.

  • this distinction is clear in the scene where heidi and bolthouse are being shown around the hotel. the only job that heidi is clearly assigned to do in vegas is to remake the pool area of a hotel to look like st. tropez – in other words, to create a simulation of european glamour in the desert of the surreal, a place where middle-class americans can sun themselves and pretend to be something and somewhere that they’re not. her job, then, is to be an enabler of fantasy; a fantasy that, like a disney world princess castle, might seem convincing enough until you can see what lies beyond the facade.

  • this situation, like the paris-vegas comparison, is just another way that heidi’s being reminded that she’s not as good as lauren, another way of illustrating that she’s a second, a sidekick, a buddy – not pretty enough (get new boobs, a new nose), not smart enough (you didn’t go to college, but read books and talk about them loudly, pretend to get a high powered job), not important enough (get a fashion line cause she did too, start a singing career). in the past, her life was seemingly controlled by lauren and then by spencer – she was a pawn in their tug of war. her attempts this season to become independent, to gain agency, fail – just like lauren, she gives up her career for a guy. (cue people making jokes about g. bellafante’s “feminist hero” remark).

  • yet, heidi’s choice to leave vegas just like lauren’s choice to stay with jason, while it is cast as the wrong decision in the world of the show, is in the real world certainly the right decision. we should be aware of the differences between the two: lauren’s decision to stay with jason instead of going to paris seemed like a “real” choice (i.e. in the real world, lauren was offered the choice to go to paris for teen vogue, but she really declined because she really wanted to stay with jason (and stay on her TV show)), heidi’s decision to reunite with spencer instead of staying in vegas seems undoubtedly to be a “fake” choice (i.e. the choice to stay and work in vegas never actually existed in the real world and there was never a possibility that heidi would have stayed – it was completely constructed to create drama within the show.)

  • but real or fake, their choices were or will be cast as negative in the world of the show. in the world of the show, they turned down promising career opportunities for these asshole/loser guys. yet though they have made the wrong decisions for their fake careers, they have both done the right thing for their real careers as television stars.

  • all of this heidi-lauren comparison is underlined in the scene of brent bolthouse waiting outside the hotel for heidi, who…gasp…never comes. this is a completely self conscious echo of the scene of lisa love “waiting” outside airport for lauren in the season one finale.

  • (also, brent bolthouse wants to be like mark ronson so bad it hurts.)
  • the attitudes “the hills” has toward reality is echoed in sbe creep sam nazarian’s tour of the hotel. “this area will be completely redone,” he says, “all the audio-visual.” (dubbing/cutting/restaging, etc.). “all the old stuff will go out and new stuff will come in (the way roommates are cycled in and out of lauren’s apartment, the way the apartments themselves are cycled through, the way the old boys are used up and tossed away (poor weird jordan eubanks), the emergence of the new boys to be chewed up and spit out (doug reinhardt and audrina’s new guy)). “just imagine everything you’ve seen and then completely unimagine it.” (the shattering of fairy tale fantasy, the evolution of soap opera narrative, of micronarrative, the combination of cinematic tropes with carefully chosen elements of reality TV). of course, since it’s characteristic of “the hills,” this scene ends not with an important or even significant conversation, but with characters standing in a magic hour sunset, gazing off at something in the distance, taking in a view, a vista, a vision.

  • so spencer interrupts the fake dinner (i wonder what they were talking about. was it an actual business dinner and heidi was just sitting in or were they just shooting the shit? did they really have business to do in LV or were they just there for the purposes of the show?) so that he can have a fake confrontation with heidi. note again the focus on space and distance; spencer’s breaking point w/re:to giving heidi space was when she left LA and went to vegas, that was when he decided to make his move. like the bizarre scenes with stephanie as spencer’s accomplice, this is a pretty bad. you might think it’s that the performances are bad, but they’re not (spencer’s double shushing of stephanie in the car is fantastic). it’s just that the things that heidi and the pratts are saying simply do not make sense – the scenes themselves do not make sense. like, stephanie finds out where heidi is and tells spencer where she is and says something like “let’s blow the doors” and yet when they arrive at the hotel, stephanie is shocked that spencer is getting out of the car and going into the hotel. it’s just…crazy. anyone who can still argue that this show is scripted should watch these scenes over and over; they are profoundly illogical in a way that seems (to me) as if it would be impossible for any experienced screenwriter to write.

  • the low quality of these scenes is a function of the fact that spencer and heidi and stephanie are trying to make something that they know to be fake to seem real (in other words, that they are acting) but it’s also a function of the fact that we, as educated viewers, know that these scene is constructed, more constructed than the others – we can believe with something approaching certainty (which is not usually the case on “the hills”) because of our knowledge of the secondary texts. that certainty removes any sense of dramatic stakes from the proceedings; it removes our ability to slip into the mimetic trance and so we are stuck in our critical, skeptical mode.

  • also that scene, with spencer interrupting the dinner is short, it’s minor. at the end of it, we see a look on heidi’s face that makes it seem as if she’s giving in to spencer, but then she immediately goes back to the table and sits down, all business but obviously in turmoil. in any other movie or television show or book, we would need more than this, we would have another scene, a drawn-out, climactic reunion scene in the hotel room or in a restaurant or something, in which heidi and spencer would have this cathartic moment and finally break through their relationship “drama” to come back together. we don’t have that here. why? was it shot and cut for time? was it shot and then the producers decided it was too inauthentic or badly performed? was it not shot at all, deemed unnecessary – did the producers decide that, on “the hills,” a look is enough?

  • instead of that scene, we have a gotcha! sort of surprise reveal. it’s the same as the reveal in the season one finale, where there is an extended scene of lauren packing and then we are crosscutting between her in her car and lisa love waiting at the airport and jason at the condo and we don’t know what she’s going to choose and SURPRISE she chooses jason. this season, we see brent waiting and and waiting and we’re wondering where heidi is, we’re waiting with him, and SURPRISE she’s at the airport with spencer and stephanie. i see this as sort of a vestigial reminder of first wave reality TV, of the way that reality competitions like survivor used misleading or purposely obtuse editing to create cheap drama about who would win a competition or who would be voted off of the show.

  • alright, enough with them, now lauren. in this episode, lauren is in four scenes. in three of those scenes, she is doing exactly the same thing: thinking about audrina, worrying about how she has to talk to audrina, wondering whether she really has to talk to audrina, and then talking to someone about audrina and whether she has to talk to audrina and how she’s worried about talking to audrina and how she should talk to audrina. she does this first with whitney and then twice with lo. there are minute differences, but over and over again, it’s really lauren talking at someone about this audrina situation and not listening to the things they have to say (which is funny because both whitney and lo actually have cogent, useful things to say – whitney basically diagnoses the whole situation, to which lauren gives the bullshit-i-am-not-listening response of “yeah, it’s weird.”)

  • this repetition is such a tremendous waste of time, of both actual time and plot time – it’s something that would never fly on a fictional teen drama like, say, “gossip girl.” yet to me, it is absolute wonderful and true. it represents in a formal way how self-absorption, obsession, passive-agressivity, affect our daily lives. people criticize they way the “work” scenes on “the hills” are rarely about work, how they’re just a chance for lauren or heidi to talk about whatever issue is on their mind at the time. but that’s why those scenes are so good: they’re a representation of the way that when something is on your mind, everything becomes about that something.

  • something i have been thinking about lately is the way “the hills” (the main text of the show) approximates the texture of thought and memory. like, when i’m remembering things, my memories are of course subjective and self-centered. this restriction to my experiences create this very narrow alternate universe, the same way the los angeles of “the hills” doesn’t have black or hispanic or asian people and no one talks about the war in iraq or terrorist attacks. i don’t remember entire conversations or entire scenes, i get snippets, fragments – my brain jump-cuts through whatever has caught in the memory bank, details both banal (“all fish cooks fast”) and deeply emotional (“you know what you did…you KNOW what you did”). i don’t know, just a blip.

  • (but i have a lot of retarded theories, like the malcolm-gladwell-if-he-huffed-gasoline idea i had about how you could compare the evolution of celebrity to currency and how it used be backed by something solid, gold, the gold standard, and then we went off the gold standard and it is backed by fiat currency, by promises and pieces of paper, at least according to wikipedia, some kind of stupid pseud analysis that would ignore the fact that i know nothing about economics for the fact that i know a lot about celebrities and end with an overheated prose poem, all that is solid melts into air, blah blah blah i haven’t done drugs in almost a year and my brain still does this shit)

  • lauren talks to whitney about audrina: notice the extreme detail with which lauren relates the minutiae of how audrina moves through space, accompanying her speech with hand gestures to make sure whitney understands: “honestly, i don’t see her that much….well, cause she has the back house, so she doesn’t even walk through the house, she walks to the side of the house…so like most of the times, most of the times when i see her it’s like her passing by.”

  • lauren tells whitney she wishes she “did something” she wishes there was a “reason” that audrina. what she’s wishing for is a plot, a plot point – she’s wishing for some clean, neat way to take this conflict and resolve it and make everyone happy. but this is (faux)reality – that’s not possible.

  • lauren: “the thing we have in common is that we live together, so if you take that away, i don’t even know what would remain.” damn. of course, you could also replace “live” with “are on a television show.”

  • also, damn, whitney is dubbed like crazy in that scene.

  • lauren talks to lo about audrina (scene 1): note the camera laying in wait outside for audrina to leave her apartment and the carefully choreographed, perfect pan of audrina passing the window as lauren and lo prepare dinner. (also note how lo says “behind”)

  • lauren talks to lo about audrina (scene 2): note the way that lauren doesn’t tell lo that she’s upset but sits quietly and waits for lo to recognize it in her facial expression. note that space and distance again dominate the conversation. lauren doesn’t say that the conversation will be difficult, she says, “i feel uncomfortable even going out there” and lo says “yeah, that’s what’s difficult about the situation,” like, the “going out” is the incredibly difficult thing. they’re talking about walking a few feet, from one door to the other, as if its crossing the sahara or something.

  • and i know all this space and distance reading i’ve been doing is such lit 101 shit, but it’s also so true, so real. i lived in a house with four other people last year. in the house, there were two bedrooms that were markedly larger than the others, two that were obviously smaller, and one medium sized. i claimed the medium sized one (duh) and then fights began over who wanted the larger rooms. people wanted the larger rooms because they wanted to be the hangout spots, the places where everyone would want to spend their time, the popular places. there a was a bitter fight and an uncomfortable truce. in the end, our group spent very little time in either of those rooms, which were located at the far ends of the house, and spent a lot of time in my medium sized room in the middle of the house. i was neutral, like switzerland. space and distance = emotion. ok, i know you don’t care about my personal shit and it’s really not important but what i am saying is maybe it’s because i’m 22 like lauren that i am able to recognize that this shit is so real and compare it to my own life and maybe those who are more mature (either in years or intellectually) can’t always identify with her in the same way. i can’t help but identify with her. i am self centered and immature and possessive, i have done things to alienate friends, i hold a grudge, i have had stupid fights, i have had a whole lot of incredibly banal conversations. i know i can relate to her and i know i can do it in a much more tangible way than i can to stephen dedalus or nick carraway or any of the sad young literary men.

  • (not to exclude anybody with the above; there are some people who are older than me that understand the show better than i do.)

  • so, then, the big finish. lauren somehow manages to make it out the door, across the lawn, and past the pool! she comes into audrina’s guesthouse and…dramatic pause…audrina’s… reading a book! something i really admire about this show is how it over and over again has featured its characters reading books (not to mention the whole heidi and spencer whose-books-are-whose scene and their interviews about how much they love to read and what books they’re reading). it often seems forced or unreal, like they’re reading the book upside down, but i love the sentiment of it. you know the producers could care less whether they’re considered smart or not; they don’t. the characters are choosing the way they want to be seen and they want to be seen reading books. this says to me that they think of reading, like reading a real book, of ink and paper, as something that they should be doing, even if its not something they might want to be doing; it’s important enough to them that they fake it. (or maybe they really are reading, who knows) as lo would say, it warms my black little heart.

  • (to me, this is also an echo of daytime soaps. when i was unemployed last fall and watching “the young and the restless” everyday, i was always struck by the staggering amount of literary references made every week (off the top of my head, i can remember references to dostoevsky, tolstoy, and gabriel garcia-marquez – there were many more). these were not, like on “lost,” cryptic allusions made by the creators that we were supposed to dig through the internet and our libraries to understand and to understand how they related to the show; they were always made directly in dialogue between the characters, who would make some kind of extended reference or (gasp) even a direct quotation to a book that they had been reading recently or had read when they were younger and then make clear exactly how it related to the situation they were going through at that moment. i always viewed this completely anti-realistic gesture as a way for soap opera writers who might feel intellectually insecure or marginalized to overcompensate, to sort of flex their intellectual muscles and say, “hey, i’m smart, too, even if you don’t think i am.”)

  • it’s so wonderful that the biggest emotional gift that lauren can think to give audrina, the absolute boldest way she has of reaching out to her, is to tell her that she has “good taste”; not to compliment her personality or how she’s handling her life and relationships or her career success, not to compliment her intellect or physical beauty, but to compliment her acquired taste, her cultural cachet, and her ability to arrange items in space according to visual signs like color, texture, material, size, and shape (in other words, to compliment her ability as set decorator and costumier and make-up artist). “i knew you would make it amazing because you have good taste.” it’s a fitting conclusion to the whole “all women have fashion in common” loop and it’s a really big thing for lauren to say, considering that, even if her fashion line has not been particularly well reviewed, she is considered by many teenage and college girls to be an arbiter of style (note MTV trying to cement that on their website, as if she’s fucking jackie o or something). because the thing is, i bet lauren doesn’t think audrina has great style. yet she forced herself on national television to say that and to try to make it sound convincing. it’s tiny and incredibly superficial, but it’s also a big heartwarming thing to do, i think.

  • audrina: “it’s different, it’s weird living here” not because of lo being bitchy or lauren not being supportive but “because like at the apartment, our rooms were next to each other, so it’s like, i don’t know why i feel weird going [hand gesture] up-stairs, like it’s not my business being up there kind of…” SPACE! DISTANCE! DISTANCE! SPACE! lauren doesn’t respond by saying i want to talk to you or i miss being with you, she says, “but i want you to come up!” i.e. THE STAIRS!

  • audrina: “i know just sometimes when i’m talking to you, you’ll ignore me.” this is meta shit, for real. this is one of the sounding-board characters acknowledging the lauren monologues that she has to sit through over and over, knowing that she can’t say anything because it’s not “her” scene, it’s laurens. the dubbed line attributing the cause of this to lo is an attempt to shift the blame away from lauren (because if audrina doesn’t have a relationship with lauren, she doesn’t have a career). lauren immediately gets nasty defensive, though. she asks “when have i done that to you” and when audrina stays strong, lauren asks for a specific time. one might say audrina could just play her a dvd of the show, but the first rule of fight club…lauren immediately shuts down at the first sign of being judged or criticized – when she is given a dose of her own medicine, she doesn’t like the taste.

  • the fuses blew in my apartment and i am like writing by candlelight on the last hour of my laptop battery, so please forgive errors.

  • lauren: “that’s what friends do, they talk to each other when they have problems. i’m right here, you can walk in there.” in other words, lauren wants audrina, whose theme these past few weeks has been a desire for privacy, to step into the TV house without curtains and bare herself, tell things. this is also the great oprah book club-what we talk about when we talk about being friends-emoticlip-i know you can relate moment..

  • lauren’s movie star tear is beautiful. also, in “the hills:off the record,” it was beautiful to hear her cry in the bathroom, my favorite part

  • lauren: “i’ve never let the opinions of others affect my friendships. i don’t do that.” SAYS THE GIRL STARRING IN A TV SHOW THAT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WATCH EVERY WEEK.

  • best scene ever.

  • and so now that this season is over, where can the show go? the title of the finale was interesting: “the next move is yours.” usually, the show titles are drawn from an important line in the episode, but after watching this episode several times, i still haven’t heard that line (did i just miss it?). who is the you in that title? does it refer to the heidi and lauren drama, i.e. what will happen next, who will extend the olive branch, can they ever reunite, do they ever want to? does it refer to audrina and lo and lauren, the roomies, and the complicated spatial-emotional dynamics underlying their relationshp, the geometry of their tension and angst? does it refer to whitney? (no, it doesn’t). does it refer to us, the us that watch weekly, and whether we’ll stick with the show through the hiatus, whether we can be sustained by tabloid headlines and glossy interviews, whether we can and will continue to make these girls stars with the power of our gaze and attention? anyway you cut it, the reference to games(wo)manship is apt.

  • secondary sources:

  • this “behind the scenes” tour of stephanie pratt’s apartment is wonderful. filmed on a shaky handheld camera by the MTV remote control blogger, it shows us her incredible ability to reel off a list of brand names and her enormous closets and ridiculous amounts of clothes. FYI, she loves “arrested development,” “friends,” and david sedaris books (like heidi and spencer, she has several bookshelves and makes overt reference to them).

  • richard lawson, whose “hills” posts i have found at turns inspiring and disheartening this spring, makes the assertion in his finale post that “the hills” should acknowledge the girls’ fame and their careers. over this mini-season, during which richard and many others have complained that the show has become boring and stagnant, “the hills” has only gotten higher ratings and become a larger cultural phenomenon. while on the one hand this growth does add to the sense of “unreality” of the show, on the other hand, my feeling is don’t fix what’s not broken – i don’t think MTV is going to risk fucking with their cash cow while it’s still producing milk. the cast, too, seems to have no interest in exposing these other parts of their lives (lauren doesn’t want her fashion line shown, whitney doesn’t want her personal life shown, lo seems content to be a minor, sounding-board character who has mini-drama with audrina (lauren noted that she’s dating a guy “off camera”), heidi and spencer might want more of their lives shown, but want it done in their own spin-off). it just doesn’t make sense for either the producers or the cast to want to add these new elements to the show and therefore i don’t think they will. whether this fucks them or not remains to be seen.

  • you must read this: zigzigger fucking kills it on the sex tape, among other things: “The sex tape and the actions surrounding its ambiguous existence constituted an event or non-event between seasons, whether real or imagined or merely rumored, which directed the narrative into one of intense passion and drama–a real soap opera. The fact that no one can say if it exists makes the sex tape into the perfect emblem for The Hills as text and object of intense cultural significance–it is at once too real and not real enough. Presumably, if it exists, the sex tape is the mediated representation that could never be questioned in terms of its authenticity–it would be the true evidence of people’s intimate lives.”

  • also, i never really liked how anti-pseudo-intellectual videogum was towards “the hills,” but the comparison of lo to (i’m assuming) little edie from “grey gardens” is so incredibly right on.

my song this week is a cover of “the sign” by ace of base. i could make some kind of painful semiotics joke, but really, truly, honestly, genuinely, it’s all about the sign.

  • [the above video is maybe NSFW for about 5 seconds, although that moment is nowhere near as disturbing as the rest of the video]
  • this latimes feature on heidi and spencer is one of the most intelligent responses to them i’ve read in the mainstream press. spencer and heidi aren’t really saying things that are all that different than what they’ve said before, re: their roles on the show, but for some reason the phrasing and the confidence level here are different. spencer in particular is on fire, every quote is a pull quote:

    • “Obviously we’re entertainers. We are trying to entertain in every aspect of our lives,” says Heidi Montag, with boyfriend Spencer Pratt.

    • “We’re always the juicier story,” Spencer said. Switching to the third person, he added, “And when Heidi and Spencer are gossip machines, it’s like, ‘What did Heidi and Spencer do?’ “

    • “Every hour,” he said. “Every different magazine, every blog texts, like, ‘We heard this, we heard this.’ Most of the time, people are just making things up, trying to get you to give a source quote. Or give one line just so they can build something. On every site, in every magazine, they need content. It’s the most competitive industry in the world, I would say, the pop culture media game.”

    • “We were all of a sudden in pages next to Brad and Angelina and TomKat.”

    • “Janice Min at Us Weekly is like a family member to us,” Spencer said. “We love her. If my mom and her are e-mailing me at the same time, I’m like, ‘Uh, Janice or my mom?’ “

  • the best quote is related to the nature of fauxreality performance. the writer, kate aurthur, notes that “the criticism of Paris Hilton was once that she was famous for doing nothing, which, though it was never actually true, had a certain sting. But what Heidi and Spencer do — and there are others with their kind of fame, such as E! celebutante Kim Kardashian — can’t possibly be called nothing…” then there is a spencer quote:

    • “No celebrity does anything, really,” Spencer said. “Unless you’re a famous athlete who actually physically does something, like, how much work is reading lines from a script? We’re improv TV personalities. That’s way harder.”

  • let’s avoid for now a discussion of the craft of acting and “how much work is reading lines from a script” and instead listen to what spencer’s arch-enemy, lauren conrad, said about whether she would want to date a celebrity. this is from an interview segment on “the hills: aftershow” a few weeks ago – the show’s host asks her, “if you could break up a celebrity couple and move in, who would it be?” ignoring the weird specificity of this question and the fact that it would make lauren, with all her trust and relationship issues, a homewrecker, the fact that it grounds what should be a silly fantasy in angst and moral tension, let’s listen to her response:

    • “i don’t really want to date a celebrity, though.”

    • [the host asks her if she has any celebrity crushes]

    • “not really, they’re always disappointing. it’s always such a let down, you know?”

    • [host: "when you meet them in (sic) real?"]

    • “yeah. everyone looks better when they’ve been color corrected and on camera and told to say the right things and done a million takes.”

  • one of the interesting things about this interview is that it’s operating under the assumption that lauren conrad is not a celebrity, which of course she is. this sort of “what celebrity would you date” question that we all ask ourselves takes on a whole other dimension because lauren is a celebrity and probably could date celebrities if she wanted to (and let’s note again that her ex, stephen colletti, did recently date a celebrity, hayden panettiere, which i continue to mention mostly because i think it’s fun to say the name hayden panettiere – it sounds like some kind of creme-filled pastry). the interview question is resting on this distinction between celebrities and “celebrities,” between a-list and b-list, between movie stars and everybody else. this distinction is, i feel, dated, and is disappearing and will continue to disappear. i am, of course, not the first person to say this, but i feel a need to keep repeating it because some people just don’t seem to fucking get it. kate aurthur puts it nicely with a play on the thomas friedman meme – she writes, “the tabloid world…is simultaneously bursting and flat.” she defines “flat” as the idea that,

    • “…every story seems just as important as every other, and the monster needs feeding. that’s what tabloid fame is now: weekly, and sometimes hourly, we must have stories; the lives of the chosen people must appear to move forward.”

  • warhol 15 minutes of fame blah blah blah

  • so, moving past that, lauren says, no, she doesn’t want to date celebrities because “they’re always disappointing.” she says they’re disappointing because they’re “color corrected” and “on camera” and “told to say the right things” and “done a million takes.” even though she either has done these things (been color corrected, been on camera) or has been accused of them (the show being scripted, doing multiple takes of a reality show), the line doesn’t seem ironic or self conscious at all, she seems to really feel th. the main reason that Celebrities, that movie and TV stars are disappointing to her is that in real life, they’re not the same as they are on the screen. they’re “such a letdown.”

  • thus, both lauren and spencer are making strong statements against the notion of traditional cinematic/televisual acting. yet though they share this view, which is of course in their self interest as the main avatars of the style, they see their roles in divergent ways. lauren has always and continues to affirm that the show is “real,” that this is her “real life,” that she is not performing. heidi and spencer have always and continue to assert that the show is performance, that editing has changed the meaning and made them look worse than they are, that the show is “not real.”

  • the most interesting part of the interview is when spencer and heidi’s relationship is discussed. i’m just going to block quote the whole thing because there’s too much:

    • “Indeed, Season 2 was when “The Hills” changed — because Spencer changed it. He and Heidi, who was Lauren’s television roommate and sidekick, had met off-camera after the first season and started dating. Sort of. First, they had to overcome that age-old obstacle of whether he was using her because she was on an MTV reality show. Spencer, after all, had a history that included his own unscripted ambitions as an executive producer and costar of Fox’s failed “Princes of Malibu” in 2005.”

      • so heidi and spencer met off camera while heidi was filming the first season and presumably during her difficulties with then boyfriend jordan eubanks (jordan eubanks, by the way, is making really weird youtube videos which feature cameos by jason wahler, talan torriero from laguna beach, and brian drolet, jordan’s best friend from “the hills” season 1 and someone i think they tried to hook up with audrina. it’s kind of scary, like this island of lost toys where all the exiled male cast members of “the hills” go to live.) anyway, apparently the tension early in their relationship was that heidi wasn’t sure if spencer was just dating her because he wanted to be on TV, a tension i have discussed constantly in the past.

    • “The Hills” needed some evil, Spencer figured. “I saw a clip of the show, and everyone was so nice,” he said mockingly. “Friendly,” he added with disgust. So yes, he wanted to “cause drama” and “get my own show.”

      • this is him acknowledging the fakeness, that he has constructed and is constructing dramatic situations (“cause drama”) not because he dislikes people in the real world but because he thought the TV show was boring and lacked drama and plot. not that he didn’t like someone’s (moral/social) character but that he didn’t like their (televisual) character. okay, and probably the most important thing spencer did WAS to create drama, to bring a larger, catchier, more powerful narrative to the show. it makes this usweekly cover a little more telling. the headline is “the plot to destroy lauren.” the implication is of course a sort of snidely whiplash plan to…i don’t know, make lauren look like a ho? but really, the plot to destroy lauren is plot – is narrative, is story. and it’s a plot to destroy lauren – it’s a story about destroying lauren, it’s not actually doing it. spencer can’t destroy lauren (whatever “destroy” means) because if he does, he and heidi are destroyed too. they are all in the “plot” together because they are all in the plot together.

    • “Viewers loved to hate him for it, as Min saw. What those people didn’t see in Season 2 and still don’t see as Season 3 closes, Spencer said, was him falling in love with Heidi. “I was — and am — so in love with Heidi, and that stuff stops mattering. Our real world is right here.” He gestured at the space between them.”

      • this last part just makes my brain explode it’s so awesome. the reason that people “didn’t see” and still “don’t see the real love” between heidi and spencer on the show is that heidi and spencer have been consciously staging fake relationship “drama” and pretending that they are not in love to make the television show more interesting and to raise their profile. so even if they’re abs. marvy behind the scenes, in the scenes, they are a couple at war. i love his reference to the real world, which i would need to hear the tone of his voice to know if it’s a conscious allusion to the show “the real world” or whether he’s so used to talking and thinking about these authenticity issues in his life that he can use the term “the real world” in an unloaded, reference-free way. then, the coup de grace is that kate aurthur used the word “space” to describe his gesture. because there is something kind of touching and beautiful about him sitting with heidi and pointing to this tiny space in between them and saying “our real world is right here” and this is juxtaposed with, on the show this season, heidi’s bizarre obsession with “space” with her belief in the seemingly mystical properties of “space” and her desire to put more and more “space” between herself and spencer.

  • so, great feature.

  • oh shit, i still have to talk about the TV show. ok, since i already just wrote like a lot i’m going to skip the second by second close reading and talk about three main subjects: heidi and spencer, audrina, and lo

  • first, heidi and spencer. so, amid all this revelation and insight into the “real” heidi and spencer, this week’s episode featured them at their absolute most fake, most staged, most absurd and ridiculous.

  • the heidi/bolthouse scenes seemed to exist not for plot purposes or character development but solely as a sort of commercial for sbe, or, moreover, for brent bolthouse’s ego, as represented by the private jet and the hired car at the end of the episode. b. bolthouse must be so happy he had the foresight to hook up with his sugar mama, miss montag. that old guy on the plane, sam nazarian, seems really authentically skeezy, in that wealthy middle aged businessman dead hooker in the trunk of the car sort of way.

  • i also liked how heidi described spencer – she didn’t say the relationship was over, she used a visual metaphor: he’s “out of the picture” (i.e. off frame).

  • other people have done much more with heidi’s ridiculous interview scene than i could. i have no real commentary, but i do find it interesting that i haven’t heard anyone connect her funniest line (“i would love to get my hands in there and make myself available to you”) to spencer’s radar advice column about anal sex (“My boxing coach Dirty Phi says, “If you stick your pinkie in there, and then another finger, and then another, and she responds happily, then it’s cool.”)

  • the scene with spencer that closes the episode is so ridiculous. it literally doesn’t make any sense. kicked out by stephanie, he goes to heidi’s apartment and when she’s not there, he seems to have a nervous breakdown and calls stephanie, demanding to know where heidi is. maybe…at work? having coffee? the gym? target?

  • on to, lo, my love, my life, my lust. dr. television has an interesting post about the transformation of lo (“the transformation of lo” – nabokov’s other unfinished manuscript). a relevant excerpt:

    • “The problem for The Hills these days is that Lauren and Heidi are seemingly splitsville forever–these two ain’t gonna be friends again and Lauren, at least, seems to have little interest in engaging with Heidi at all, even to accuse and argue. So where’s the new drama? It seems to be brewing between new roomies Lauren, Lo, and Audrina, as Lauren is placed in between her actual, for-real childhood pal Lo and her MTV-generated friendship with Audrina.

      Granted, this totally works as relatable drama. But. It is placing Lo in the position of villainess, and this I just can’t take. Lo is one of the few young women gracing the
      Laguna/Hills-averse that seems to have some smarts. She’s witty, clever, just seems to have thoughts going on behind her sparkly blues. (I really don’t mean to diss the others, especially not Lauren, who delivers some bon mots of her own from time to time.) In this latest friendship drama, Lo is being depicted as forcing Audrina out of Lauren’s life while Audrina is the sad victim of Lo’s actions. [Important aside: Isn't Justinbobby's transformation a-mazing?! Sobriety has made him actually really and truly attractive! He looks great, and is a sympathetic boyfriend/friend/whatever to Audrina!]

      The soap villainess is a crucial character, but in the daytime soap world her villainy comes from somewhere–usually insecurity or desperation or revenge–and her challenges to patriarchal strictures of femininity are a pleasure to love (or love to hate). But Lo is so not this character. No, the brainiest girl on The Hills is cast as the bitch, for no real reason other than to stir up drama. Disappointing, again.”

  • i will say that i am also dismayed by this change. lo seemed to exist in the past purely to be adorable and give people funny names and pronounce words in humorous, affected ways. my personal perception of lo in the past was as a sort of sorority “mom” figure, who makes plans and activities and decorates the spirit wall or whatever the hell else those girls do. she existed as that kind of stereotype, but i think we only saw the positive aspects of that kind of character, the fun stuff. i think she still exists as that kind of stereotype, but now we are seeing the negative aspects, too.

  • but beyond that, the problem i have is with her line that “the brainiest girl on “the hills” is cast as the bitch, for no real reason other than to stir up drama.” my issue is with the word “cast.” yes, this meanness could be a result of the producers trying to incite tension, to “start drama,” and then using editing to focus and hone that drama and, thus, “cast” lo as a bitch. but isn’t it equally possible that…lo can just be kind of a bitch? isn’t it equally possible that she can be kind of nastily territorial with regards to her oldest and closest friend, a thing i think most of us have experienced in our lives, from both smart and dumb people? isn’t it possible that she just really doesn’t like audrina very much and isn’t ashamed to show it? throughout the show, audrina has been a kind of whipping girl; lauren, lo, and even whitney (who is described in the rolling stone article as “neutral,” “like switzerland”) have made myriad subtle and not so subtle condescending remarks about audrina’s judgement and, perhaps more significantly, her poor fashion sense, which they all seem to see as tres gauche.

  • in the same paragraph, dr. television notes that isn’t justinbobby’s transformation amazing? and how he is “really and truly attractive”, that he is now “a sympathetic boyfriend/friend/whatever.” but how can we say that his change is more or less real or more or less constructed than lo’s? how can we say that she is being falsely represented as a bitch but he is genuinely changed when there is just as much of a chance that she is genuinely a bitch sometimes and he is pretending to be different, he is not sober and he is performing his way back into audrina’s heart and back on to our television screen to, i don’t know, support his modeling career. i’m not saying that either scenario is true, but what i am saying is that either of them (or any combination in between) could be and we don’t and can’t know. we have no objective evidence to check this against and we aren’t didactically “told” what’s “really” going on in the show (or, if we are, as in lauren’s monologue, we’re immediately called to be skeptical and not trust what the show “tells” or “gives” us) so a lot of things come down to just personal prejudice and how our subjectivity affects our notion of the show. like, dr. television’s post is ostensibly about how gender is represented on TV and while it is obvious she is outraged to see (someone she perceives as) an intelligent woman portrayed as a “bitch,” it seems more tangible that she is mad that lo, this person she really likes and has formed a bond with, can be kind of a bitch. she’s not angry about a whole gender, she’s angry about lo, specifically, one person. similarly, in zigzigger’s great post, “the hills is real, too,” he departs from his sort of “objective” critical voice to defend lauren’s much-criticized decision to take gavin to see a book about the show at barnes and noble (“I find it so touching to know that she is proud of her accomplishments, but whatevs.”) and to insult gavin with language that’s pretty strong and personal, (“And what’s so great about G? I think this sounds like the bitter disappointment of a guy who was rejected not only by a pretty girl he liked, a fantastic catch, but by a television show that could have made him famous. He sounds like a jilted whore.”). it’s obvious that the critical analysis he’s writing of this show is colored by the fact that he really likes lauren and that he thinks gavin is an asshole. i’m not criticizing them – far from it, i do this all the time and i think these kind of subjective personal judgements and attachments are incumbent to dealing with “the hills” on its own terms.

  • maybe what i’m trying to say is if we’re discussing completely fictional characters, it’s much easier to detach ourselves from them and think of them as things, objects, chess pieces. but since, as zigzigger says, the hills is real, too, since lo and lauren are real people playing themselves, real people with feelings and hopes and dreams, we have some kind of investment in them that we don’t have in, say, kaya (remember kaya?). when people talk about realist fictional dramas, one of the highest compliments that they can pay them is that they create characters that feel real, that feel “three-dimensional,” that could live in the real world. “the hills” doesn’t have to jump this uncanny valley because its characters already are real and three dimensional and live in the real world.

  • so maybe we suffer from the kind of documentarian’s stockholm syndrome, the way that many documentarians are, by the nature of the form, forced to spend lots and lots of time with their subjects, and that this time spent creates a relationship, of like or dislike or a more complex place in between, that colors and shades whatever document is ultimately produced. i don’t know, i’m just rambling now. whatever, errol morris needs to devote one of his times blogs to “the hills” instead of talking about old pictures of cannonballs and shit.

  • (OMG, imagine “the fog of war” but starring spencer instead of robert mcnamara.)

  • (also, thanks dr. television for teaching me that the dramatic pause at the end of soap opera scenes (the evolution of which is such a big part of the “laguna”/”hills” aesthetic) is called the “egg.” i always wondered, but the only description i had ever heard was joey tribbiani’s scatological description in that one episode of “friends.”)

  • speaking of smelling the fart, i’ve finally realized why i’ve never cared much about audrina. i’m gonna get really shallow here, so sorry, just bear with me. i used to think i didn’t like audrina because i didn’t find her as attractive as the other girls on the show. this is shallow, i know, sue me. i don’t mock people on the street for being unattractive, but i do hold people who are on television shows and movies to a different aesthetic standard and i don’t think that’s totally wrong. some people don’t like audrina because they think she’s stupid. i don’t know if she is or isn’t (or how you define that. a lot of people call heidi stupid, my mom called heidi stupid when i talked to her on the phone the other day, but heidi has created a life for herself where she can be paid fifty thousand dollars to sit in a club for two hours, so that sounds like a pretty smart kind of stupid to me) but i think this is as shallow as reason to dislike someone as for their looks. however, i think i’ve finally realized why i don’t care much about her and why i don’t think she’s that important to the show: she’s just not very good at expressing herself.

  • let’s go back to the fauxreality performance vs. dramatic acting thread from earlier. for all the bullshit most people spew about lauren and the gang being talentless, they’re, quite simply, not. they have a skill set, they have tools as performers that not everyone has – you couldn’t just drop anyone into this show and expect them to be interesting to watch and relatable and memorable. this is a skill, either physically or verbally, that audrina just doesn’t have. she really can’t do any of the facial gymnastics that lauren and heidi specialize in and she can’t manage the idiot savant free jazz ballet that whitney graces us with whenever she’s on screen. she’s not as fauxarticulate or quotable as lauren or spencer, she doesn’t say things in the quirky patois that lo and justinbobby and whitney manage, and her speech isn’t as idiosyncratically illogical and insane as a lot of heidi’s monologues are; she just talks kind of like a normal person who doesn’t have a lot of interesting things to say. this doesn’t make her stupid or vapid or ugly, it just means she’s not a very good performer. she’s not a bad or worthless person, she’s just not very good at entertaining us.

  • which makes all the secondary sources that are coming in about audrina right now all the more insane. because audrina, off camera, is becoming a performer in the most old school sense of the word for example, she was seen a few weeks ago in vegas, dancing on stage with the pussycat dolls. though she said this was a one time thing and that she would not be joining the pussycat dolls, she is dancing on a stage in a theater, straight vaudeville. at a bar that night, audrina (reportedly) said, “i’ll be more famous than lauren conrad one day.”

  • and now, according to usweekly, she’s going to be in a movie! like, the old fashioned kind, where people act and they play characters that are not themselves. and, shock, it turns out that audrina has always wanted to be an actress (“this is why i moved to l.a.”) and recently fired her agent because he wasn’t getting her enough jobs. audrina describes her role (“Patridge said she’ll play “the girlfriend of this cocky guy who think he’s the s–t … and I kind of have him wrapped around my fingers.” “It’s cool,” she added, “because on The Hills, I don’t have that.” – i.e. she enjoys the fictional role because she has agency that she doesn’t have in her real life) but won’t say what the title of the movie is (“I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say!” ).

  • this confidentiality is absolutely puzzling, since as a producer it seems as if the main reason you would put audrina in a movie is because she is semi-famous and you might get to be involved in a bliplet or listicle in usweekly or something and get a little buzz. but if that’s not the case, then…why? i guess we’ll see.

  • little things:

  • my favorite line in the episode was when lo said of the new dog, chloe, “her reactions are fantastic.” oh, the irony!

  • the scene with the alkaline trio – so ridiculous. why would epic show us a session for this shitty modern rock band instead of, i don’t know, a musical artist that the audience of “the hills” might actually want to listen to. because audrina has to be ROCK AND ROLL, i guess? getting your song on “the hills” is like the mainstream equivalent of getting a decent review in pitchfork. it’s for people like lo, who “don’t feel cool enough” – it’s a way for them to feel cool, hip, with it – tuned in to the cool teen girl pop zeitgeist, where they can listen to avril lavigne but also yelle and santogold. i am not saying that in a sarcastic hipstery way, i think anything that helps people feel cool is great, i’m just saying. i will admit again that 90% of my hits before the season started were based on viewers searching desperately for the name of a song they heard in a particular episode. the new MTV chyrons that pop up and announce what song is playing have killed a lot of that, but since the show plays completely different (read: crappier, cheaper) songs during the internet airings that some of us are forced to watch, i still get some traffic.

  • in other music news, i spent an inordinate amount of time on my crappy stolen wifi paging through 15 pages of this rolling stone listicle about “the best music moments on ‘the hills'” and they didn’t fucking list the scene with heidi painting the wall to that cat power song! yet they listed two songs by some band called “a fine frenzy”? TOTALLY ridiculous.

  • also, this week, my favorite video blog about “the hills” is skeptical about whether the girls actually live in their new house. they argue that the reason audrina is unfamiliar with the house and the reason they haven’t unpacked the living room yet were able to have a housewarming party is that the girls don’t actually live there and the house is really only a set. who knows, but interesting notion and one that would support the rumor of whitney and lauren moving into an apartment together.

i’ll put up a song later this weekend but until then i’ll leave you with the dulcet tones of jordan eubanks, brian drolet, and talan torriero. if you’re interested, you can hear more of talan’s music at his myspace page. the first two lines of his song “somewhere dead in hollywood” are “looking for a flying diamond starship / just another boy in southern california.” like, totally.

lauren and stephen surrounded by flowers

  • the featured article on radar online today is “the ballad of east and west: the battle between gossip girl and the hills,” a sort of character comparison “steel cage match.” it’s cute. coincidentally, i saw my very first episode of “gossip girl” the other night, on korean TV at like 2 in the morning. it was the episode where the rich girl has a sleepover and the poor girl gets invited and then, wooed by fancy clothes and booze, she starts mirroring the rich girl but then snaps out of it in the end. also her brother the brooklyn guy goes on a date with the bland blond girl and in parallel, his brooklyn dad flirts with the bland blond girl’s mom who seemed like the best actress on the whole thing to me. obviously, it didn’t really work for me, although i may give it another try. there was some snap to the writing and i guess it’s kind of fun and kitschy, but i don’t much get the appeal for adults and the idea that it is even comparable as a cultural force or on an aesthetic level to “the hills” is pretty laughable. although, full disclosure, i’ve never seen a single episode of “the o.c.” which i’ve always felt is a major gap in the knowledge i need to write about “the hills.”

  • (“gossip girl” is the most popular american TV show among the korean teens i teach. obviously, it’s more popular with the girls, although the other day a shy, slightly overweight sixteen year old boy told me it was his favorite show, blushingly saying, “jenny humphrey, she’s my kind of girl.” it was fucking adorable. i always ask the GG fanatics if they watch “the hills,” but none of them have ever heard of it.)

  • but anyway, all this gossip girl stuff is simpatico with this week’s episode of “the hills,” which was even more high school than usual. this was not a difficult bit of analysis to come by, what with all the references the characters make to “high school” and “ninth grade” and “senior year,” the preeminence of lauren’s high school friend lo over her college friend audrina, the reappearance of lauren’s high school crush, and the title of the episode, “a date with the past.”

  • telling perhaps that the first thing lo says about their new house is that it’s “a real house.” yes, “real,” but it’s also a set for a TV show. i wonder if there’s a room where the crew stores their camera equipment or a place set up 24/7 for tab interviews. this thread continues: the first room lauren introduces is “the TV room” – i.e. the room where they will watch TV, but will also be filmed on TV watching TV and talking about TV. note that lauren is narrating; she’s not talking about what the room could be, but what it will be, what she has decided it will be. later lo notes (in her requisite weirdly pronounced word ever episode) that she doesn’t have doesn’t have curtains yet and that she wonders if the neighbors have seen her naked. thus, in the TV house, the window functioning as a screen for voyeurs to look in. (also notice the repetition of “it’s pretty” several times as they gaze at their new digs; this is what’s important, not usability, not features, but prettiness, the quality of beauty (later, stephen will note that the house is also “awesome” and “really nice.”)

  • the thing about audrina’s guest house living being indicative of the rift between her and lauren/lo is so clearly telegraphed (with stephen even saying during his date with lauren, “you guys don’t talk about that at all? …but then again, she’s in the guest house.”) that i don’t really feel there’s much to say about it. it’s another of those things that would be a stupid, cliche device if this show was a fiction but is something more because this is real life and audrina is really lauren’s friend (or was) and she is really usurped by lauren’s closer, high school friend lo, and is really separated from them by physical space (lauren: “i don’t feel like i can go…back there.”), into, as lo diminutively describes it, “audrina’s little house” and i have no doubt that there is real tension between them. also note that the main quality that audrina likes about the guesthouse is that it’s “private” i.e. the opposite of the wired-for-sound main house. one presumes audrina will be buying some curtains.

  • as heidi so memorably noted, “all woman have fashion in common,” but even if all women are created equal, some women are more equal than others. lauren notes, “audrina and i are completely different so, you know, we shop separately.” anyone who looks at the way the two of them dress would probably assume as such, but i prefer to interpret this as the way that when you come to dislike someone, you can view relatively banal things about them (“the way she shops”) as negative and even offensive.

  • spencer’s biggest moment in the episode: getting up from a couch. also note that in the spencer and stephanie scene, the evidence of spencer’s hypocrisy that stephanie brings up is…an example from high school.

  • the scene in the kitchen before the party is great because it’s some of audrina’s best emoting. for once, lauren really doesn’t seem to be trying to be bitchy about JB, she’s just asking a question, but audrina does a face that signals that the topic is off limits, which lauren reads and interprets as such. lo, forever the interjector, then makes a smart ass remark mocking JB and audrina makes this great weird look at lauren and then away when she realizes lauren will offer no support. later, there’s a shot of audrina finding out that lauren talked to stephen and she looks genuinely surprised and happy at being surprised, saying all big teethed and joyful, “oh, you did?!” but then lo shuts her down again by saying, “they’ve been talking for a while,” i.e. we, lauren and lo, BFF 4eva, have already had a conversation about this and you are out of the loop, audrina. this triggers a totally sad sigh from audrina. the wardrobe is great at distancing her, too; lauren and lo, the blondes, are wearing cocktail dresses in pink and bright red. audrina, her hair and eye makeup darker than ever, is wearing a gray sweater thing.

  • high school: lauren asks lo not to “get all ninth grade on me.”

  • brody jenner brings a juicer to the party as a housewarmin gift. also, his new girlfriend! sometimes you’ve just got to love him. great reaction from lauren. justinbobby brings his new haircut, an elaborate outfit, and puts his hand through the flame of a tiki torch. there is also something i really like about justinbobby and brody jenner becoming best friends, about JB becoming “one of the boys.” maybe some sort of web buddy-comedy, triangulated between “rob and big,” “entourage,” and “jackass”?!

  • stephanie: “i think we got some boys on campus.” lauren: “where?…i think they’re, like, workers.” oh lauren, not pretty. this is why i prefer when “the hills” as a.stanley’s maligned “classless utopia.” although an insight into both lauren’s character and the structure of the show came in an aftershow interview when she noted that her biggest turn-off with guys is if they’re rude to waiters…i.e. how they treat the help. just playing, but perhaps this is the reason we always see waiters delivering food and the reaction that the characters have to them (lo’s usually chirpy thank you’s, heidi and spencer’s self-absorbed indifference…). note that stephen colleti is weirdly effusive towards the waiter on his date with lauren (i have never seen someone so excited about calamari).

  • when describing the motions of lauren’s face, i sometimes feel like i’m writing stage directions for a beckett play. smile on, eyes off, etc. related: this great youtube video. also, watch these infomercials in which lauren sells contact solution or some method for cleaning your contacts or something. first, lauren wears contacts? is this some clue into her eyegleam and glint, the way her eyes catch ours? the videos themselves are weirdly overlong and infomercial-y – not particularly viral. the camerawork is awkward, this kind of handheld talking-head stuff that just looks like some high school video project. lauren seems to speak more in each of the videos than she does in an entire episode of the hills, which is kind of disconcerting. also, interesting that lauren is hawking contact solution after her original arch-enemy (kristin cavallari) shilled for lasik eye surgery. makes me think about lauren or heidi getting their eyes insured by lloyds of london like betty grable’s legs.

  • heidi and spencer are truly made for each other, no matter how they pretend they’re not: i love how heidi’s attack on stephanie (“if you are feeling guilty and asking for permission, that’s because you feel you’ve done something wrong”) is a total echo of spencer’s (“you’re making yourself cry, thinking about what you did.”) his and hers insults, like monogrammed bath towels. and what i love is the way that their sort of post-bush rhetorical strategy works, that their complete lack of logic and ability to make a coherent argument always beats stephanie. spencer makes her cry and heidi convinces her to stay in and watch a movie instead of going to the party. since mccain and barry have already made their “hills” references, maybe HRC can hire heidi and spencer as consultants in a last ditch effort to save her campaign. imagine spencer as the new mark penn, that spin master, that devil, he. he could probably implicate BO as having been in a sex tape within the week, all without getting off the couch.

  • when stephanie says to heidi, “i don’t know how this all started,” and when she pretends to lauren she doesn’t know who stephen colletti is, it’s obv. totally bullshit because she could just, like…watch the previous two and half seasons of the show on DVD. she could even get them on her ipod so she could watch them at the gym. it’s like when lauren asks stephen if he’s met justinbobby and he feigns ignorance of who JB is, says, “with the bike?” and she confirms, says, “with the bike.” like he hasn’t seen every episode of the show. the show is sort of straining here from its self imposed restrictions, the fact that it can’t acknowledge that it’s a show and that the characters can’t acknowledge that they’re on it and have seen it. i still believe that’s the right thing to do, though, and that everything that makes the show popular would disappear if this rule was broken. the frosting of artifice seeps into even everyday conversation, where stephen has to pretend he doesn’t know who justinbobby is, even though he does, but he’s pretending this in a real conversation with lauren where real feelings (on her part, mostly) are involved and where she probably hopes to exchange some real emotional trash stuff with him, but he’s pretending because they’re being filmed for a scene, but this detachment based on artifice and television form really isn’t inauthentic because it’s just paralleling his emotional detachment and disinterest in lauren, who is still authentically crushing on him like they are still in high school.

  • and in terms of high school, we can’t ignore that stephen colletti, unlike everyone else on “the hills,” is actually an actor, as in a real actor, not a reality performer (heidi dreams of academy awards but has never actually been in a movie or another TV show). in march, stephen, reprised his role as a minor character on the CW teen drama “one tree hill,” which was about high school students for its first four seasons and which i haven’t seen but seems like a rural version of josh schwartz dramas like “the o.c.” and “gossip girl.” some people on the internet speculate that stephen’s involvement in the episode and the fact that he is spending time with lauren again (after dating another actor, hayden panettiere) is that he’s trying to raise his profile and impress the producers of the show so that they’ll bring him back in a larger role in the sixth season. (also, apparently he is also in some (pilot?) (indie film?) called tinsletars in which he plays a “hollywood executive” named “lou masters.” oh steven, don’t do it…)

  • it’s great that the thing that lauren is most proud of in her 2.3 million dollar house is a flower. the mini-scene with her showing stephen her flower is great because, in the same way that the guest house thing is an obvious fictional device made real, this a romcom/teen movie cliche made real. she’s thought about this scene before the party, she’s set it up, she’s practiced what she’s going to say and how she’s going to hold the flower, how she’s going to move around it, the blocking, how she’s going to look at stephen, what the lights are going to be around her, where the cameras will be; she’s made this scene, this fantasy, she’s, as she said to lo, “built it up.” and then stephen casually breaks the fantasy; he says the flower’s just going to die, that it’s gonna last for “about…three days” and then it’ll be gone.

  • it’s kind of funny, then, that on stephen and lauren’s date, they are surrounded by flowers, and in the midst of these flowers, stephen totally breaks her heart again (for the XXth time? i stopped keeping score). he sets her up with the line about lo (who lauren, sticking to the high school theme, has said is “stuck in senior year” and who lauren has reminded that “we’re not 18 anymore), he says, “she’s kind of like everybody else who wants to see us together,” and you can see the hope rise in lauren’s eyes, like, yes, everyone, my audience, they want to see me happy with a boy and i want that boy to be you. he strings her along a bit, talking about family, before absolutely crushing her with the word platonic. her reaction shot is sad and wonderful and priceless. in that instant she is right back in high school and all of her adult success, her fashion line, her starring role in a TV show, all of the power she has in the social sphere, over her friends and their relationships, none of that means anything at all because underneath it all she still can’t get the boy she wants to like her to like her. stephen’s rejection lets her know that, underneath her success, she is still the person she was in high school and she is still the person that he might toy with for a minute but would never take seriously enough for a real relationship. she is sad and alone and crushed and the whole thing is beautifully tragic. on the car ride home, she clings to this little pearl of a high school memory about she and stephen: she repeats it, reiterates it, expands it, wraps herself in it. it’s a quotidian memory – it’s not about anything exciting or romantic in the capital R sense, it’s about routine and stability and timing, how stephen always got her home by her curfew. eating comfort ice cream with lo in the kitchen (again, making real a cliche perpetuated by every other woman in every other romantic comedy ever), lauren says that, “hanging out with him, i feel like I’m in high school. but I’m not in high school anymore.” that’s a good, strong statement that smacks of growth and confidence, but i think it’s belied by the sad way she’s attacking that container of ice cream. i think the true lesson for lauren, whose high school years were filmed and shown on television, who capitalized on that success in the years of her nascent adulthood to become the star of her own show, is that high school, with its thrills and disappointments and well-worn tropes, its break-ups and make-ups and cliques, its banality and idiocy and epiphany, is never very far away – it’s just over the hills.

  • sorry things took so long this week. i honestly thought i was just going to stop doing this. this is not some melodramatic plea for attention, it’s just getting harder and harder to write these and i enjoy it less and less. i feel like i’m constantly butting my head against the notion of the “recap.” i used to labor under the illusion that i was doing something special and different than, like, the people at TVGasm or Television Without Pity do. they, i thought, were basically just summarizing shows and adding in jokes, imbuing summary with their personality to own the show in some way and get some attention. in an elitist, haughty way, i thought they were kind of coarse and low class and i was different. i thought that i was doing something a little more interesting, a sort of gonzo obsessive performance art pseud-y criticism thing (kind of like the current incarnation of baugher, which i used to think was just a mean person making really obvious jokes but has recently become more intensely weird and obsessive and interesting). i don’t think that anymore, this has basically become me doing recaps of the show, which i accept, but i am still butting my head against the wall, trying to figure out what is interesting and what is not interesting and what is worth saying and what is not and what expresses the blogging persona i have tried to create and what doesn’t.

  • the other thing is that i’ve gotten myself into this groove of writing a 3 to 5000 word post every week and the knowledge that i have to write that much about something i’ve already written probably over 50K words about becomes more and more stressful and difficult and so i avoid it and that makes it more stressful and difficult. i need to get myself into the habit of writing eight 500-word posts instead of one 4000 word post; that’s how blogs are supposed to work, right? but i don’t know how to work like that and i can hardly cough in 500 words and i like long blog posts (mmm…clapclap) and i’m always happy when other people write them. so, crisis. (the other thing is the constant little jiminy cricket in my head telling me that stressing out about all this and defining myself by writing about a TV show for the handful of people who read this regularly is really silly and ridiculous and i should just go to the beach more often and work on my tan and try to be happier in the corporeal world instead of the digital one)

  • but anyway, then barry talked about his goal of brokering peace between heidi and lauren and i was charmed and inspired to continue. yes we can.

  • “Late in life, another literary critic, Roland Barthes, became obsessed by the fact that he was a fake and he used to ring up Alain Robbe-Grillet, the famous novelist and say, “But Alain, I’m a fake, aren’t I?” And Robbe-Grillet used to say – soothingly, wisely – “Of course you are, Roland. Of course you are. But, Roland, it’s all right. You’re a genuine fake” – i am, in the words of spencer, “1000% sure” that lauren and lo have had this exact same phone conversation. aww, BFFs!

this week i recorded a cover of “when you wish upon a star.” i had the synth riff sitting around for awhile and really liked it but couldn’t figure out what to do with it. i started to do a cover of “flashing lights” but then i decided on this instead.

lauren eats a nice grapefruit

  • i’m so sad that lisa love and lauren didn’t have a final moment in lisa love’s office before lauren left teen vogue. it’s really a travesty. LL deserved some kind of speech (a chance to do it better than she did when whitney left, a real mentor-y “i’ve seen you grow so much” sort of speech) if only for coining and delivering with such power that whole “girl who didn’t go to paris” line which was such great shorthand for who lauren was for so long. where is our closure?

  • there’s not even a “packing up the desk” scene where lauren can look at the objects in the room with deep longing and attachment – it’s not in scene at all, it’s handled in lauren’s opening narration (“…and after helping whitney during fashion week, her new boss ended up giving me a job. now i was back working with my friend again!”). she says it and it is so.

  • of course maybe those rumors about teen vogue being fed up with the girls and pushing them out were true (although why you would put a cash cow out to pasture is beyond me) and LL just didn’t want anything to do with them anymore and wanted to fill the space with real interns that would do real work for her. i don’t buy it, though, she seemed to relish her scenes way too much.

  • i will never not be entertained by watching beautiful women fold expensive clothes and talking about their personal lives. if i am, just shoot me (or make me watch “just shoot me,” that other TV show about working at a fashion magazine)

  • notice how lauren characterizes audrina and heidi’s friendship when talking to whitney. first she says that audrina “keeps running into” heidi when she’s out at clubs. this is a lot of spin, since obviously audrina is actively making plans with heidi and i doubt that she’s lying to lauren about it (although maybe). then after whitney, totally out of the loop (but no, she and LC are great friends!), asks whether audrina and heidi are fighting, LC is like, “oh, no, they’re friendly,” and then when whitney seems surprised, LC clarifies it even further, to “they’re friends.” it’s as if it is such a big deal she can’t admit to herself all at once but has to do it in stages.

  • i also love love love when lauren goes into that sort of breathy, higher pitched “i am being so serious and rational but i am also about to cry” vocal register that she uses when talking about how the apartment belongs to both her and audrina and so she doesn’t want to tell audrina what to do but at the same time she REALLY wants to tell audrina what to do. she uses it a lot, more this season, like, it’s the same tone as when she was talking to stephanie about how bad she felt that spencer made her cry and how she should know that it’s not her fault and blah blah.

  • whitney, on her reunion with lauren: “i never thought we’d be together again.” lauren, goofy, knowing smile. producers, rolling on the floor laughing. audience member, annoyed at unnecessary bullshit.

  • i am so fucking tired of this theme song and i know it will never, ever change.

  • i always like the scenes where the girls are getting dressed to go out. maybe it is that when they are talking about clothes, not just in general but the clothes they are wearing and about to wear, there is that glimmer of the real that is so enticing when you can taste it. like the tiny moment when audrina suggests that lauren wear the dress audrina is wearing but in a different color and lauren says, “i’m not going to wear the same dress as you” and then, audrina’s back presumably turned, lauren looks at lo, shaking her head and rolling her eyes, like, “god, can you believe that stupid bitch?”

  • lo, on stephanie pratt coming out: “oh, that’s good, maybe she’ll bring heidi!” in the mouth of any other character, this would feel like a forced line, something whispered in an ear by a producer to trigger a dramatic reaction. but i totally believe it from lo. she’s been established as the plucky, spunky, say anything, make up annoying nicknames for people, make out with frankie in vegas, coke-snorting-sorority-big-sister ball of fun and excitement and i feel that, cameras or not, she would have made a smart ass remark like that in her high, chirpy voice.

  • also perfectly in character is lauren basically commanding the girls to praise her for doing well in school (“say good job, lauren!”). she also describes herself as “so scholarly.” L O L. of course the class discussed is her computer class, the only class we ever see her taking, which provides an oh-so-convenient segue into discussing stephanie pratt. ditto lo’s clarification of “stephanie…stephanie pratt,” just in case someone at home was too stupid to follow.

  • across town (whatever, i don’t know the geography of LA) stephanie and heidi are playing out, as if through the looking glass, exactly the same scene, the “getting dressed to go out and also let’s foreshadow important issues coming up in the episode” scene. it opens with heidi saying, “i don’t know what to wear,” echoing audrina’s comment in the previous scene. “all girls have fashion in common,” et cetera. heidi, again, wants to have “a girl’s night, a good night out.”

  • just like lauren revealing that audrina is friends with heidi, stephanie is trying to slowly break this news of lauren being at the club to heidi. she says “literally everyone goes to goa on thursdays.” which is so funny because it provokes heidi to deduce, sherlock holmes style, “you don’t think, um [quieter] that lauren would go with her?” and all i am imagining is a sort of abacus in heidi’s brain working out, well, if literally everybody is going to the club, and lauren is part of literally everybody, oh no that means lauren might be going to the club! then, instead of cutting back to stephanie, we stay on heidi and watch her react to stephanie saying solemnly, “she told me she is.”

  • stephanie looks kind of bad in the scene; maybe her ugly eye make-up is supposed to signify how troubled she is about the possibilities of this night?

  • the idea that lauren would suddenly be cool with heidi because spencer is out of the picture is so inane that it could only come from heidi. the issue is not that heidi moved in with spencer, it’s that she rejected lauren to move in with spencer. the issue is not that audrina is going out with justinbobby, it’s that she’s doing it even though lauren told her it’s a bad idea. the issue is not that audrina is friends with heidi, it’s that she’s doing it when lauren has made it clear she doesn’t want audrina to. it’s that cliche’ action movie trailer phrase, “it’s PERSONAL!” made real – it’s always personal, it’s never logical.

  • as usual, all heidi has are her cliche’s, her scriptlets (“it was so long ago,” etc.). she goes totally miss malaprop when she accidentally crams together two of them and says, “it’s old water under the bridge.” she and stephanie both laugh. this is funny for two reasons. one because OMG how stupid. two because it’s a clear allusion to the scene at lauren’s birthday party when stephanie, cementing her nascent friendship with lauren, says “water under the bridge…is that the expression, water under the bridge?” it shows that stephanie and heidi talked about that night in close enough detail heidi can later make a semi-knowing reference to an offhand remark of stephanie’s from some days before and they will both get the joke immediately.

  • (p.s. i was looking for a youtube clip of the “the crunge” (have you seen the bridge, etc.) to make some sort of pseudo-pun about “water under the bridge” but that’s too elliptical, this is “the hills,” it’s about direct adolescent emotion, so here is a video of a teenage girl’s first song which she wrote about some boyfriend who obviously things didn’t go well with and so she wrote a song about water under the bridge and it’s called “water under the bridge.” she’s canadian, she should totally be on “the hills: aftershow,” way better than ana marie digby.)

  • at the beginning of the club scene, stephanie and heidi’s remarks about justinbobby are obviously both dubbed and subtitled (and this dubbing is really bad). we see them at a distance, from an awkward angle, in the dark with a harsh little highlight to pick up their faces, with people in the foreground blocking them. then cut to lauren and audrina talking, where lauren is softly lit, in close-up, speaking without dubbing or subtitles. the visual hierarchy – who is important, who is not, who is in the inner circle and who is on the outside, scratching at the studio gates.

  • so lauren goes for another glass of champagne and heidi swoops in to drop her gossip about justinbobby. just like last week, even though this is a bad thing for her “friend” audrina, it’s a great thing for heidi, it’s an opportunity for bonding, for connection, for becoming “friends” and not just “friendly.” just like last week, she overplays things but to hilarious effect by asking audrina, “like, do you want me to make sure he doesn’t come in this room or anything?” like she is club security or something, like she is man police. it is also a subtle attempt to entrench herself into the area where lauren will be and where the good camera angles are. of course, audrina blows her pathetic overture off, saying, “it’s fine.”

  • god, i don’t even know how to parse the scene where lauren and lo come back with stephanie. ok, first of all, as lauren, lo, and stephanie approach, audrina is telling heidi about justinbobby’s stalkerish tendencies, how he wouldn’t leave her alone. this is of course exactly what heidi is doing to lauren in this scene; lauren has made it as clear as she can without a restraining order that she wants nothing to do with heidi and yet there is heidi, at her table, waiting for her. heidi responds, as usual, with a cliche metaphor about pain. “it’s like a wound, still, it’s not like it’s healed.” she is tacitly empathizing with audrina, about how spencer wouldn’t give her “space,” but really she’s talking about herself, about her relationship with lauren, about the pain she feels that lauren won’t interact with her.

  • again, this scene is visually really confusing. i’m having to write it down just to figure it out. okay, so heidi and audrina are sitting on the (camera) right side of the couch having their powwow. we find out from a cutaway later on that stephanie is actually sitting next to heidi while this conversation is going on, at the right edge of the couch.

  • lauren and lo at goa
  • lauren and audrina enter in a medium shot from stage left, lauren first, closer to heidi and the traitor. they are cloaked in shadow. lauren more tells than asks, “hey guys, can you make some room?”

  • heidi and audrina
  • then back to the close-up of heidi and audrina. neither want to give up the (literal) spotlight. heidi is staring at the space where lauren should be and smiling, audrina is looking off vacantly.

  • then a really brief medium shot of lauren from the right. this is not really heidi’s POV, but it stands for it and it has that effect. lauren stands there all chiaroscuro, lit from the right and underneath, but half in the darkness of the club. she holds her class of champagne in her jeweled hand and seems to look at heidi down her nose for an instant, then turns away to the left, into the darkness.

  • this is where it gets confusing. okay, the angle is of the right corner of the booth. we see lauren entering from the right side getting up into the elevated booth and carefully squeezing past audrina to get into her seat (audrina actually helps her through, briefly placing both hands around lauren’s waist, presumably so she doesn’t spill her champagne) heidi is absent during the shot, but we know where she is, she was sitting right beside audrina near the outside of the booth. thus lauren is literally climbing over heidi to get into the center of the booth. obviously, the meta-implications of this are strong (lauren climbing over heidi to reclaim the spotlight, the center of attention, her close-up, mr. deville) but also just imagine how uncomfortable that would be in real life, to climb past this person you hate and then have to sit at the same table as them.

  • then we have a short close-up of lauren settling in and smiling at the reclamation of her “space”, from the camera angle used during the audrina-heidi conversation earlier.

  • then, in an overhead angle, she immediately leans in to her left to talk to stephanie pratt. this at first seems like a crazy, disorienting continuity error, because two shots before (so, like two seconds before), this blond nobody with glasses was scooting over to give lauren more room. it seems as if this girl is by the magic of editing with stephanie pratt. after watching this about five times, i’ve figured out that the blond girl actually slips out of the booth and stephanie pratt is sitting to lauren’s left and quickly slides twoard her. lauren moves closer to the center of the booth, probably to put more “space” between heidi and herself. she whispers to stephanie, “i just didn’t really think that you’d bring heidi”

  • then a wide shot from the left. lauren, slightly obscured by some girl in the foreground, says, “it’s just really hard for me to be at a table with her.” as she and steph have this conversation in the light in the center of the frame, heidi is hard left, in the dark, watching their conversation intently behind audrina’s back.

  • then there is some wanking around with the focus on a new close-up of lauren and stephanie, from the right side. lauren says, “i’m sorry, that’s really awkward to say to you, i know.” the camera pans to the left to center around stephanie and lauren. lauren seems to be sitting on the edge of the chair, leaning to the left, as if she is trying to get as far away from heidi as she can without actually getting up. stephanie says, “no. i mean, i know, exactly what it is…”

  • stephanie’s subtitled voice (“i just kind of thought we could all get along”) continues over a cutaway of heidi and audrina talking.

  • back to the close-up of stephanie and lauren, stephanie making light of the situation, lauren trying to look pained but in a fun way.

  • rack focus onto an extreme close-up of audrina’s face. heidi, represented in the frame by some of her hair, says, “i think i’m gonna go soon. it’s pretty clear lauren doesn’t want me to be friends with you.” well thanks, captain obvious.

  • (one wonders here whether these rack focuses are meant as authenticity signifiers or to create some sort of visual drama or if they are just a necessity of shooting in a poorly lit nightclub)

  • then the most sort of composed, painterly shot in the scene. in the center is lauren, talking to stephanie on her left. on the right, audrina. at far right, heidi, in her black dress almost merging with the background. at far left, anonymous man in black, who has been sitting at the table the whole time, following the scene intently while saying absolutely nothing (obviously our audience stand-in). in the foreground, some carafes of girly drinks.

  • then a sort of telephoto extreme close-up of lauren looking pissed off but beautiful, obviously reacting to what heidi has just said. in the right edge of the frame, audrina, out of focus. heid, out of frame again, says, “oh my gosh, here comes justin.”

  • then a close-up of audrina and lauren. lauren is in the background, out of focus, drinking quietly. audrina does an awkward openmouthed smile at the right side of the frame.

  • now, here, the obvious choice in a movie would be to cut to a reverse of justin bobby to catch his reaction, from somewhere around where audrina and heidi are sitting. this is obviously impossible, because, like, audrina and heidi are sitting there. so instead we get a wide shot from the back of justinbobby looking like fucking hipster zorro, in all black and a stupid hat. heidi gets up and is all welcome-wagon and smiles. she’s excited because it’s someone else lauren hates, it’s someone on her “team,” it’s someone to absorb some of the hate rays lauren is sending from her powerful, expressive eyes.

  • then an out of focus overhead shot of justinbobby taking heidi’s seat. this is really weird because it doesn’t seem as if the club is two levels. is the cameraman standing on a ladder in the middle of the dance floor? is the camera hanging from the ceiling? where is it? heidi says again, “i think i’m gonna go.” she’s just waiting for someone to say, “no, don’t go,”

  • we cut back to the wide shot, where our view of heidi and audrina, and justin is blocked by people, and where, miraculously, audrina actually does say, “heidi, don’t leave, we’re having fun.” i am about 50/50 about whether this is a dubbed line, but the audio on mtv overdrive is not hifi enough for me to be able to tell.

  • either way, we come with a snap zoom back to the close-up of lauren from the right, reacting strongly to this. of course, if it was dubbed, she’s not actually reacting to it, but obviously audrina said something because she is reacting. she is facing left and looking left, but she is totally taking all this in out of the corner of her eye. we hear heidi say, giddy, “or i’m gonna stay!” and lauren looks up at the ceiling, beyond annoyed.

  • back to the wide shot where heidi sits down, beaming. she asks justinbobby how he’s doing.

  • back to stephanie and lauren. they are seemingly shocked and are uncomfortably laughing at, like, heidi’s audacity, or that justinbobby is sitting there. lauren looks like she’s about to explode.

  • then heidi and justinbobby are BFF! heidi talks about how “we should all hang out in a group sometime.” justinbobby says “i’m down, whenever. it’s up to this one, though.” and points at audrina. his greased lightning patois never ceases to dazzle. he doesn’t say “audrina” or “her,” he says, “this one.”

  • then a close-up of audrina clutching her giant right earring for dear life and looking all dreamy and moony and remembering the good times with JB.

  • heidi, total huckster, says, “luckily, i am talking to this woman.”

  • then, as we watch a close-up of lauren looking to the left, heidi goes even further and trots out her favorite sentence about audrina, “her and i were friends before her and lauren were friends.”

  • back to heidi and justinbobby. justinbobby says something incomprehensible. note here that he doesn’t get subtitles while everything heidi says is subtitled. zorro is mysterious, we don’t have to understand what he’s saying. or, men aren’t important, no one cares what they have to say.

  • laurie
  • back to the close-up of lauren with more heidi speech for her to react to. heidi says, “i told audrina it’s silly can’t be friends because you live with lauren. she’s like, ‘i know.'” lauren is agape.

  • jb and he
  • back to justinbobby and heidi and over them we hear lauren, finally reaching her breaking point, say, “oh my god.”

  • lauren breaks
  • back to lauren and stephanie, lauren says emphatically, “I need to leave the table, immediately,”

  • in the wide shot, lauren, consummate hostess, says, “you guys, have a great time” as she’s getting up. justinbobby and heidi, who have seemingly done their work and don’t have to talk to each other anymore but are content to just stare into space.

  • dress tug
  • in the overhead shot, we see lauren adjusting her dress and getting the hell out.

  • sad
  • lauren crosses the frame and exits stage right. stephanie scoots over next to audrina and whispers, dubbed, “i think lauren’s totally upset.” no fucking duh.

  • hair
  • whatever, i’m done with this shot for shot shit. lo and lauren meet up in the darkness of the floor and lauren, as she often does during emotional scenes running her hands through her hair, says, “i can’t pretend it’s normal that we’re all sitting together.” and that she wants to go home. because of the angle, we can see neither her face nor lo’s for the entirety of their exchange. it’s like they have merged into a unit. it also seems to me their lines are the live audio and not dubbed. lo goes to get her stuff to leave.

  • lauren stares off at the table, back at…

  • team heidi, in her base, in her light. back to…

  • try harder fail better
  • lauren, watching them and then turning away into the darkness of the mass in the club as the scene ends.

  • god that took a long time to do. what did we gain? anything? i hope. fail better.

  • morning after scene with steph and heidi is a snooze. heidi pronounces audrina differently than everyone. she says ah-drina while everybody else says aw-drina. is this because she was friends with her first?

  • the parallel lauren-lo afternoon after scene is much better, mostly because lo is wearing an absurd scarf and then in close-up unwinds it. but then they talk about getting a house and lo unloads another perky yet bitchy comment, this time about audrina. lo: “maybe she’ll bring heidi and justinbobby to the new house” and lauren gives this “egads!” kind of eyelook and then lo does a kind of pseudo-mock-serious “that’s not allowed” (kind of like her mock-chastizing of frankie for having a girlfriend a couple of weeks ago) and lauren picks up on this whiff of rigorous judgement of others actions and loves it and loves lo for it and this is why they are good friends from so long ago.

  • AUDRINA WEARS A BLACK LEATHER JACKET TO MEET JUSTIN BOBBY. HE SAYS, “LIKE YOUR LEATHERS.” HE IS WEARING A BLACK LEATHER JACKET, TOO, AND THAT STUPID HAT FROM THE CLUB. LIKE YOUR LEATHERS. ROCK AND ROLL. I AM GOING TO WRITE A SONG ABOUT AUDRINA AND IT IS GOING TO BE KIND OF STOOGE-Y AND I AM JUST GOING TO REPEAT THE WORDS “LEATHER JACKET…EYE MAKE-UP…ROCK AND ROLLLLLLLL” OVER AND OVER AGAIN OVER A REALLY HEAVY RIFF. HE SAYS, “LOOKS LIKE YOU MISSED THE BIKE, HUH?” and when she demurrs, he says in a fonz-y kind of syllabic elongation, “COME ONNNNN?” you can tell by audrina’s facial expressions that he has already won her over, that he won her over at the club, that she wants him back. he cleverly makes mention of how “no one’s been on the bike since you,” like I WONT CHEAT ON YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE IMPORTANT, BABY. “I’VE GOT A SOLO SEAT,” he says, “I HAVEN’T HAD ANYBODY ON IT” audrina continues to play obsessively with her earrrings as at goa earlier. JUSTINBOBBY SAYS, “needed to get my priorities straight,” and does a sort of eye pop, like, “get it, audrina?!?” he wins her over more by coming out as anti-gossip and commenting on “all the BS that’s gone on” and she notes “i’m over all this stuff and i’ve got my own stuff and i don’t need all this drama. TO SEAL THE DEAL, JUSTINBOBBY USES METAPHORICAL LANGUAGE LIKE FROM A BAD ROCK SONG: “it’s not nice when you FALL AWAY FROM PEOPLE, but when you, kind of, REGROUP AGAIN, it’s…” audrina, finishing his sentence, vibing, on his wavelength: “…good company.” justinbobby: “absolutely.” THEY ADMIT THEY MISSED EACH OTHER. JUSTINBOBBY ASKS WHAT AUDRINA IS DOING LATER AND SHE IS ALL COY AND “I DON’T KNOW” AND HE EYE POPS AND JAW TWISTS SUGGESTIVELY AND AUDRINA LOOKS AT HIM VACANTLY BUT WITH A HINT OF SEDUCTION AND THEY PROBABLY HAVE SCREAMING FEEDBACK FLAMING GUITAR ROCK AND ROLL SEX LATER.

  • spencer and stephanie split a sandwich last week. lauren and audrina split a grapefruit this week. aww, roomies. i also love how “he didn’t burp at all” is a major improvement for JB, on par with getting off drugs. i also love the way lauren eats her grapefruit, first randomly stabbing it with a knife and then at the end of the scene doing this weird sort of modern dance routine with her spoon.

  • when audrina says, “it’s like you and jason and stephen” and lauren has her big line we’ve heard so many times in previews and promos, “no, because i stopped going back to jason,” it’s totally undercut by the fact that in the preview for this week we see her…going back to stephen. L O L.

  • and spencer is, again, on the couch. it is just great characterization, to put him in this place over and over again, to define him by it. his manner is great (“can i help you?” as if a butler and not her pseudo-ex-boyfriend). his wounded, defensive thing (“you said you were here to see steph and now you’re pretending to talk to me?”) she starts to tell her story about going to a club, the exact thing she blew up at him for doing the previous week, and he totally shuts her down (“cool, did you have fun?”), denying her the right to relate her narrative. she keeps going, playing him for sympathy and connection by talking about lauren and how stephanie made her uncomfortable by talking to lauren. he shuts her down again from his reclined position (“i know you want to vent about this, but i really have no sympathy for you. i mean, who did you expect to find at goa?”) heidi tries some of her cliches on him and he blasts her by crushing the sort of fantasy that she probably has had about lauren (“what you think you guys are going to move back in together and everything’s gonna be hunky dory?”). she is stunned silent. he goes in for the kill, says again, “no offense, i really don’t want to talk about you out at clubs,” he raises his eyebrows so high in agression, and says, “maybe you should wait for my sister to come back,” i.e. this conversation is done. heidi says her “ok, i’ve gotta go” and this time there is no dumb audrina to beg her to stay. spencer says, quasi-sarcastically, never moving from his groove in the couch, “it was great seeing you, enjoy your space,” and heidi leaves and we see her leave. walking out the door in these absurd tight, white short shorts. this particularly male gaze objectifying camera angle is picked up on by spencer, who adds, genuinely, “you look great” which gets some wordless angst from heidi as she exits.

  • at the restaurant where lauren, lo, and audrina are eating, the banner outside says “authentic” mexican. ha ha ha ha, i’ll add that to my list. silly girls, don’t they know don antonio’s is life changing mexican food?

  • that is an ugly fucking hat lauren is wearing. did she borrow that from audrina’s closet? the scene is interesting at first because what lauren is tacitly trying to do is to convince lo that audrina should not live with them (by telling stories about JB). but of course, it’s been obvious from the inception of the idea that lo, as lauren’s oldest, dearest friend, doesn’t want audrina in the house and needs no such convincing. what lauren, in that UGLY PINK HAT is doing, is convincing herself that audrina should not live in the house, even as she’s about to invite audrina to live in the house (lauren just doesn’t want to be happy!). they pause talking shit about audrina’s dirty boys when audrina herself appears. she is stuck in the middle of them in her black garb with her dark hair, flanked by blondes in white clothes giving her the third degree about her morality and relationship choices.  she tells lo about going out with justinbobby and lo questions her with an authenticity thing, “really?” and audrina looks to lauren for help and lauren is just staring, silent, sipping her drink and playing with the straw. and honestly, i’ve never really liked audrina, but it’s pretty awful how they are ambushing her here, bumrushing her, and you know part of it is for the cameras, like they could be a lot more subtle and less “mean girls” but they are playing it up because they’ve seen “mean girls” and the editor and the producers are playing it up too. and god, all the awkward stares and drink sips and pregnant pauses, which are actually effective satirized by the remix on “the hills:aftershow” and the scene ends with lauren and lo just chewing their food awkwardly and not talking but poor audrina, ahdrina if you’re heidi and awdrina if you’re everybody else – she has no food to chew, she’s having soup, and it hasn’t even arrived yet. le pain quotidien, indeed.

my song this week is called “sadness” and it is about sadness. i watched that documentary about daniel johnston last weekend and really loved it and was moved by it. afterward i wrote this song in about 5 minutes and this is the first take i recorded. it’s no daniel johnston, but i was happy with it.

stephanie and spencer

  • heidi: “hi, i’m here to see audrina.” even though this is like, a corporate office of a record company, a campus large enough to have its own cafeteria, heidi doesn’t have to specify who audrina is or what department she works in and the receptionist knows instantly and exactly who audrina is and where she goes.
  • and as jared noted earlier this week, why show us this scene? what do we gain? like, in the episode when spencer had to wait at heidi’s job, there was a plot purpose to him talking to the receptionist and waiting around, it was necessary to create tension. here, though? why? i guess in this case we have to be eased in to the fact that audrina and heidi are spending time together. if it was just a cold open of audrina and heidi at lunch, it would be jarring in a kind of cheap, oh aren’t you SHOCKED! kind of way.
  • heidi: “this is so cute, it’s like a real cafeteria.” that’s because it is a real cafeteria, heidi. it’s interesting, though, besides being another instance of a character using a word signifying authenticity (and in this case, something being not authentic, but “like” something authentic; the hills is “like” a scripted drama and “like” a reality show), because what i have to believe heidi means by “real cafeteria” is a school cafeteria. a school cafeteria, just like the place where lauren and stephanie pratt, the other matched pair in this four-way cage match, ate at the end of episode 22. school cafeteria = adolescent drama.
  • i did it the last episode and i feel the need to directly quote heidi’s monologue again.
    • “you don’t know…like, you don’t know how nice it is to be able to talk to you again…i’m really like gaining myself again, and i’m, like, hanging out with girlfriends…and like, okay, you know what, i really need a girls night out, no boys, no spencer, will you come?
  • i mean, it’s like a burroughs cut-up of “cosmo” or something. she has taken every tired cliche of how women are supposed to react to “trouble with their man” and internalized it and made it completely genuine. she needs a girls night out, not a night out with girls, but that concept, a girls night out.
  • because the scene as we see it, like so many lauren and heidi scenes before and to come, isn’t anything like a real two-way conversation. heidi talks about needing audrina and needing girlfriends, but in this episode, she doesn’t seem all that interested in what they have to say. in the cafeteria, she doesn’t need audrina to be an equal partner in the conversation, she needs someone to pay attention to her and validate her with that attention. at the club later, she doesn’t need “girls,” she needs eyes and ears and bodies to surround herself with.
  • the thing about the casting scene at people’s revolution is that it’s confusing. like, normally when i talk about how complicated the show is i’m talking about multi-layered fact-fiction performance-verite thing. but this people’s revolution scene is just hard to follow, confusing and complicated in the “i don’t understand what i am looking at and how this image relates to this image sort of way.” as viewers of “the hills,” we are used to locked down cameras, simple shot-reverse dialogue scenes, the occasional slow pan. in this scene, though, there are crash zooms, things going in and out of focus, camera flashes, whiplash pans both horizontal and vertical, obviously handheld cameras, rapid fire cuts. there is very little sense of visual continuity. i would say that the camera breaks the 180 degree rule but it seems that the axis that would define that rotates and then becomes an irregular polygon. kelly cutrone’s narration of the scene, the main audio, which is really less narration and more her barking a series of commands and non sequiturs, seems to be a shot or two ahead of the visual information we are getting, so the scene feels as if it’s racing to catch up with her. the chronology is all fucked up; large chunks of time seem to have been excised and moments pared down to absolute essence. it is all the perfect sort of formal representation of what it feels like to be confused on your first day of work, to be unfamiliar with the geography of a place, with where things are (lauren: “getting paperclips, getting paperclips!”), with who people are and what are their names and why are they looking at you like that (lapublicistjessica is totally creepy with her pursed lip stares and shifty eyes and palette breaking pink dress!) seriously, if you have the show tivoed, watch this thing in slow motion and tell me where else could you see a scene shot like this?
  • and then the next scene opens with spencer staring at and then smelling a slice of bread! oh my gosh, it’s so avant. have you ever seen that on television, a person standing in silence and smelling a slice of bread!?! i loved reality television from my first moment of “the real world” but the moment when i became really and truly aware of loving it was a scene in an episode of “the surreal life,” i forget which season. the cast were doing some sort of conventional stagey scene, one of the ones where they read their itinerary for the day, and then there was this stray shot of da brat in the kitchen, eating a pile of thinly sliced deli ham out of its plastic bag with her bare hands. and in the moment I just sort of felt, like, there is nothing I would rather watch on television than her eating from this bag of ham, that i could watch it forever or at least until the ham ran out.
  • and just the idea of these spoiled super-rich trust-fund kids arguing about turkey, that they don’t have enough turkey left in their refrigerator for two sandwiches and that when steph sees him with the empty bag of turkey, she is pissed off and it reinforces to her what a selfish ass he is, but wait, he has a plan, they’re going to split it and there is something kind of adorable and redeeming about that, like he has thought about this turkey sandwich situation that might arise and he knows that she would be pissed if he took all the turkey and so he is making a sandwich to split with her, and there is a sense in his tone of voice that he wants her to sit with him on the couch or maybe just stand up at the bar as they eat the two halves of this turkey sandwich together, like, there is something sweet and domestic in it in the same sense of spencer’s neglected housewife routine from the beginning of the season.
  • oh yeah and so lauren is an intern at teen vogue…a fashion magazine…and, during fashion week…seemingly the most busy time for fashion…she has “nothing all week.” hah. then of course the nonchalance of the job offer from kelly cutrone, the phrasing of it (“we’ll be happy to have you”) as if she’s already accepted it, which of course she already has.
  • i continue to feel so bad about for lapublicistjessica. it really makes me dislike kelly cutrone. like everybody on the internet seems to be in love with her, and i agree, she’s dynamic and entertaining, but what she is doing to lapublicistjessica here seems like a really fucked up thing in terms of like, real world morality (as opposed to “real world” morality). like, she is doing to jessica the same thing that brent bolthouse did to elodie when he promoted heidi over her, but back then everybody agreed that bolthouse was a douchebag and an opportunist for that (also elodie was allowed to be a three dimensional person and it was made clear she was being screwed, while lapublicistjessica gets no such halo). this is this woman’s real job (presumably) and she is continually cast as as an incompetent idiot. even if this is all a put on by kelly cutrone for the cameras and she’s going to give lapublicistjessica a great recommendation when kelly inevitably (fake) fires her, still, she is branded as this idiot person who can’t do simple tasks. it’s mean. i wonder if sponsored players (i.e. people who get their own name chyron) get more money, like in a movie when an extra gets a line then they get more money.
  • and there’s our algonquin round table, the “girls night out” that is the title of this episode. heidi asks, “so what’s going on girls?” like a good talk show host and she is just so happy to be out in the world with other women. but, again, she could care less about what they have to say. this is at least partially if not wholly an effect of editing, but watch the transition from the punch line of stephanie’s joke to heidi’s reaction shot or from the end of audrina’ story to heidi’s reaction shot. there’s like this little delay to her reaction, like she is not really listening to the story but has become aware from the people laughing or smiling or reacting around her that it’s time to laugh or smile or react.
  • her shining moment in the scene seems to come after spencer arrives and, as chiara put it in the last episode, “shit goes down,” when she says that even though she’s pissed at spencer, if a girl “came up to him,” heidi would “kill some bitch.” audrina responds with a smiling, seemingly genuine “that’s how i am too!” and then this allows heidi make an exuberant generalization about femininity (“girls are so aggressive”) and stephanie and audrina are nodding along and everyone is paying attention to her and she is bathing in the estrogen and all is right. even though this supposedly really bad thing is happening to her, the scene is ecstatic, she’s smiling, she has an energy and an excitement she hasn’t had for weeks. she takes it a little campy and over the top with her triplet of “they’re taking shots?” (i love that this completely arbitrary moment is her breaking point, it highlights the insanity of the whole thing) and also when she breaks up the party and she is holding her hands up the air, shaking them like a mental patient. she says she’s shaking because she’s so mad but i think it’s because she’s so excited.
  • and her anger at spencer is seemingly much less about spencer talking to other girls than the fact that he is invading her feminine space, her girls night out.
  • “you’re delusional if you think i was flirting with those girls.” spencer is doing what justinbobby did after audrina “caught” him “kissing” that girl: he’s questioning the worth of visual evidence. heidi was watching him and she thought she saw him flirting with the girls and what he is telling her is: you can’t judge what actually happened by what you saw from the other side of the bar. you can’t get the whole truth from visual information.
  • and the thing is, he both was and wasn’t flirting with those girls. in one sense, he was flirting with those girls; i don’t know what else you would call that bullshit conversation about sipping shots. but in another sense, it’s obvious that he was only pretending to flirt, he was “performing” flirting. he was, as characters are always doing on “the hills,” especially during bar/club scenes, putting on a show for someone else to watch from a distance. when heidi asks him, “what if i weren’t here, what would you be doing?”, the answer is probably eating a turkey sandwich and watching TV. if he wanted to hook up with drunk girls at the bar, he would have probably gone somewhere else than the place that he knew she and his sister would be.
  • the fight was pretty blah although i liked the pretty changing colors – they reminded me of the party scene at the beginning of “pierrot le fou.”
  • oh lauren: “he probably pays them. no girl would willingly touch that scum…whoah, where did that come from.” that reading was CRAZY. she is not an actress and does not want to be, but she is so incredibly good at being herself.
  • is it just me or did they really go over the top with the color correcting in that heidi-kimberly scene? the contrast is so high and combined with kimberly’s over-the-top makeup and fringe it almost looks like a rotoscoped cartoon, like ‘a scanner darkly’ or something.
  • the last scene in the car was just amazing for how illogical it was. the idea that this show is scripted is ridiculous because if someone wrote this kind of scene, it would still be illogical, but there would be a kind of logic to the illogicality, the kind of logic applied, the singular consciousness writing the thoughts of two characters. there’s none of that here, but i think the main reason it’s so incomprehensible is acutally because of the subterfuge, the fakeness. because in this scene, spencer is being completely rational and logical about their relationship: there is no good reason why they should be on this “relationship vacation”: either they should break up or they should get back together. honestly, do you want to know something? i no longer have any idea what the precipitating event was to heidi and spencer’s “relationship vacation.” like, not a clue. i have a bad memory, but i should really know like, basic things about this show. but the fact that i can’t remember it signifies to me that it couldn’t have been that major (maybe it should just signify that i’m stupid). anyway, heidi has nothing tangible to say and just keeps clinging to these concepts of needing space, of giving up so much for spencer, of “relationship vacation,” she keeps repeating these things, like a script, and they feel hollow and empty and don’t make sense because, well, they probably are a script (of sorts).
  • as i mentioned last week, i have something to say about whitney. i feel that we’re seeing a real character shift for her, both in terms of her television representation and her real life personality. the clues about her character’s increased prominence and autonomy are in the show, plain as day, but to me, the most telling thing is external: it’s that MTV leak to radar that apparently whitney and lauren are going to move into an apartment together (paid for by MTV). now, assuming this is true (which i’m not sure about, considering didn’t lauren just move into a 2.3 million dollar house that she bought? why would she then move out and back into an apartment?), but, assuming it’s true, this is a huge change from the whitney of a year ago or even the whitney of six months ago. whitney used to say that she wasn’t really close friends with lauren, that they got along but were really only together for the show, she wouldn’t have her personal relationships shown for the cameras (direct citations are beyond my grasp right now, take my word for it). now, though, now she is moving in with lauren, into an apartment paid for by MTV, into a role in which she will presumably have to expose a lot more of herself and her life. the question, like always, is real or fake – is whitney really closer than lauren because in the storm of publicity and attention accompanying this season, whitney and lauren had a bonding experience and their relationship actually became a real friendship instead of a co-star/co-working thing or is whitney fakely closer with lauren because she has seen the opportunities that are available to her if she continues to be a TV star and she likes them and she wants or is it something else or is it a combination of the two. blah blah updike fame mask eats face blah blah. whitney’s face is too active and expressive to be eaten by a mask.
  • i’m southern and my momma always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, so i’m not going to say anything at all about that piece of shit “criticism” that was phoned-in by snotty nancy franklin in “the new yorker.
  • my song for this week (right now it’s about “happy days,” both the beckett one and the richie cunningham one) is taking too long to complete and i want to get drunk tonight so i’m going to post this now and commit myself to doing a post about “the hills” movie this weekend and post it then.

lauren

  • whitney: “people just waste so much time being angry at people.” lauren: “i know.” oh, the irony
  • also, choice awkward glance-off at the end of the first scene, after whitney notes that she has lauren’s dream job and she is aware that it’s lauren’s dream job and she is really happy that she has lauren’s dream job. lauren had already been owning the scene with her sort of facial projection of insecurity and desire, the chin slightly up as if ready to take a punch, the still eyes, the wavering lower lip; then, the fixation on stirring sugar into her iced tea, eyes down. at the end, when things get too award for words, they have the sort of glance-off and the face that whitney pulls, the kind of pursed lips + half swallow, it’s so good.
  • thus when kelly cutrone says “do not roll your eyes at me” at people’s revolution, that’s a big deal since eye movements are such a large part of whitney’s communicative arsenal. next she’ll be telling her that she can’t twist her mouth into weird shapes and then the world will just end.
  • the drama in that people’s revolution meeting is palpable because it’s real, amid total fakeness (i really need to make a study the way that i juxtapose the words real and fake because i do it every other sentence. i want to make up new words so that it doesn’t seem so tired). ok, so after LA publicist jessica gets chewed out by kelly cutrone for not arranging press for the clients, whitney jumps in with her underminery suggestion. it’s not like the suggestion is totally genius anything (hey, this person we are publicizing, let’s get some people she knows who like her), but still, i feel like it is totally fake; this is not some thought bubble moment where whitney gets a good idea. my reasoning behind this is that. for all my talk about the show being anti-narrative and for all the haters’ talk of the show being so boring because nothing happens, the producers would not waste valuable time showing us a meeting where absolutely nothing interesting or relevant happens – there has to be some sort of micro plot movement/character development in every scene we see and that micro-plot development has to be whitney doing well and i just feel it had to be planned. (remember, there are really only two basic whitney narratives: 1. whitney does a good job at work and 2. whitney does a bad job at work. )
  • although maybe i’m wrong, let’s dial it back. maybe this is a genuine whitney thought that she comes up with on the spur of the moment. but if it is, it probably comes out of the completely unnatural environment that the scene is taking place in. like, imagine at your normal meeting at work that you are suddenly surrounded by cameras and lights and there is a guy hanging a boom mic over your conversation. in addition to this weird circumstance, your new coworker is someone you have probably (quit kidding yourself, you work for a fashion house in LA) been watching on television for about two years. wouldn’t you be kind of timid, more timid than usual, and wouldn’t you be waiting to hear what this new girl, this TV character had to say, wouldn’t that be in the air, the feeling that this new girl, i wonder what she has to say, and couldn’t that feeling in the air create the kind of situation that this scene represents? especially when combined with heavy editing that can cut out anything smart anyone else says and then after whitney says something smart quickly lifts us out of the scene on a magic carpet of pop music.
  • and of course, because of the editing, this is all TOTAL speculation (that should be the alternate title for this blog). we have no idea how long this meeting was, what was discussed, what and who were cut out. it is so highly compressed that who knows what kind of truth it represents. yet we (ok, i) still speculate and search for something in it.
  • and either way, the drama is real because la publicist jessica is getting totally bitchslapped by kelly cutrone here. she is not only getting bitchslapped in real life, she is getting bitchslapped on television. it’s similar to the elodie situation: this is not some fake job for her, this is her real job, and at her real job, she is getting upstaged by a TV character. it would be like if i was the cool guy at my office and everybody liked me and then my boss hired jim halpert, like, literally, jim halpert from “the office,” and then i was by comparison forced to be a total loser, even if i was a cool person and i was great at my job. look at jessica’s face in this scene after whitney upstages her. like that is discomfort and hatred and jealousy and just bad feelings all at once and it feels so real. all her friends know she’s on “the hills” and they watch it and i’m sure to reassure her they will say things like “oh, that show is scripted, it’s so fake” and she will say the same thing, but even if that is all completely true, she still got bitchslapped by her boss on television for everybody to see, with her name in a chyron under her so it is tied to her identity forever.
  • also doesn’t that lipstick look really bad? or is that just me?
  • notice whitney clapping at the end of the meeting. you could kind of read it as a “yeah, go team! meeting’s over!” kind of clapping but after the way the scene happened it seems like she’s basically just clapping for herself. more on this in the future.
  • my dear lauren, the patron saint of loneliness, trapped in the closet (that is not a joke about the sapphic subtext of the show, promise), with only her blackberry and her mac and her tiny print of an andy warhol marylin (in the wide shot, on the bulletin board) for company. she admits to brody in the episode before that she’s “not really having much of a social life.” she calls people and they are too busy to talk to her. of course this scene of lauren’s utter loneliness directly precedes…
  • heidi preparing to go out with stephanie. there is something so sad and true about how tightly heidi clings to her history as a clubkid (she says of going out, reverently stretching the words, “that used to be my life.”) and how sincerely she seems to want to connect to people. before going out on her “girls night out!!!! with stephanie, she is already saying they should do it “once a week” and then she realizes that in her desperation she is maybe overstepping and so cuts it back to “at least once every two weeks” but steph is sweet about it and heidi is is all big toothed smiles and glitter.
  • at the club, heidi continues her sort of spinster’s day out schtick by becoming the annoying person who, while she is out, talks about nothing but how much she goes out and how much she used to go out and the amazing fact of her being out (actual quotes: heidi: “i would go out monday…tuesday…wednesday!” stephanie: “you’ve gotta come back out.” heidi: “it feels good being out again!” <dances in her seat>)
  • the set-up of the meeting is so stagey. the idea that in this small club that audrina and her friends would be visible from heidi and steph’s table yet heidi and steph would not see them (and their camera crew) immediately upon entering the club is obviously totally ridiculous.
  • but the meeting itself is awkward and great. heidi asks audrina if she can sit down; audrina says nothing but stares at heidi kind of vacantly and scoots over in the booth. there are a pair of awkward glances. heidi says, “i know, like, we’ve been, like, SO CRAZY” and she plays the “so crazy” really big, her voice braying, gesturing with her hands. then, ignoring the fact that that sentence makes no logical sense and without even taking time to breathe, heidi launches into her plea: “we were friends before and we hung out and then.” heidi’s rhetorical mistake here is trying to appeal to audrina’s sense of logic, like, if we were friends before and there was no event between us that should have caused us to not be friends, then we should still be friends. but it comes off as pathetic, partially because to appeal to logic in a completely labyrinthine and illogical situation is stupid and second because of her tone: she is trying to say it with authority, as if this is a rule, but she is talking so fast and the look in her eyes undercuts any authority she could have.
  • she goes more pathetic. audrina stays distant and so heidi brings out the big guns, the appeal to emotion:
    • i understand but it’s just been like…it’s been really hard for me…it’s been…there’ve been times where i’ve just cried and been like…so alone.
  • note that through all of this she has been bouncing up and down and manically running both hands through her hair. she continues:
    • i’m just like…i need my girlfriends. i need that support system. like, i can’t be alone, it’s hard.
  • audrina parries, basically saying that heidi losing her friends is a learning experience. heidi, ever contrite and ends with a desperate flurry of “ever”s:
    • if you ever, ever want to talk, if you ever want to hang out, like, i’m here. you know, like…
  • the most fascinating thing in this episode is the difference between the way the two audrina-heidi scenes as they are presented to us in scene, the way we see them, and then way that lauren learns about them as narrated by stephanie and audrina, the way she hears them.
  • first, stephanie gives lauren her commentary about the encounter, in the scene at FIDM. she says nonchalantly, ” i think audrina talked to her [heidi] a long time and it kinda seems like they’re cool now.” lauren’s response is to stare up at the ceiling for an extended period of time and you can see from her eyes that she is freaking out and imagining how the scene would go down and her imagining is of course driven by stephanie’s telling of the event.
  • of course, it is important to note that this telling is completely divergent from the “objective” “truth” of the scene. there’s no way you could watch the the heidi-audrina scene that you see in the show and come to the same conclusion that stephanie does; heidi, not audrina, is obviously the one taking the active role in the conversation, actually doing the talking, and the only thing cool about their relationship is the level of distance and detachment that audrina keeps with heidi. lauren doesn’t have the video evidence, though, she can’t check the instant replay, and of course she is a person who believes the worst about people, so she trusts stephanie.
  • probably because of this commentary from stephanie, when lauren talks to audrina about the situation, she totally overreacts. first, she gives the most emo possible reading of the line, “i’m writing down a shopping list” and then flops her head against the couch when audrina sits down, a gesture which is communicative enough that audrina says “so what’s up?” lauren tries to be casual when she brings up the heidi thing, but her tone of voice is betrayed by the way she is looking at audrina, basically staring at her, mouth open, waiting for an answer to a question she already knows the answer to. audrina responds with a tiny, “yeah,” like, she knows lauren already knows. lauren responds by licking her lips and looking away, readying to give the response she has been going over in her head all afternoon. she goes on to tell audrina that she can be friends with heidi if she wants (tacitly meaning that she, lauren, gets to dictate who audrina’s friends are) but to watch out, because it’s very likely that heidi wants to be friends with audrina not for the joy of her company (even though, as heidi constatnly points out, heidi and audrina were friends before lauren and audrina) but to fuck lauren over, because, remember audrina, everything is about lauren. audrina protests, saying she doesn’t want to be friends with heidi, but lauren cuts her off. she says that she’s just telling audrina to be careful (awww) and audrina says ” i know” but then it becomes clear that this is only the first half to lauren’s statement, the second half of which is “because she is gonna be someone who’s gonna stab you in the back two seconds later.” this is melodramatic line, but lauren plays it with a head twist and an eye snap that makes it clear she is absolutely dead serious, like the stabbing in the back is almost not a metaphor but a real thing. audrina tries to be reassuring but lauren is so crazed now that she cant stop: she does this great passive agressive thing where under the pretense of saying what a nice and trusting person audrina is, she is basically calling audrina a dumb ho. this is the final straw for audrina, this is the breaking point, you can see it in her face, you can hear it in her response, the terse little, “okay.”
  • and because of lauren’s crazy reaction, in her second scene with lauren, audrina plays up the significance of heidi’s visit to the apartment. again, if instead of talking to audrina, lauren had just been sat down in a room and showed the tape of the two meeting at the apartment, the scene as we saw it, i doubt she would have freaked out at all. audrina is still brusque and aloof and the meeting lasts for about two seconds and it’s obvious that heidi is the one trying to stretch it out and doing the reaching (physically trying to prolong her stay by sitting down) and it’s totally pathetic. but, again, lauren doesn’t have what we have, she doesn’t have the video evidence, and so she is restricted to getting her information from audrina’s presentation of the events. audrina knows this and, because she is annoyed at lauren, she is limiting her telling of the story, she avoids reassuring lauren or sugarcoating things, she leaves out holes in the narrative and the telling that she knows lauren will fill in with the worst possible scenario/feeling/emotion because she knows that’s what lauren does. she wants lauren to feel bad and lauren does feel bad.
  • because in this scene what she is doing is kind of like what lauren did to her in that incredible scene when justinbobby “kissed” the girl at the bar. we had no visual evidence, we didn’t see him kiss her and neither did audrina. but lauren chimed in immediately, asking “was that a kiss?” and thus directing the moment, creating the possibility that there was a kiss as much as justinbobby’s shadowy movements did. when heidi is at the club talking about how it’s so sad that audrina “only hears lauren’s side,” she is lamenting the fact that lauren, as main character, has more influence with regard to the flow of the narrative. history is written by the victors, blah blah. remember, lauren’s role during the opening credits every week is as narrator. what stephanie and audrina are doing in this episode is using lauren’s key tool, narration, against her.
  • as i see it, there are basically two main themes to the show. first, who can you trust? i.e. is this person genuine, honest, true, truthful, authentic, real, candid? second, who are your friends? what makes up a friendship? what act is powerful enough to break a friendship? can you go home again, can you mend fences or heal wounds or other cliche metaphors about becoming friends with your enemies? these are simple themes and within the main text of the show, they are treated honestly and sincerely, but they become immensely complicated when they are the two main themes to a show that is not a fiction but about real people, where the general perception of the people in the show by everyone who watches the show is that they are fake (fake real people or real fake people), where people exist, with the same identity, both in a fictionalish television show and in their real lives, where said people reenact scenes from their lives and perform in the moment for the cameras and cop to the fact, where editing and omission can completely change our perception of a someone’s personality or actions or the shape of a situation, where your friends might be your friends because they like you, where the boy might like you because he likes you, but where your friends might also be your friends because they want to be on TV, where that boy might be talking to you because he wants to be a TV, where some people want to be your friend for both those reasons and does that mean they’re not worth being friends with, even if you like them, because they want to get something out of you?
  • p.s. while the second half of this season seems to be about heidi’s heartfelt quest to reconnect with lauren, to be friends again, i feel i must note that without the dissolution of heidi and lauren’s friendship, none of heidi’s dreams and wishes would have come true. without the (ahem) girl-on-girl action that drove season 3, i sincerely doubt the show would’ve been as popular as it is, and, thus, there’s no way heidi would have had either the cachet or the cahs to release her singles and her album or have her own clothing line or to appear in as many tabloid stories as she has. if heidi and lauren had stayed friends forever, the show would probably be over now or at the very least it would be nowhere near the cultural force that it is now and heidi would just be a girl from crested butte who was on a reality show for 5 minutes. which is probably what she will be anyway when this show ends but who knows.
  • p.p.s. also, audrina has a seemingly endless supply of ugly hats. just had to mention that. also, there was a trippy pandora’s box moment during the apartment scene with heidi and audrina, when audrina tries to open heidi’s secret box of stuff and heidi pushed the lid down on it. it was almost lynchian, like, what the hell is in that box?!
  • p.p.p.s. i am so behind with posting, i know. the first part of the season i didn’t have a job which made it a lot easier to post things on time. thank god for “the paper” – i will be more timely from now on.
  • i feel like ending things with a comment from the mtv overdrive message board, by rabbitgurl07. take it away, rabbitgurl,

rabbitgurl 07 04.14.08 | 12:49 AM

What is life about? Are we supposed to find that one person fall in love get married have kids then grow old with? I am sure almost everyone has done what Hiedi has done minus the sex tape thing that was kinda messed up. Lauren was mad at her when Hiedi moved out. That is what life is all about. She can’t live with Lauren her whole life. She thought she found that someone and gave a chance. I am sure that everyone knows how it feels when you are just starting out with someone you just want to be with them all the time and it seems like there isn’t anyone else in the world but that person. So I don’t think people should look down on Hiedi. Especially since shows can cut out scenes to make people look bad. I never used to like Hiedi but she made a mistake and I think she learned from it. I am sure she feels bad.

the song i recorded this week is called “lost.” i really like doing songs where the chorus is the title of a TV show. also i couldn’t think of any real lyrics. the song was inspired by that youtube video compilation of “lost” clips in which the characters are confused about what’s going on. i feel that that video (and hopefully this song) gets at the serious existential issues raised by “lost.” also it really showcases my pitchiness and horrible breath control

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