the hills season 3, episode 28 “the next move is yours”

May 15, 2008

lauren cries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • best scene ever.

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

  • secondary sources:

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

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

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

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

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

6 Responses to “the hills season 3, episode 28 “the next move is yours””

  1. guiltypleasures Says:

    Stephanie told Spencer “The next move is yours” after she got the intel for him about where Heidi was having her dinner meeting in Vegas.

  2. guiltypleasures Says:

    Oh, and that’s a great observation about the recurring space-and-division motif this season. Maybe, and I’m grading on a curve here, by that thinking the critics who’ve said this third-season-coda string of episodes felt padded could think of it as the show allowing the narrative some space — room to breathe. Or, as Speidi would call it: storyline vacation!

  3. songsaboutbuildingsandfood Says:

    damnit, i knew it was somewhere! thanks. to extend your metaphor further, i want permanent storyline vacation (unless that’s death, but i prefer to see it as endless life). thanks for writing.

  4. Sienna Says:

    I found this season to be lackluster.

  5. […] the repetition of lauren and heidi’s career opportunities in many distant cities (”just like lauren became “the girl who didn’t go to paris,” now heidi has become “the girl who […]

  6. emily Says:

    i think it will be grate

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