Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Hills, post-Lauren.

After much contemplation, I have decided to continue to watch The Hills, post-Lauren, although I feel certain that without Lauren as the centerpiece, The Hills will lose those fleeting, poignant moments of truth and poetry and genuine emotion that I so enjoyed.

Obviously, the world of The Hills has always existed within its own strange, artificial bubble, but Lauren's uncalculated authenticity set a tone that allowed the occasional genuine moment to occur. Lauren was the anchor that tethered the show to reality, the mutual friend or frenemy who provided the plausible, if tenuous, ties that bound the rest of the cast to one another. Now that Kristin has stepped in to take over as narrator, the show must inevitably twist and warp into an entirely new shape. I feel no affection toward Kristin, but I do find it serendipitous that she and Lauren happen to be perfect foils for one another. Lauren, the perpetual victim, took everything personally, and insisted, "The show is not fake and this is really my life." Kristin, "the bitch," says, "I pretty much do anything they have me do because I don't care. I mean, we're filming a TV show. Let's make it interesting. Let's have a good time with it."

Based on last night's season premiere, I think there's a palpable sense of relief to be rid of Lauren, although it is obscured by the more readily apparent apprehension and resentment toward the newly appointed narrator. As far as I can tell, the cast prefers not to be tethered to reality, and without Lauren, The Hills is free to float up and away, into a universe that's entirely free of substance or meaning or consequences. Now they can all collude to create as much drama as possible, without being hampered by any lingering concerns about cruelty or embarrassment or shattered relationships.

I think that The Hills, post-Lauren, still has the potential to be interesting, but it will be interesting in an entirely different way. The poetic banality will be replaced by surrealism, as the various cast members attempt to define this brave new world of pure artifice.

Audrina, Lo, and Stephanie are striving to create some form out of the nothingness by establishing the easy camaraderie of camp friends. At camp, you leave behind your real life and your real friends and, if you so choose, your real self. You make camp friends, who are different and separate from your regular friends. Camp friendships exist within an imposed, confined environment. Within that environment they may be imbued with meaning and power, but they tend not to translate well once removed from their original context. Audrina, Lo, and Stephanie are friends because it's more fun and convenient to be friends with one's bunkmates. Heidi is also free to transition into their klatch, now that Lauren is out of the way. But Kristin hasn't agreed to this unspoken arrangement. Just because she's moving into Lauren's old bunk doesn't mean she's ready to accept these girls as automatic friends.

Kristin, like most people who appear on reality television, isn't here to make friends. Her job is to be the bitch, and she has every intention of earning that paycheck. This attitude sets an entirely new tone for the show, highlighting its seams and its self-enclosed nature. She has two predetermined love interests to choose from: Brody, her ex-boyfriend, or Justin Bobby. (Of course, she could make a play for Spencer, but if she possessed that level of commitment to drama, she'd probably be a real actress by now.) Flitting from one to the other and back again is the most logical choice from her perspective, that of a confident, flirty actress who has been hired to instigate drama. It violates the girl code espoused by her new bunkmates, but at this point, Kristin has no incentive to commit herself to these girls or their code.

We'll see how it goes.

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