the hills season 3, episode 13, “young hollywood”
November 6, 2007
[splashcast OAAY5991HA YBIW9338LU]
- hey, it’s a “whitney does a good job” episode! to be more specific, it’s “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job, but then does a good job.”
- the fact that the episode was centered around this big event (“the fashion show”) basically precluded anything really interesting happening. like, take the scene before the first break where whitney and lauren are making gift bags. for the scene to be interesting, there would have be something else going on, some other element. for example, in episode 7 there’s a scene where ostensibly the girls are scouting locations, but this is just a pretense that breaks down immediately and lauren starts talking about a boy or something and whitney makes appropriate dazzling facial expressions. the scene this episode, though, is just about making gift bags. ok. same deal with the scene where whitney is learning how to seat a crowd. i guess maybe these scenes serve to build up the idea that “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job,” but i just don’t feel like that’s enough. i wasn’t bored, but i wasn’t particularly engaged, either.
- the exception to the above is the exchange backstage between whitney and lauren where lauren is just like saying combinations of numbers at whitney (“7 and 1…7 and 11…i’m 7, you’re 1”) and whitney is like omg. hilarious.
- i’m not sure how i feel about the “dramatic” centerpiece this episode, with the frantic intercutting between whitney racing around flustered and lauren trying to call her on a walkie talkie. i have talked previously about how intercutting like this breaks the unity of scene and seems too showy for “the hills” style. in addition, all the big sweeping overhead shots were wrong; this show is at its best when it’s at its most intimate; think “cathedral” and not cathedrals. still, there was a good rhythm, and if the only drama in this episode was going to be “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job,” then this was probably the best way to milk it for all it was worth.
- did you notice any interesting celebrities? i only saw (i think) hayden panettiere (juicy). that was a fucking ugly hat hillary duff was wearing. is she like a rasta now or something?
- before “america’s next top model” and “project runway” and “a model life” i bet the shots of backstage at the fashion show would have felt so insidery and revealing and cool. but now, with reality shows and with this wikipedia level of knowledge that everyone thinks they have of everything, you really have to push harder to defamiliarize the world.
- the scenes with heidi and nondescript work friend were placeholder-y. there were a couple interesting spots in the lunch (“spencer’s just taking me out for a surprise dinner”), but i felt like heidi was really overselling the whole “what is up with my life omg???”discomfort.
- heidi’s remark about how she “feels like she should be turning 25 right now, you know” will, i’m sure, rouse some fresh ire from the blogs, but i found it kind of poignant.
- the heidi and spencer dinner was also pretty blah. the best part was when it cut back to them at the end of the episode and spencer is twiddling on his cell phone and heidi, disconnected, eats cake and unfolds her napkin and drinks water and pushes glasses around on the table.
- also i found it interesting when spencer asked heidi, “what’s that face?” everyone knows what that means in the real world, but it takes on a whole other dimension when you live in “the hills.” what’s that face? like, are you projecting that face at me or are you trying to telegraph it for the cameras? is it how you genuinely feel or is it the mood you’re trying to set for the show or is it a combination of the two? are you going to be doing this face later when we’re at home? etc. etc. etc.
- i have a bad memory and watching this episode i was struck by the idea that, hey, wasn’t audrina like public enemy number one at the beginning of last season? or was that the end of the first season? i don’t know, but either way, it’s funny because it’s like it never happened, it’s like the past doesn’t exist. it’s kind of the way that i have absolutely no memory of heidi’s asshole boyfriend from season 1, like nothing, he is a blank. i should probably rent the DVDs or something.
- audrina and justinbobby were adorable in their “rocker” outfits. the problem with the concert scene was that there was no emotional context. the combination of that lack of emotion, the focus on the band instead of on justinbobby/audrina, and audrina’s line, “I wanna get their CD so I can take it into Epic,” which is subtitled so as to just beat us over the head: it all tastes like really bad product placement.
- this impression was reinforced with awfully artificial staging and composition outside the club. like, oh yeah, of course, the guys in the band are casually chatting outside the club, completely ignorant of the the camera and tripod three feet behind them. audrina approaches, walking directly towards the camera. ugh. later, at the bar, i also didn’t like the staginess of the two guys in the band talking “in the distance,” the camera capturing them in the mirror. just felt like too much.
- when audrina first sits down at the bar, it’s like everyone in the room is paying attention to her. which makes sense, she’s the TV star after all. but in every other scene she’s in, she’s always playing second fiddle to lauren, always in the background. yet here she is, holding court, repeating the name of her funny drink order over and over again, fending off suitors, and you really get the sense that she is loving it, feeding off the attention in a way that she hasn’t before.
- and who is this rocker dude? this is his rock star game, to ask “where are you from” and to say, squeakily, that there’s “always an after-after party”? and then asking permission from her boyfriend to ask her out? you just played a hot show to a packed club and you’re soberly hitting on a girl with a boyfriend? of course the obvious answer is that he’s doing this to get screentime/appease the producers, that he could care less about audrina and, in fact, maybe he’s so stiff and lame because he’s having a real internal crisis like “whoah am i selling out??” like “bro, i thought i was an artist but, what, now i’m on this soap opera?” it could be that, like something out of “kaya,” but he also plays a pretty convincing wuss. justinbobby has more rock/roll in the grease in his hair than this dude has in his whole body.
- speaking of, justinbobby was hilarious. he is always good. the staccato clip of his laugh. flicking his tongue back and forth. the variation (“she’s a really good girl…she’s a really good person”) and repetition (“she’s pretty good…she’s pretty good”)
- although, watching it again, now i think that the second time that justinbobby says “she’s pretty good,” is actually just the clip of him saying it the first time replayed, separated by a cutaway to another angle. a reminder, of course, that the editor is creating the character as much as the performer. duh, i know, but it’s interesting to see it in a tangible way.
- “the hills” as achievable fantasy. now i will trot out the “sex and the city” comparison, for the umpteenth time. for the majority of the young audience of “the hills,” envisioning yourself in the world of “sex and the city” is complete fantasy; those women have Careers, they have Jobs. any dream we have of living their lives right now is as far fetched as thinking about being an alien or an astronaut. but for teens and twentysomethings, the fantasy that’s set forth in “the hills” is achievable, it’s the fantasy we can allow ourselves to have. we can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the world of “sex and the city”: to be a lawyer or the curator of an art gallery or a PR exec or a freelance writer who can somehow buy really expensive shoes and lay around her apartment all day. but what we can imagine is what it’s like to be an intern, at a record company or a PR firm or a magazine. what are lauren and audrina? interns. what were heidi and whitney just last season? interns. lauren and audrina’s apartment is nice and everything, but how different is it from an apartment that you’ve lived in or that someone you knew in college lived in? how much nicer is it, how much of a distance is there really? unless you lived in the sticks or something, i bet not that much. it’s not like it’s crazy blinged out or something; it’s the midpoint between middle class and the “back to school” spread in seventeen magazine. it’s fantasy, but it’s not a fantasy that makes you ache with jealousy to imagine.
- and like so much of “the hills,” of course, this is an illusion. i’m sure these people are rolling in money, i bet heidi’s birthday dinner cost more than i spend on food in a month, but at the same time, the show makes it feel like they’re in a situation that’s only once or twice removed from my own. enough to make it glamorous but not to make it foreign.
- the bread and butter of this blog is close reading and not my crackpot theorizing or shallow musings, but in this episode there really wasn’t an awful lot to read close. hopefully more next week.
in the player is a song i wrote called “won’t you please be friends.” it’s about how lauren and heidi should be friends again. i have never written a song about “the hills” because i thought it would seem kind of weird and obsessive, but who am i kidding? my friend alicia and i used to play music together and we once tried to write a song about alex h. from laguna beach and her existential crisis about how nobody knew her last name. notice in the picture audrina’s velvet underground t-shirt – nice. it makes me want to do a cover of “i found a reason” but change the spoken word part to be about lo. i also tried to do a cover of “wave’ by patti smith except about lauren instead of the pope, but it sounded too creepy, even for me.