the hills season 3, episode 23, “just be careful…”
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