the hills season 3, episode 24, “girls night out”
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.