Posts Tagged ‘Reality Television’

Why The Hills works

December 8, 2009

After about ten minutes of watching the Hills, I felt like I had been lobotomized.  After 20 (a full episode) I was dying to know whether or not Lauren was going to lose her job, Heidi was going to keep her job, and if their frememy status was ever going to change to plain enemy. After about the fifth episode I was sort of wondering what was wrong with me and why I kept hitting the next button until I realized the main reason. Even if I find LC, Heidi and Audrina boring and vapid, they are all actually kind of likable. There is something very humbling about their stupidity and their ideas of what they should be doing.

I loved the fact that Heidi thought she was just to good for fashion school and thought her new job would just be throwing her into parties right and left. I also love how Lauren just looks down on Heidi whenever work is concerned. Their “frenemy” relationship is probably the most realistic part of the show, since half of the stuff they do is definitely written in. For example: Teen Vogue would never send an in school intern to NYC overnight to deliver a dress only to make her turn right back around to go home to LA. However, I do like that they are making it seem like their jobs are privileges and can be taken away at any moment if they mess up.

The main reason why I think this show works is because unlike a real scripted show like 90210 or Gossip Girl, it is based in some kind of reality. This isn’t Leighton Meester playing a part, it is a supposedly real girl who wants to make it into the fashion world (Which makes me wonder now why she wrote a book and acted in a movie if all she really wants is to do fashion). Because they are supposed to be real girls, we can identify them. They’re just like the average girl trying to balance school, work, boyfriends, and play. However, it is important to know that the look and the feel of the show are very rooted in teen drama. The minute Lauren showed up at the apartment complex I immediately thought of Melrose Place and when they were dealing with school it evoked feelings of when the original 90210 cast went to college.

Unlike a teen show, things aren’t always handed to them on a silver platter, and even though Lauren works at Teen Vogue, they haven’t yet (well in season 1) figured out some ploy for her to be some celebrity’s date which then skyrocket her into fame. Even though I know its fake and at times it sounds like what they are saying is bad scripted dialogue, there is something real to it, I just can’t say I know what it is. Maybe I’ll find out in season 2.

The “Unreality” of Reality Television

December 8, 2009

What bothers me the most about television shows like The Hills is the fact that people perceive this to be real life opposed to a quasi-scripted MTV production that is more akin to improvisation than anything else.  For example, when Lauren is interviewing for her Teen Vogue internship it is obvious that she bombed the interview.  Lisa Love asks Lauren, “Can you write,” and instead of telling Love what makes her an apt writer she simply responses with a sheepish “Yes.”

“Well?”

“I like to write,” responds Lauren.

Her interviewing skills are so poor that it is actually uncomfortable to watch; however, later in the episode Lauren magically lands her internship with Teen Vogue, an event that would never happen in real life.

Yet people perceive this to be the real deal.  My 18-year-old sister, a diehard of The Hills and The City, frequently refers to events that have happened in Lauren’s, Heidi’s, and Whitney’s lives as if they had happened to a good friend.  My sister wants to intern at Teen Vogue this summer, and she cut her hair to look more like Lauren’s years ago.  She has said countless times that Lauren Conrad is the prettiest person she has ever seen, and she wants to look and be just like her.  Is this an extreme case though?  Unfortunately, I don’t think it is, because more people than I would like to admit interpret reality TV as, well, reality even when they know better.  In that way, reality television is like advertising, you know the advertisements are gimmicks, but somehow we do subconsciously buy into them.

Even I bought into the first season of The City.  I would tell people that I only watched it, because the show was on whenever I worked out at Palladium, but no, I really did watch it.  I watched it until this summer when I was interning at Bergdorf Goodman, and I found out that Samantha, Whitney Port’s friend that “works” there as an assistant buyer, was actually a BG intern from a few years ago.  She now interns there once every two weeks or so to maintain her matriculation with the company, but she is no means an assistant buyer or even a paid employee.  They even taped an episode at the office this summer, and instead of being excited by it, I was actually kind of disappointed, because all of the glitz and glamour was instantly sucked out of the show for me.  It was like learning how the magician pulls off the magic trick, for the experience was anticlimactic and somewhat disappointing.

Thus, even though we “know better” than to think this is “real” life, perhaps on a subconscious level we don’t.  Perhaps we kind of enjoy voyeuristically looking into the lives of the rich and the famous-for-no-reason characters like Lauren Conrad…even if we’ll only admit to watching these show at the gym.