April 24, 2008
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 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?”
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.
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.
back to justinbobby and heidi and over them we hear lauren, finally reaching her breaking point, say, “oh my god.”
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.
in the overhead shot, we see lauren adjusting her dress and getting the hell out.
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.
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…
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.
April 18, 2008
- 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.
April 15, 2008
- 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
April 13, 2008
Aw, go groan alone. There’s a difference between 1) making a claim of reality in order to play with genre conventions or question modes of representation or whatever, and 2) making a claim of reality in order to make money by taking advantage of a widespread fetish of authenticity. A fetish that you rightly criticize. If James Frey had gone on Oprah and said “It was all an exercise in media hype. Got you, suckers!” we would have declared him a genius. Actually, we probably would have just assumed he was still lying, and we would have been right.
i respect his opinion, but i disagree. as i see it, the point he is making is largely about intentionality – i.e. if james frey thinks he is making some serious point about how memoirs work or how much bullshit people will buy then we should respect him but if he is just an ex-junkie trying to cop some cash, well, he should fuck off, but personally i just don’t care about intentionality – i have no interest in this classic author figure sitting in his room smoking too many cigarettes and masturbating about all the big important thoughts he’s having and how his big important words are revolutionary and going to challenge what people think about society blah blah vomit.
so, intentionality. listen, i doubt the creators of “the hills” are holed up somewhere watching “masculin feminin” and “last year at marienbad” and reading back issues of ‘film comment’ and dreaming up ways to really fuck with the parameters of truth and authenticity, with how the audience handles narrative. maybe i’m wrong, maybe they are, maybe they’re hardcore theory wonks and meta-televisionaries, but what i think they’re probably trying to do is create a show that a lot of people will watch so it will make a lot of money so they can have jobs and support their families and eat and buy beach houses in malibu. yet the fact is that they are creating art that does fuck with genre conventions and that does, however consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or not, question “modes of representation or whatever.” moreover they’re not doing it with some obscure, difficult novel published in a limited run paperback by fiction collective or a lo-fi indie brooklyn snuff film that gets reviewed in the village voice and some asshole’s blog, they’re doing it with one of the highest rated shows on cable television, they’re doing it with a popular culture phenomenon that is enjoyed by a lot of people and mostly by teenage girls. they are engaging teenage girls, who are fed the most facile, ridiculous pepto-bismol bullshit from their magazines and TV shows, to think about the modes of production of television and film and how editing works to affect meaning and how the paparazzi and the media machines operate and what rights celebrities should have and what is a story. obviously not all of the girls are doing this, i’m sure there are some cindy-lu’s in mimetic trances and “team lauren” t-shirts drooling along to “unwritten,” but i don’t think that’s all of them or even most of them or even many of them. and even if there are a lot of them and they are getting nothing out of this besides the joy of watching the show, well, they’re still watching a really well-produced TV show, so good for them.
beyond all that, what i was responding to with this post was really only that quote that i include from the article. professor blah blah i’m old was saying that he thinks it’s difficult to make successful art that straddles the line between truth and fiction. i can think of three ways we can define successful art (in the pop culture realm, when art is inextricably linked with commerce).
1. it makes a lot of money (commercially successful).
2. it moves people/makes them feel something (emotionally/aesthetically successful).
3. it inspires discussion and debate (culturally? successful).
i was simply making a list of works of art that, off the top of my head, were/are successful at doing all those things while playing with the truth/fiction line. whether or not this use of the truth is morally “right” or “good,” well, you might have me there, but again, that’s not what’s interesting or relevant to me; what’s interesting to me is asses in seats, tears in eyes, and words in ears. if james frey’s work challenged this “widespread fetish of authenticity,” even if he didn’t really mean for it to and was really just trying to tell a good story to make a fast buck, if it made a vast swath of society, from men in tweed jackets at the new republic or the atlantic to soccer moms in oprah’s book club to an idiot friend of mine who was obsessed with this book and “the game” think about what narrative is and what is true and false and to have a public discussion about this, in fact have this discussion on “oprah” and on “the today show,” doesn’t that make this “fake” work more important and successful than some dime a dozen “true” redemption narrative about an asshole who got a root canal without novocain? even if he’s taking advantage of us, if the end result is more thought, more discussion, more reaction, doesn’t that make it more worthwhile than if it was true?
now, his current comment:
My experience watching Juno in the theater, FWIW, was not as bad as you think yours would have been. Yes, the first 15 minutes were cloying and unfunny, but most of my anger was directed not towards the movie itself but towards that half of the audience that thought “honest to blog” was such a hilarious joke that they laughed over whatever the next line was. So once these people got over how totally awesome it was to be watching a smart, funny movie that, like, gets how they and their friends feel to be totally smarter and cooler than everyone else, well then the real movie starts and it’s probably a little better than it deserves to be.
Sorry, my main point isn’t hipster-mocking. My point is I think the contrast between Juno and The Hills and Napoleon Dynamite is very interesting if you think of them as depicting three different strategies for relating to pop culture. (And every work of art is first and foremost a lesson on how to experience that work of art. The medium is the message, etc. etc.) The urban/suburban/rural settings are important here–The Hills comes from within the culture industry, Juno is somewhat insulated from it, N. Dynamite is from so far away you have to get it by mail order. Of course the divisions aren’t set in stone. Everyone who discusses The Hills, or blogs about it, or buys US magazine to read about LC or Heidi, is engaged in co-authorship, or is complicit (if you want to put it that way). Conversely, even (or especially) Hollywood stars are snarky and cynical about the industry.
Everyone is simultaneously inside and outside (even Jackie Harvey) and must constantly negotiate their position. The Hills people try to construct and enact (as we all do) a seamless (or minimalist) persona out of a million previous personae (fictional or not); Juno’s pregnancy is such a crisis because it forces/allows her to become a (re)productive member of the culture industry instead of remaining forever ironic; Napoleon’s triumph is a radical reformulation of a distant (both spatially and racially) culture. I agree that ND is the weakest, because it relies on the Romantic myth of the mystical creative genius, but it’s pretty genius to create an entire alternative system of cultural references for teenagers who feel themselves left behind in the race to master cultural references.
p.s. To make this schema work for ska, just replace “culture industry” with “Jamaica.” Skatalites=The Hills; English Beat=Juno; Reel Big Fish=Napoleon Dynamite. The difference is that here, increased distance from the center (Kingston->London->LA) means a weaker (rather than stronger) claim to authenticity, for those who still think authenticity is a meaningful concept.
jared, i don’t exactly understand what you’re arguing here but it all sounds really good, so you can take that as a tacit admission that you’re right.
jared has an interesting post about “the hills” on his blog. he notes:
The narrative is never confined to what we see on the show–every single tabloid piece, every public appearance, every blog entry, is actually part of the show.
absolutely true. and this is the reason why the show is such a powerful cultural force, because it is that, a force, a mass of images, an army of reproductions, not just a show that comes on a half hour every week at 10:00. all of this conflicting data complicates the essence of the show, but it also makes it bigger, more enveloping, more powerful. the show (and the filmed lives of britney and lindsey, paris) is a living, breathing refutation of “the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.”
The first question I have–and it may seem trivial given all that lit theory, but I want to start to try to bring visual analysis into the discussion–is why do so many characters make entrances with their faces obscured? Entrances are obviously planned and staged, so why create that second of confusion when you see that a character has entered an apartment but don’t see who it is? To create a reality effect?
i thought about this during episode 22, when the lauren-brody lunch scene starts. we open on brody sitting at his lunch table and calling lauren, who he thinks is late but who is actually at the other side of the restaurant. through some awkwardly framed shots of her from behind, at an angle (i don’t have time to look at the show itself right now) she gets to the table and sits down and then the scene begins. the thing is, why is this a part of the episode? it could have easily been chopped off and we would have just started with the two of them saying hello. as we know, scenes can be restaged, so why not just do that? i don’t have the answer either, although my best guess would have something to do with your idea of creating “a reality effect.”
or it could be the production of the show responding to the demands of reality. think of all the times we see a waiter bringing characters food in a restaurant and the scene sort of stops to acknowledge the waiter and that this, the bringing of food, is going on. in a fiction film, there would be none of this acknowledgment or recognition of such a basic everyday thing unless it was in some way important to the plot or the characters (i.e. if the reaction to the waiter revealed something about the attitudes of one or both of the characters, if the waiter interrupted some crucial moment, if the waiter is secretly a spy or has some relation to the characters etc.) but here it’s just a waiter, and why is it necessary for valuable storytelling time to be taken up with characters accepting food? it could be creating “a reality effect” (i.e. viewers will be confused and/or disoriented if food just appears out of nowhere) or it could be the effect of reality (i.e. the characters were in the middle of a first take with a really fresh, authentic feeling that you get in the first take and the producers want to use that, even if we have to sit through a waiter presenting drinks and salads and listen to the girls thank him/her.)
anyway, thanks for commenting! “I appreciate people taking time to write any kind of comment. Do you know how much effort it really takes to sit down and write a comment? I’ve never written a comment in my entire life…you really have to have a lot of passion and thought to write any comment, so thank you.”
April 13, 2008
sadly, i watch “the hills” on MTV overdrive instead of on real television. don’t get me wrong, i’m glad that i can watch it that way and they’ve really improved the technology since last year for a far superior viewing experience, but i am not one of these internet-TV convergence lovers and i miss watching it on a regular TV with regular commercials, live. anyway i don’t know what the ad packages are like during the television airing of the show, but i have to say how extremely weird it feels that my viewing of this week’s episode of “the hills” is sponsored by “juno.”
i know, talking about the movie “juno” is so three months ago, but whatever. my experience watching “juno” was, like my experience watching “the hills,” affected by the fact that i downloaded it from the internet instead of seeing it in a theater. everybody talks about how the first fifteen minutes are the worst part of “juno” and i totally agree and thus when i watched juno for the first time, after that nauseating first fifteen minutes, i just turned it off. in a pre-tivo/torrent world, this wouldn’t have happened. if i had been watching juno on TV, i would have just changed the channel and forgotten about it and then maybe caught it a year or two later. if i had been watching it in a theater, i would’ve sort of grinned and bore it because i am way too middle class to ever walk out of a movie i’ve paid for, but i probably wouldn’t have been able to recover from that first fifteen minutes and enjoy the movie because i hold a grudge like crazy.
when i eventually rewatched it a few weeks later, skipping the first fifteen minutes, i went on to enjoy it. it made me cry, the first time a movie had done that in a long time, although i attribute that crying way more to things external to the movie, to personal circumstances and a desire to cry about something, than to the movie itself, i would feel remiss not noting that it made me cry since that is a popular way for many people to note the emotional impact of a movie or TV show or other pop culture manifestation. so it made me cry and i enjoyed it. that doesn’t mean i think it was great or unimpeachable or worthy of an oscar (especially an oscar for writing), but whatever, i’m being honest.
anyway let’s get to the part where i skip all this meandery subterfuge and get to comparing “juno” and “the hills”
stylistically, they are totally disparate: the glossy, costly minimalism of “the hills” vs. the muddy, middle class maximalism of “juno” (LOLitteration!) obviously you know which side i trend to. yet i was not prepared for how much the dialogue would piss me off, how noxious i would find it. two of my favorite TV shows ever are “gilmore girls” and “the west wing.” i am the kind of person who liked “studio 60” and was pissed off when it got canceled. thus, i have no problem with stylized, idiosyncratic dialogue; i, in fact, lap that shit up. but i hated the way juno talked. i have no explanation for this.
(although i had a weak theory for a while about why this bugged me, which had to do with repetition. like in real life, people, even smart people, repeat the things they say. when they think they have said something clever or interesting, they repeat it even more. but “juno” and her clever friends, they never repeat anything and i found that unnerving. my other theory about this had to do with the way my little brother and his friends appropriated things from the movie “napoleon dynamite.” personally, i hated the idea of “napoleon dynamite” and didn’t see it for about a year after its DVD release, after which i hated the actual movie as well as the idea of it. but my brother, who is three years younger than i am, loved the movie and all his friends did too. a snapshot of them from this period would have revealed them making the sort of odd references and conversational allusions and having the sort of conversational tempo and back-and-forth that sounds a lot like “juno.” but the main difference is that they were taking these things from a popular movie, the way tons of other teenagers around the country were, whereas juno’s statements are all so subcultural and “original” and could have seemingly come only from her. if you want to hear the way “indie” teens really talk, don’t listen to “juno,” listen to kids now as they appropriate their favorite soundbytes from “juno” and integrate them into their regular conversation.)
“juno” and “the hills” have been praised as feminist works and derided as anti-feminist works. i’m not going to get into that whole thing since my intellectual background leaves me more qualified to discuss third wave ska than third wave feminism (also remember that i think “the hills” is largely humanist art), but i will say that they are both womanistic in the sort of tangible way that we can actually measure: screen time and plot precedence. michael cera is in “juno” for what, like 2 minutes? jason bateman’s character literally disappears from the film when he does something the women controlling the plot (both inside and outside the screen) disagree with. i have talked in the past about how men on “the hills” aren’t important before, so read that if you need to. let’s just say that if you think heidi choosing spencer makes spencer an important character, you’re wrong. it’s wasn’t heidi choosing spencer that was important, not really, it was heidi not choosing lauren. spencer was just a catalyst, something that was used to set much larger and more important events into play. female relationships trump everything, as the slow (faux?) dissolution of speidi and heidi’s yearning for a female friend illustrate. (this use of men as objects and status symbols is more palatable on “the hills” where the men are basically douchebags and losers than in “juno” where, come on, it’s fucking adorable michael cera acting adorable and jason bateman is playing the one character in the movie with a shred of complexity and who actually talks and behaves like a genuine human being. also, while i am ranting about actors i’ll just say that i have hated jennifer garner in basically everything but i thought she was fantastic in “juno,” one of the best parts.)
“the hills”: “the devil wears prada” edited by gordon lish
or, an episode of the “clueless” t.v. show adapted for the screen by david markson and directed by a 50-50 collaboration of madonna and guy ritchie, with madonna twisting guy’s balls when she doesn’t get her way making the ratio more like 67-33.
“juno”: a judy blume novel rewritten by mark leyner
or, an episode of “degrassi” adapted for the screen by napoleon dynamite and then script-doctored and directed by amy sherman palladino as she is repeatedly hit in the head at a moderate speed with a foam covered yet still solid baseball bat
(or, a YA adaptation of “the return of jezebel james” set in suburban oregon instead of new york)
ok, i’ve got that out of my system, sorry
it is amazing how fast heidi and spencer are talking in that scene of theirs. the other thing that strikes me is that they arguing about the terms of their relationship, they are arguing about the definition of their relationship. this happens all the time to real couples in real life and it is complicated then but here it is exponentially more complicated. spencer and heidi have three relationships: they have their relationship as it is presented to us in the world of the show (time-delayed a few months) and then they have their other public relationship, which they are actively presenting to the tabloid press, and then they have their own private relationship, whatever the hell that is. and i have said it before and i am sure i will say it again, but it seems impossible to me that these different relationships do not react with each other and rub up against each other and things from one plane slip into another and there is, as juliana hatfield put it, “identity confusion.”
like, in this scene, spencer is asking if they are really (!) in a relationship because a lot of girls are asking him to go out. so let’s say we believe this scene is completely fake, just part of the plot. yet there is something completely real about it, too, under the surface. because, let’s face it, spencer pratt is kind of famous now and i have no doubt that has increased the amount of women that want to have sex with him. sure he’s famous as a villain, but i don’t think that matters; lots of famous people are assholes and are famous for being assholes and this doesn’t reduce the amount of people that want to have sex with them. anyway, spencer has this fame and on the one hand he knows that heidi is the only reason he has it and on the other hand he knows that there are a lot of woman who would want to have sex with him. he knows this and i am sure heidi knows this too and that there is a tension in their “relationship” because of it, a tension that manifests itself in how they are behaving in real life and how they are physically performing in their scenes together and etc.
along these lines, in the usweekly report on the launch of heidi’s fashion line, a reporter inquires as to the state of heidi and spencer’s relationship. heidi responds, “i mean, you know, we’re up, we’re down…it’s just the routine.” of course, the multiple meanings of the word “routine”: the daily grind, the quotidian, the habitual, as heidi intends it, but then there is also the theatrical sense, the performance, the choreographed moment.
(a simple logistical thing that undercuts the whole scene, though is that isn’t this spencer’s condo? like, legally? when they moved in, it wasn’t a joint lease, it was something he already owned or was leasing or whatever, right? so i get that if the relationship goes badly the traditional mores or whatever is for him to leave, to be a man, etc. sure, fine. but the idea of her forcing him to move his possessions and furnishings out of the house he owns is kind of weird; they are not married, this is not common property.)
the spencer-stephanie pratt domestic dispute was also great. he is so good at being an asshole on TV that it’s hard not to believe he’s an asshole in real life too. it was classic sitcom fare; this is the one instance where “the hills: aftershow”‘s genre parody of a scene is actually really good. watch.
compare these two lines: 1. “It’s not an apartment, it’s a condo.” 2. “It’s not a house, it’s a condo.” my fiction is coming true and it is creeping me out.
i love the idea of “operation: win heidi back” – the military connotation of other operations, desert storm or iraqi freedom, is too rich in this land of women. we know spencer is informed on the art of war, even if he hasn’t read “the art of war”; we know from interviews and from glimpses of his bookshelf that he has read books about the CIA and the delta force and the situation “over there.” he watches lots of documentaries on the history channel, i’m sure. as for the battle, day one’s operations seem to involve eating take-out and watching “24.” the war is confidential (“like i’m gonna tell your little snitch…”) and yet at the same time aired on television. the outcome may be predetermined/scripted/sculpted/edited/color corrected. the revolution will be televised. the gulf war did not take place.
of course, “the hills” is the anti-“24.” “24” takes as its form representing one day in the life of its main character, but it’s not an average day, it’s not the boredom and simple pleasures of the quotidian, it’s an exercise in artificially cramming a lifetime’s worth of major events, of plot, into 24 hours.
spencer is an example of “the hills” being the opposite of that, a show about nothing. spencer, in this episode and in all the others, is constantly on the couch, either watching television, playing video games, reading a book, or reading something on his laptop. he is the consummate consumer of media; he never seems to actually be doing anything and he doesn’t have a “job” (and when steph weakly asks about him getting a job in this episode, it seems to be one of the moments where the show is really testing my suspension of disbelief in order to match up with classic dramatic tropes).
this week, further proof that the sole reason kimberly exists is to support and expedite the plot: she’s working the door at lauren’s birthday party so she can conveniently have a scene with heidi at bolthouse later and reveal that stephanie attended the party. poor kimberly. she will never have a last name, she will never be a complete person, she is just “kimberly.” what do her parents think? when i was in college my friend alicia and i wrote a song about alex h. from laguna beach and how she was better than alex m. and how we wanted to know more about her life and what her last name was (the chorus started something like “oh, alex h., what is your whole last name”) and how we thought it unjust that the chyron always identified her as “kristin’s friend” even though she had been on the show a lot and needed no such identification.
the party scene was fun. i liked the three shot sequence of lauren, then audrina, then heidi pretending to dance. i would really like to do some sort of statistical study of adverbs signifying authenticity (truly, truthfully, genuinely, honestly, really) and how often they pop up on the show. also love audrina and the end telling lo “smile!” like she is trying to help her hit her mark.
after heidi met up with kimberly, the spencer-heidi phone conversation was really hollow and wooden and lame. spencer just wasn’t convincing at all. it makes sense though, because he’s only existing in audio in that scene, he’s cut off from the visual dimension and visuals are so important to the effect of “the hills.” it’s the same kind of thing as when audrina called lauren in paris to tell her about brody being with a girl and how fake that seemed.
i liked when lauren said “you’re very blue today” to brody. they always seem to be talking about color, i remember when they started a conversation by talking about eye color and how it can be misleading and elusive. they have their usual sexless sexual tension but the most interesting part was when they were talking about steph pratt. brody asks, “do you really think she’s being genuine and sincere?” he is asking a reality star this on her reality show on which he is also a star, great. then he tops himself by asking, “do you ever think for one second that spencer and heidi are trying to get her in to be friends with you to…i don’t know…do something.” with that line, he exposes how overblown this issue has gotten, how trivial these things are, because, really, what are they going to do? this is not some jacobean revenge tragedy, it’s not like they are going to poison lauren or trick her into losing her inheritance or marry a man in drag or something; the most powerful weapon they have had so far was to imply that maybe she might have been in a sex tape.
but the great thing is that brody is making this remark from inside the aura, wrapped in the very drama he’s deflating: he goes on to talk quite seriously about how heidi and spencer are always planning “schemes,” like they are fucking boris and natasha.
line of the episode: spencer: “lauren is the crazy one who hates heidi because of me, who’s now friends with you.” or “i’m sorry that you’re making yourself cry.” or maybe stephanie’s line: “water under the bridge….is that the expression, water under the bridge?” it was a very good episode for the pratts
i liked the whisper scene. it seemed like a nice tweak of the style of the show the way “the whisper song” was a tweak of the style of the ying yang twins. it made it so powerful when stephanie raised her voice to say “he just wants me to feel guilty” and of course showcased how lauren changes the tone of her voice to show emotion.
lauren, diagnosing spencer, says, “you know, it’s probably because, you know, when like, there’s certain things you’re sensitive about, and he had a really big problem with brody being my friend, and it’s probably just that…” it is such a good diagnosis probably because it is also an exact description of her emotional issues re: friends/betrayal.
for thematic reasons, i’m going to talk about the last scene in my discussion of episode 23.
bonus: the mtv “remote control” blog, which tends to be a waste of time, linked to a really good video blog about the show this week. the videos are produced by newnownext, which is a blog for logo (viacom’s gay network). so, it’s a corporate blog, but it’s one that is actually written by real life human beings. their videos, which are called “the heidi chronicles” are really great because they are the exact antidote to “the hills: aftershow”: really lo fi, just these two funny guys reading text messages off their cell phones in front of a wall covered with tabloid cutouts and pinups of girls from “the hills.”
April 9, 2008
i am writing about the episodes this week but they were way better than the last two and it is taking longer and my head hurts. please stop with the bonus episodes, mtv. it hurts me, like, physically.
from perez hilton
“Lauren and Heidi (and the other girls) are doing the cover of Rolling Stone today [Tuesday],” a magazine insider tells us. “This is the first time in two years that L.C. and Heidi have been on a photo shoot together.”
any commentary, perez?
Should be inneresting!!!!
jesus. you know i don’t do these kind of news items but i saw the story and immediately saw my one chance ever to post this kick ass video.
q: does the quick reentry to the verse at 4:26 reveal that the seemingly “real” drunk feedback and pick-scrape “solo” was totally planned, like on “the hills”?
a: like on “the hills,” it’s so good it doesn’t matter.
April 6, 2008
- because i have a long postscript this week, i am not going to do an exhaustive study of this week’s episode and am mainly going to focus on the two set pieces at the heart of the episode: the text messaging scene and the fashion show scene.
- as loyal readers know, i do not tend to be a fan of crosscutting between scenes in different locations and think it is a break in the house style of “the hills.” but that scene with stephanie pratt text messaging heidi and then lauren text messaging audrina was pure genius. when the camera cut, after that break with, from stephanie pratt’s gaze to lauren, i knew the shot of lauren text messaging was coming but then it came and i could not help but kind of laugh with joy at the fact that it had come and the truth of its coming and the way that it came.
- it’s genius because the text messaging scene is a direct mirror of what is going on with the audience as they watch the show. they are text messaging (or IMing or blog commenting) and almost undoubtedly their messages are beginning with “omg” or “oh my god” and then going on to lol about this crazy situation.
- also lauren’s performance during her first confrontation was absolutely breathtaking. like, the on the edge of tears, whispery thing? omg! tell me how real actresses are better than this? the only acting i saw of this caliber in a fiction film last year was “margot at the wedding” and everybody seemed to hate that.
- something i forgot to write about during the paris episode was that the girls’ scenes with the driver did not only kick up those meta-connotations of the producer-star relationship but also really made me think of of that michael mann movie “collateral” with jamie foxx and tom cruise. you know, driving around at night, commanding the driver where to go, etc. i am sure there are plenty of other like hitman/mobster/thriller movies that are examples of this, but i think i focused on the michael mann movie because he shot “collateral” on digital which was a big deal at the time and then he did “miami vice” which everybody again talked about the gorgeous cinematography and how vacuous the thing was besides that gorgeous cinematography, which, hello.
- the scene in the paris episode that really sparked this association was the scene where the girls find out that lauren can get another dress if she can be at alberta feretti in ten minutes and so then there is a quick-cut, drive, driver, drive sort of sequence, the car cutting corners, speeding down rain-slicked streets, all to make it there just in the nick of time. it’s a feminization of an action movie trope; instead of racing to defuse a bomb or save some hostages or kill a villain, they’re rushing to pick up a pretty ball gown before the store closes.
- a much better example of this is the second set piece in the episode, the whitney scene at the fashion show. it is the girl version of the scene in star wars where they blow up the death star. whitney has to wear a uniform (“we all wear black, everyone wears black”); she is working for a company called people’s revolution. sass and bide look like aliens with their bizarre hair. at the fashion show, whitney and sass and bide and the troops stand in disarray backstage, waiting for the show to start. they are wearing headsets and are in constant radio contact. they are lit by a brilliant and otherworldly and blinding blue light. the cutting here is faster than maybe every before and the cameras backstage are, for once, handheld, not locked down; there is overlapping dialogue and it’s clashing texturally because of the sound of the walkie talkies. the show starts and whitney is sending the models out, ships into battle. then, in the middle of the scene, something goes wrong, someone is missing. the radio is going crazy. “what’s going on?” but whitney works it out and everything works out. in the end, sass and bide take their victorious runway lap and everyone claps and cheers and awkwardly high fives.
- (i am eagerly awaiting the attack of the clones.)
- one last thing; the scene with lo and audrina warning lauren to “keep her guard up” because they “don’t trust” stephanie pratt is hilarious because it’s a total inversion of every scene where lauren warns someone about how they shouldn’t trust someone and then that person does something untrustworthy. foreshadowing?
- one more last thing; i would be remiss if i didn’t note the incredible traveling shot of lauren conrad and stephanie pratt becoming friends. again, the dialogue, about steph quitting smoking, is a little camp in a kind of bret easton ellis cum “clueless” sort of way but at the very end when stephanie pratt says “now if only i could quit tanning beds,” like, i really don’t think that’s ironic or a joke, it’s real. loved it. she has “won me over, in spite of me” and shouldn’t be “alarmed if i fall, head over feet.” also genius: ending things in the school cafeteria to underscore the high school melodrama of the whole thing.
so, juliana hatfield wrote an entry on her emo myspace blog about “the hills” last week. i have been trying to think of a way to respond to it and have been so stuck and it has been so unpleasant. at first, i was going to do a line by line annotation and just sort of tear her writing up, which honestly would not have been hard in part because making up mean jokes is fun and in part because she’s just not a very good writer and says things that are at turns ridiculously hyperbolic (“I’ve watched The Hills when I could’ve been reading a book or painting a painting or trying to find a cure for cancer “), absurdly sanctimonious (“There is no joy in the la la’s“), and/or straight out of an ashlee simpson song (“so i give you pieces of ‘me’“). but i’m not going to do it. and i know this kind of move i just did is like rhetoric 101, like, making mean jokes about someone under the pretense of saying you’re not going to make mean jokes about them and writing about something under the pretense of not writing about it – it’s the classic way of being an asshole in the guise of being a nice, ethical person – but i’m not doing an annotation to her post. this is not because i want to be seen as a nice, ethical person (although of course i want to be seen as a nice ethical person) but because her post is a lot more complex than the blogs that linked to it made it out to be and after doing a close reading of it and the post that followed it i have too much respect for her as a person to be that much of a dick, even though i think she is totally fucking wrong about a lot of things.
so anyway, i’m not going to do that, but what i am going to do is quote just one part of her post, the part where i think we fundamentally disagree. she writes:
The song is scolding myself for doing this at all – for building songs and releasing them out into the cruel world – for wanting and needing attention from an audience and critics. For needing to be seen/heard/consumed/praised in order to feel good about myself.
But I only want to be seen in a certain way. I want to be able to control it. I want you to think I’m cool. I mean, I AM cool, but there are parts of me that are not so cool. I only want you to see the cool part. The good-looking part. My good side(s). So I give you pieces of “me” – a torso, a clavicle, an arm, eyes, legs (on the new album), a bunch of carefully formed words but I am thoroughly conscious (if I can help it) of everything I choose to give (though it all often backfires, anyway, despite my best intentions).
The fact that I still want and need and court an audience – to be appreciated and acknowledged by total strangers – seems, to me, a failing, a weakness, a character flaw. I consider the fact that I submit myself and my work over and over again to the judgment of random people – when I have such a low opinion of humanity (myself included) in general – to be seriously twisted. It doesn’t make any sense…
there was a minor uproar a few weeks ago because ginia bellafante called heidi montag a “feminist hero” in her review of this season of “the hills.” there were a lot of blog posts and comments about critical standards, ginia bellafante’s stupidity, the audacity of the new york times, “i’ll never read the new york times again,” blah blah blah. personally, i don’t doubt that bellafante was completely conscious of what she was doing, that it was an intentionally provocative line, since “feminist” is a loaded word that’s difficult to define, that has a lot of connotations to a lot of people and a lot of emotions tied into it, that you wouldn’t use casually or without some consideration to describe heidi montag.
a word that’s not very loaded, though, or difficult to define, is “human.” i think we can all generally agree what a human being and that heidi montag is in fact a living, breathing example of one. yet a great many people apparently disagree with this assessment. on blog comments, on message boards, in reviews of “the hills,” heidi montag is called inhuman, subhuman, soulless, worthless, empty, plastic, a robot.
why do people feel this way? why do they hate her so much? the reason that’s given over and over again to justify the hatred of her is that she “wants to be famous,” that “all she cares about is being famous,” that she is “a talentless fame whore” or a “fameball.” this has become the go-to reason for reflexively hating heidi, and paris hilton and julia allison, too: their desire to be famous.
i don’t argue with the fact that heidi montag wants to be famous or even that her major motivating factor in life is to be famous: to argue with that would be, i think, both stupid and wrong. i don’t even argue that this desire for fame isn’t a flaw; it probably is, for reasons which i’ll touch on later. the thing i do disagree with, though, is that this flaw is a reason to hate heidi or julia or paris, that it is something nasty and ugly and wrong about them. rather, i think that it is a beautiful, beautiful flaw, that it is the thing that makes them most beautiful, that it is in fact the fundamental reason why they should be loved.
the contemporary discourse on physical beauty in pop culture is all about embracing flaws. thus, the popular concept, which probably developed contemporaneously with the explosion of reality television, of the “real woman.” real women have curves, the dove campaign for real beauty, lifetime real: women, the real woman project. “celebrity, sex, fashion. without airbrushing.” love the real you, love yourself, love your imperfections; embrace your flaws, kiss your scars, hug your defects etc. etc. yet for all this lovely rhetoric about physical beauty, there is no equivalent discussion of mental or emotional or social flaws. even though it’s arguably much harder to change these defects than physical flaws, narcissism and self-centeredness can never be seen as beautiful in the way that a fat ass or crooked nose can. julianna hatfield concludes her post on “the hills” by saying, “it’s what’s inside that makes us who we are.” well, what if what’s inside you isn’t perfect? what if you’ve got mental cellulite and social acne and philosophical love handles — does that make you less worthy of love?
what i find really ironic is that all this hatred of heidi and paris and julia for their flaws of personality is coming from people writing comments and blog posts on the internet. as heidi montag said about comments the day after she apparently cried herself to sleep over all the negative comments about her first single, “higher”:
“I appreciate people taking time to write any kind of comment. Do you know how much effort it really takes to sit down and write a comment? I’ve never written a comment in my entire life…you really have to have a lot of passion and thought to write any comment, so thank you. “
heidi is wrong; it doesn’t really take a lot of thought to write a comment: you just type it and click post. she’s at least partially right, though: it may not take a lot of effort or passion, but it does take at least some. i started a new job a couple of months ago and i was talking to another new hire during our training. we didn’t really have a lot in common, but we were doing your standard bullshit small talk. i mentioned something a blogger had written about something related to our living situation. he snorted and said something about how “those bloggers” don’t really have lives and if they did, they would be living them instead of writing about them. now, even if i am a total example of it, i am not going to go on that “people who spend time on the internet don’t have a life” trip. but what i will say and what i think is obvious is that people who are posting on the internet, whether they are posting comments or blog posts or youtube clips or whatever, they are in some way incomplete; they need something that they are not getting from their everyday lives, from their jobs, their friends, their family, their significant others, and so they are extending themselves onto the internet to try to find it.
they are going to the effort of posting something on the internet because they feel that they need to. they need to express themselves, they need to communicate with others, they need to impress people, they need other people to see some manifestation of them and validate it and them with a comment or trackback or thumbs up or kudos or just a page view, just a pair of eyes on this thing they have created; they need attention. this is no different than how it has always been with writers and artists, who by and large aren’t creating their work in a vacuum or hiding it away like kafka, but the internet has made it possible for anyone to get this kind of attention in two seconds from the comfort of their own home, without having to even make anything besides a two sentence response to something someone else said.
so heidi and julia and paris want to be famous. what does that mean? it doesn’t mean they want to be rich, even if they all do, that’s a separate thing, it’s “rich and famous,” the one doesn’t contain the other, just ask gary coleman. so they want to be famous. what does that mean? i guess that they all want attention, a lot of attention, a lot of people to watch them, to read them, to hear them, to want them. heidi and julia and paris all want attention, just like people on the internet do. they are incomplete the way that those people are incomplete, the way all human beings are incomplete.
whether you believe in original sin or common sense or have just lived on planet earth for a couple of years, you know that human beings aren’t perfect. the beautiful thing about heidi and julia and paris is that their imperfections are magnified to giant size by the lens of celebrity, that their auras are exploded by the million copies of their image. they don’t want attention the way most of us do; they don’t want somebody to notice the outfit they’re wearing or that they got a haircut or the good job they did at work or the funny thing they said at the party. well, actually, they do, they do want all those things, but that’s not enough for them, they need more, more, more. they can’t get the kind of satisfaction they need the way so many “normal” people can, from their family and friends and lovers and coworkers, they need more than that. they want a hundred eyes and when they get them they want a thousand and when they get them they want a million. and sure, that’s narcissism, totally, but narcissus was a human, not a god. heidi montag is not only human, she is beautifully human, she is powerfully human, she is radiantly human.
like, ok, i am already oversharing here, just like juliana on her myspace, and so i’m just going to go all out. last fall i had a chance to be in a national magazine. notice i said “be in,” not “write for”: it was a tiny little layout filler thing, it wasn’t real writing. still, it was a national magazine and i am 22 and i have no publishing credits besides my school’s shitty undergrad magazine. yet i said no. i said no because i thought (and still think) that it was a horrible fit, that the feature would have made me look either stupid or pretentious or (most probably) stupid and pretentious at the same time. i decided, no, you have to have some kind of integrity, and so i politely declined and i felt good about it
and that was the total fucking wrong decision! it was so stupid. i write a blog about a popular television show for free, what integrity do i have? i have bit my nails and stressed and agonized over tens of thousands of words that very few people actually read, that are completely dated and useless a week after i write them, yet i can’t cash in (figuratively) and see my name printed in a magazine? why the hell not? do you know who would have never made a decision like that? heidi montag or julia allison. they wouldn’t have made that decision because they’re not afraid to look stupid in front of other people, because they’re not afraid to look ugly in front of other people, because they’re not afraid to look human in front of other people. obviously, like anyone, they would prefer not to look stupid or ugly in front of other people (thus julia’s trademark pose and heidi and spencer’s faked paparazzi photos), but they’re not afraid to look stupid or ugly and they do, all the time. and obviously, heidi and julia, like anyone, want people to perceive them in a certain way and so they speak and act and dress and write and sing and mime in a way that they hope will make people perceive them the way they want to be perceived; obviously, they are “fake” and “constructed,” the same way that you are “fake” and “constructed” in a job interview or on a blind date or talking to a cop or just trying to look cool to some people. above all, heidi montag and julia allison are these glossy, gleaming, big-titted reminders that perfection is impossible, that we are all flawed, that we all need people to pay attention to us and think about us and love us, and the fact that they remind people of these things is why so many people hate them and it’s why i think they’re the most beautiful women in the world. maybe they’re not “real” women, but they’re women living in “reality,” the same place as you and me and everyone else. they are showing us how to be human just as we are showing them.
April 2, 2008
- ok, MTV, i do have, like, a job and stuff, so could you please cut it out with the double episodes?
- i mean, i understand, they should rake in the cash while they can, but wouldn’t they make more money stretching things out and banking some change off that overflow into the 10:30 slot? you would think they would use this chance to launch a show but obv. every show pales in comparison to “the hills” and so they’re not going to hold the viewers; we learned that last season from the incredible plane-crash failure that was “kaya.” anyway, for the sake of both my sanity and canonical naming conventions, i’m going to split my coverage into two parts. here is episode 20; my discussion (i don’t like the word “recap”) of episode 21/juliana hatfield’s blog and my song for this week will come tomorrow or friday.
- i love how lauren comes in super excited and bouncy and then when audrina asks how she is she says, “i’m jetlagged.” really? i am taking her statement that “my body never really fully switched times,” as further evidence of generation: lost. (also, when brody cryptically says “i’ve got a friend in paris” it of course made me think of ben’s “i’ve got a man on the boat.” brody’s man is definitely a producer, though, no mystery there.)
- yes, now that the season premiere is over, this (“i love how _______” + disparate pop reference) is basically the level of discourse i’m returning to, fyi.
- what is really interesting about the first scene is that it communicates the exact same information as the recap that directly precedes it. in the recap, we are reminded that lauren and whitney went to paris, we hear matthias offering to take lauren to the eiffel tower at night, and lauren reminds us in her VO that, “after two years, whitney decided she was over working for the magazine.” in the first scene with audrina, right after the recap, lauren talks about what it was like being in paris, she tells audrina that she went to the eiffel tower at night with matthias, and she notes that “i think whitney doesn’t want to work for teen vogue anymore.” it’s a recap of the recap.
- this has, i’m sure, happened before but this is the first time i’m noticing it in this way.
- similarly, a reheated thought with fresh garnish: the shots of the girls in the opening credits are their facebook profile pictures that they are allowed to choose and pose for and make sure they look good; tabloid photos are like the pictures they get tagged with by their asshole friends.
- the whitney-lisa love thing was a non-scene. lisa can do bitchy meryl streep really well but her elegant grande dame meryl streep is not always so good. there’s definitely a gesture towards it with her phrasing (“recommendations will be made in your favor” instead of “i will write you a recommendation,” as if a recommendation is some secret masonic ritual or whatev) but it’s a little limp. still, i respect her effort. she will have, i guess, one more chance to shine in whatever episode lauren leaves to go work for people’s revolution.
- i have decided to play with visual symbolism in this episode so it’s “important” to note that in whitney’s camera angle in this scene you can see a picture of a bright yellow bird in a cage behind her.
- p.s. apparently lisa love is going to be in the next vincent gallo movie? here is a creepy picture of them holding each other.
- the heidi-kimberly scene. the recap – we see that heidi went to colorado and that spencer came and they had a fight and then she came back from colorado. beginning of heidi-kimberly scene – kimberly: “how’s everything going with you?” heidi: “umm, you know, getting back from colorado, just trying to figure out everything with spencer…” recap of recap.
- this scene is pretty meh. unlike other main character sounding boards like whitney/audrina/elodie/lo, we have no narrative/personality traits/interesting things to associate with kimberly. thus, without any notion of her personality, you can’t read anything into the way she talks or acts you can the other characters. the same is true of audrina’s monologue catcher at epic records, chiara.
- continuing my visual symbolism shtick, in the background in the shots of heidi, you can see a large framed image. it seems like a reproduction of a painting of a hardwood floor and on the hardwood floor there is a lit candelabra, two champagne bottles, and two glasses of champagne. this strikes me as basically a vanitas painting.
- it’s a “hills” version of a vanitas though. this is no dusty cask of corked wine, it’s champagne, and the glasses are decidedly half full, not empty; the candles are burning, not snuffed out; there is no skull. it’s a prelude to a party, not a death; it’s a reminder that saturday night is transient, not that life is. the image is covered with some kind of clear plastic and catching a lot of reflections – hey, dutch masters, forget your earthy oil paint and canvas, it’s shiny!
- doing my extensive research for this tangent on wikipedia i also noticed something about vanitas paintings i didn’t learn about in intro to art history which is that they are apparently connected to ecclesiastes 1:2, which “is translated as Vanity of vanities; all is vanity by the King James Version of the Bible, and Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless by the New International Version of the Bible.” either translation seems a fitting motto for “the hills.”
- along these lines note the balance between the tiny silver cross around heidi’s neck and her enormous hoop earrings.
- i do like at the end of the scene when kimberly starts to tell a story about her personal life and it’s so obvious that heidi is not paying any attention at all and after kimberly stops speaking heidi closes her eyes, and touches her temple, saying “i don’t even want to get into that territory” – i.e., you are a minor character, we/i have no time for your story. audrina proves that she has learned this lesson in the first scene, when she responds to lauren’s monologue with a rote “i know you exactly how you feel.”
- heidi – “i gave up everything for spencer. i literally gave up everything for him.” of course she literally didn’t; this is “the hills” not some fucking morgan spurlock martyrfest. the only thing she gave up was lauren; her “everything” is lauren.
- it’s perfectly characteristic that spencer’s response to this whole situation is not sadness or anxiety but annoyance and inconvenience. he doesn’t complain to steff about being depressed, he says, “i’m beyond annoyed that i have to move out. I would rather never moved in if i knew i was going to eventually have to move out.”
- more visual symbolism: after spencer says that he’s considering dating other people, the next shot we get is a don’t walk sign, the bright red hand in the center of the frame. subtle. it reminds me of the early seasons of “survivor” when they would have like an interstitial shot of a snake writhing on a rock or a spider weaving a web or just some abstract islands or rock formations which were undercut with ethnic music stings to foreshadow betrayals and create tension.
- you know i love whitney best, but her lisa was “surprisingly supportive” line to lauren was one of the stupidest things she’s ever said. “surprisingly supportive”? the woman has sent you to paris – twice! what else does she need to do to be considered supportive, like, give you a foot massage or something?
- this continued during her interview at people’s revolution. when asked the most basic possible interview question, “what are your strengths?” she begins, “i could probably be very helpful in terms of whether…” could? probably? “in terms of whether”? strong, active verbs and simple declarative statements, whit! but then i guess she wouldn’t be whitney anymore. it would be like me if i didn’t use the word “meta” every other word or talk about allegorical significance of insignificant things.
- there is a meta-allegory to this whole job situation. whitney leaves teen vogue because she doesn’t feel she “does enough” (i.e. whitney doesn’t feel she “does enough” on the show, gets enough screen time). kelly cutrone notes that “you’re basically making a deal with the devil” (i.e. the classic robert-johnson-influenced show business contract as satanic pact). kelly cutrone says “you have to give up your life…but the good news is you get a whole new one” (i.e. whitney is reborn as a major character independent of lauren who can have her own monologues and plot lines)
- this is echoed in the form of the interview of itself. it doesn’t take place in the confines of a private office or conference room like a normal job interview. no, it’s out in the open, it’s public, it’s office theater. as is so often the case, there is a surrogate audience: we get cutaways to “mike” and “jessica” who are watching as whitney does her interview.
- i don’t know how i feel about kelly cutrone yet. obviously we know that she’ll be a fixture and my feeling is that she’ll be more of an active character than lisa love just because she seems more, um…active. the best information source about her that i could find was an interview in nylon last fall. key quotes:
- “I’m really about communicating and about art. I couldn’t care less about Calvin Klein or Donna Karan. I mean, not that they’re not important brands, but I don’t understand what the message is. So I tend to find clients in a very narcissistic way. I’m into the underdogs and the periphery and the progressive.”
- “I told everybody fashion is the new rock and roll! I wanted a PR company that told the truth versus cheer-leaded, represented only things that I really believed in. It’s all very idealistic. I mean, the name itself, People’s Revolution, means the world will change when we change ourselves.”
- “I’m like the Mother Teresa of the avant-garde. I really love Jeremy Scott because he’s a capitalistic pop artist. When I was 21 I married Andy Warhol’s protégé, Ronnie Cutrone, and I was raised in a circus-like atmosphere in New York by the Warhol family, and Jeremy seemed to me like a modern-day Andy. He’s a visionary and taps into things that are iconic and translates them into a multi-tiered message.”
- so, the two major maternal figures on “the hills,” love and cutrone, were both, if not exactly factory girls, girls who hung around the factory; they were in the warhol circle. interesting connection; i mean, who knows better about image manipulation and fame for the fame’s sake? coming attraction: the warhol-whitney exegesis. preview, courtesy wikipedia:
- “The first of those films, Poor Little Rich Girl, was originally conceived as part of a series featuring Edie called The Poor Little Rich Girl Saga. The series was to include Poor Little Rich Girl, Restaurant, Face, and Afternoon. Filming of Poor Little Rich Girl started in March of 1965 in Sedgwick’s apartment. The first reel shows Sedgwick waking up, ordering coffee and orange juice, and putting on her makeup in silence with only an Everly Brothers record playing. Due to a problem with the camera lens, the footage on the first reel is completely out of focus. The second reel consists of Sedgwick smoking cigarettes, talking on the telephone, trying on clothes, and describing how she had spent her entire inheritance in six months. “
- also, for all the shit talk about ginia bellafante’s “feminist hero” line, about which more tomorrow, the two figures that (ostensibly) control our girls’ lives, that are (ostensibly) their role models, these two are strong, adventurous, independent women. these are not the kind of people satirized in the whole jezebel april fools joke thing; they are real women, like in those dove ads.
- “oh my god, they have eggs benedict?! this is like my new favorite restaurant.” stephanie pratt converted me (or, in the parlance of her brother, “flipped a hater“) with that line. i still think her vibe is a little too campy and 90210 for “the hills” (and i am too young for 90210, which is why this reunion that everybody is so excited to me means nothing, and is actually kind of an inconvenience because i’m sure i could be making some kind of comparative analysis of the two shows that would be faux-revelatory but jesus i do not have time to watch another show about young rich people in los angeles, i don’t care how much you gen x’ers loved it.), but over the hiatus she really worked on her face acting chops, which are in evidence in her reaction shots in this scene. also, something else: lost weight? haircut/color? make-up situation under control? i don’t know, i’m not going to go CSI on this shit but whatever it is, improvement.
- compare these two things. 1. “I’ll never forget the time when Spencer said, ‘I’m gonna get the Muscle Breakfast,’ and I was like, ‘Why, cause you have no muscles?’ And he was like, ‘Shut up!’ He was so mad ” 2. “When Heidi put on the apron that first night in the kitchen, in their kitchen, in the condo, in their condo, which they would share together, Spencer grabbed her around her waist and he said, “Well, look what we have here, Miss Heidi’s playing house,” and he swung her around a little bit in the kitchen, like a ride. She said, she remembers exactly what she said, she said, “Well, uh, actually, mister, this is a condo, so really, I’m playing condo.”
- but seriously, look at her face as she says it. she looks down and then, as she’s playing with her hair, her eyes seem to be defocused. she’s lost in the moment; she’s rerunning that scene in her mind and loving it.
- and in one way it feels ridiculous (ok, more ridiculous than usual) to be talking about heidi and spencer’s relationship troubles. odds are they are totally fake, yet there is no such thing as totally fake. i’ve played with this over and over before, but i think it is endlessly fascinating. when you are not a real actor, what effect does pretending to have a fight with your partner have on your relationship? what kind of real tension does creating fake tension create? what about if they argue about how they are being perceived and how they want to be perceived, who gets to decide? if they have a real fight and one of them goes to the press with something, how does that affect the other one? what is their relationship REALLY like, in private? what do they really do, how do they really spend their time, what do they really talk about, what does really mean? are the tabloids or the main text of the show a truer representation of who heidi and spencer are and what their relationship is? it is all unknowable.
- i enjoyed the double dose of real talk given to lauren in this episode. first, frankie, with his ridiculous fade and leather jacket at les deux. lauren: “do i really have to be nice right now?” frankie: “yes.” lauren: “why” frankie, emphatic “why not?” it was his one shining moment in the history of the show (besides making out with lo in vegas)
- frankie sells this as caring about his two friends and he sells it well, because his emotion (desperation) is totally real. frankie is a tertiary character; he gets less screen time than even kimberly and chiara. if brody jenner is out of the picture, frankie is out of the picture. thus his attempt as the music enters at the end of the club scene, to have a sort of face acting neck rolling performance fight with lauren. of course, we know who will always win that fight. still, can’t knock the hustle.
- second, lo (LO! light of my life, fire of my loins!) explains to lauren that since brody jenner makes her feel bad about herself and brody jenner is in her life that if brody jenner stays in her life, he will make her feel bad about herself. she also says “thank you very much” to the waiter in a delightful squeaky voice!
- i have nothing much to say about the scene where spencer moves out of the apartment, but it did feature the best dialogue exchange in the history of the show: spencer: “what would i do without my x-box?” heidi: “what else are you taking?” spencer: “i’m letting you have the TV.” heidi: “letting? i bought the TV.” spencer: “you bought the 42 inch, i bought the 50 inch.” heidi: “they were the same price, we just split them.” spencer: “whatever, i’m not arguing.”
- books i could make out on heidi and spencer’s bookshelf: legacy of ashes, the movie business, executive secrets, the world is flat., the heath anthology of american literature, the norton anthology of world something, some book by chris matthews. oh yeah, lipstick jungle. did you see any others? i will not judge them for their choices but simply commend them for reading more than any other television characters this side of rory gilmore.
- the scene at the end with lauren and whitney was superb; the inverse of the heidi-lauren farewell at the end of season 2. oh, hisham abed/mark petersen, with your subtle dimming of the light over whitney’s desk for the twilight of her teen vogue career. the banal emotion revelation (“i have a bunch of different feelings. i’m nervous, i’m excited, i’m sad”), the faux flirtation (“we’re having like a long distance relationship right now.” “is that gonna work?” “we’ll make it work”?), the always-taken opportunity to revise history and take a dig at heidi (“we shoulda known then!”) whitney pausing the conversation to put on lip gloss and this lip gloss moment serving as an emotional pivot, followed by lauren tilting her head to the side and looking at whitney longingly, followed by lauren’s sweet yet also kind of creepy reminder that whitney is carrying the same bag that she did the first day they worked together which whitney tries to let pass and then lauren makes it even creepier by reiterating emphatically “first day i met you you wore that bag,” following this with a tiny nod of assertion, followed by whitney taking her voice into a high childlike register and asking “what are we going to do without each other?” followed by lauren doing like a four stage pout which is too complex for me to diagram here, followed by a placeholder shot of whitney saying “ok, i think i’ve got everything”, followed by lauren taking pushing her pout from the previous shot up to the edge of looking like she’s going to cry, followed by lauren and whitney embracing, followed by some other stuff, followed by both of them recovering at the end and bonding over the idea of shared fashion and grooming time in the very near future, finishing with lauren staring at the doorway and rapidly tapping her fingertips against her glossy bottom lip, a tapping that is at once distracted and frightened about the future and also kind of OCD.
- to close the visual symbolism routine, in the final shot, whitney walks away from the camera, off into the distance, and in the center of the frame there is a “one way street” sign, the arrow pointing down an avenue that we can’t see from this angle. we don’t know where she’s going, but we know she can’t go home again. paris, uh, changes everything?