TV: The Hills Finale—All Good Things Must Come to an End.

 

A lot of viewers might have argued that The Hills had passed its prime awhile ago, probably around the time its star, Lauren Conrad, bid farewell midway through season five.

While that may be somewhat true (personally, my favourite seasons were the second half of season three, and season four), The Hills has always been what it was intended to be; a guilty pleasure.

It was also one of the first shows to really catapult the “scripted reality” notion into the mainstream, in the footsteps of which so many others followed: The Real Housewives, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Girls of the Playboy Mansion and pretty much every other MTV show since The Hills’ debut (bar Jersey Shore, which Perez Hilton, in last week’s column for Famous, called “raw [and] real”the antithesis of The Hills).

But the buzz has been around the show’s final episode, which aired two weeks ago in the US, and which Australia is still waiting for.

After so much criticism of the action on the show being fake vs. real, with scenes being shot several times for the best angles (both camera- and storyline-wise) and “cut up to death”, the producers and writers (?) decided to capitalise on that allure.

SPOILER ALERT: The final scene sees Kristin Cavallari and Stacie Hall packing the rest of Kristin’s things into a waiting car, as she’s moving to Europe (E! television personality Joel McHale of The Soup hilariously noted that Europe is a continent, not a country, and Kristin never once mentioned where in Europe she was going!), to “find myself” and “figure out what I want”. Brody Jenner is waiting by the car to say a final goodbye to Kristin, who told Brody she loved him but was knocked back. He says he would have got together with her if he knew she would move away when he rejected her. Kristin says “that’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear”, but she’s still going. They hug, kiss, cry, and the car drives away with Kristin inside, leaving Brody brooding beneath the Hollywood sign.

As the camera pans out, the Hollywood sign starts moving, and it is revealed that Brody is standing on a film lot. Kristin runs from the car as the director yells “cut!”, embracing Brody as the two are congratulated by the crew for wrapping the last scene. END SPOILER ALERT.

Confusing, much?!

While The Hills season final may not get as much publicity and/or examination as, say, The Sopranos or LOST, it is a clever poke at the media and Hollywood. Brody said:

“I think the show has always battled with what’s real and what’s fake, and this ending was perfect because you still don’t know what was real, what was fake and it’s kind of like LA in a sense.”

Oh, how poignant!

There are still a lot of loose ends that fans are left hanging with, though, and I guess that’s the dilemma of having a “reality” show that is based on the real lives of its stars, but it scripted to within an inch of its life, and some of its stars (ie. Speidi) can’t reconcile those difference.

I would like to know what happened with Heidi and Spencer, and if they ever reconciled with Holly, Heidi’s sister, and their mother, Darlene. And if Audrina finds what she’s looking for by moving out of Hollywood. Ditto Kristin in Europe.

But I guess we will find these things out in Heidi’s new reality show with The Hills alum Jen Bunney, and Audrina’s rumoured show, The Audrina Patridge Show.

Until then, there’s always the tabloids.

Related: The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.

Elsewhere: [MTV] Brody Jenner Reveals Alternate Hills Ending with Lauren Conrad.

The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.

 

While The Hills has come to an end (more on that to come), its final season has been one marred with controversy.

First, Heidi Montag debuted her plastic (not-so-) fantastic look in the lead up to the premiere.

And in other Speidi news, the couple accused a producer of sexual harassment and left the show soon after.

Kristin Cavallari was suspected of having an eating disorder and a drug addiction, while Stephanie Pratt came clean in the tabloids about her past food and alcohol problems.

And finally, Heidi filed for divorce from Spencer, who demonstrated signs of drug dependence and anger management issues in his final episodes.

Phew!

A recent episode, aptly named “This is Goodbye” for Speidi’s last hurrah, was troubling, in that it showed just how distorted Spencer and Heidi’s perception of reality has become.

Kimberly, in a topical blog post on I Love Wildfox (a component of the brand Wildfox Couture), came to the defence of Kristin, Audrina et al, saying that with the seemingly low expectations the producers have of its cast, it’s no wonder Heidi, in particular, “has a warped perception of who she should be”:

“Maybe I need to watch the prior seasons to understand what MTV was really going for, but basing my opinion on this [one] episode I gathered this message from the astoundingly popular series: look pretty, gossip, sunbake, flirt, look pretty…

“The girls on the show are all incredibly physically beautiful. Looking good in every light at every camera angle is not normal. Most girls don’t look half as pretty on camera as they do in real life.

“It saddens me that MTV chose the easy suck-you-in route once again, telling all girls everywhere, ‘this is what you should talk about, this is what you should want to be,’ without showing (even once in an entire episode) what these girls actually struggle with, what they are good at, or what they dream of; even The Girls of the Playboy Mansion managed to do that!”

The buzz surrounding the final episode, which aired last week and featured Kristin leaving for Europe, with a saddened Brody Jenner (Kristin’s ex) watching as she drives awayonly to have the Hollywood sign Brody’s standing in front of revealed as a green screen, and that the whole final scene was shot on a film lot, seems to be taking a stab at the “scripted” label, leaving audiences wondering whether the whole thing was a set-up or if it somehow morphed into one along the way.

Kristin has been quoted as saying that The Hills was just her job, and she would never put her real friends and the people she cares about on TV.

So why did “Heidi’s family appear on the show to discuss her surgery, further condoning the need for limelight on their daughter’s sad and massive insecurities”?

You will notice that it’s really only the Pratt and Montag families who were caught up in the “drama” of the whole show, which bodes the questions: were Speidi’s marital woes all a set up? What is the extent of Heidi’s body dysmorphia and the necessity of her multiple surgeries? Did her family really express shame at her new look, or were they all in on the act, if it was an act, too?

Going back to “This is Goodbye”, there is a scene at a club that Heidi and Spencer rock up to, uninvited, during a fun night out with most of the other cast members. Spencer speaks of he and Heidi’s life together, saying, “I don’t let her go on [watch] TV, no computers. The only thing Heidi does is read and write poetry, and pray, and pet puppies…”, while Heidi sits there genuinely and enthusiastically nodding along, only interjecting to add, “and I read books”.

When Kristin confronts her about being isolated from her friends and family, Heidi says she’s just focussing on her love for Spencer and asks, “who am I without Spencer?” If she’s not an emotionally battered wife, I don’t know who is. As Holly said, “she’s brainwashed”.

Furthermore, Kristin and Audrina add that “there’s nothing going on behind those eyes anymore” and “there’s no emotion”, respectively.

I would tend to agree with these statements, however I don’t agree with what comes next.

When the girls discuss what to do about the abusive state of their friend and sister’s marriage, Lo asserts that “Heidi is guilty on all counts… she hides behind Spencer and plays the victim”.

If this was real life, I would say that Heidi’s alleged friends and family should have stuck by her a little harder, supporting her through her inevitable marriage breakdown.

But we don’t know how real The Hills really is, so I have to say that maybe Heidi did willingly become a victim to Spencer’s controlling ways or, to take it a step further, to Hollywood’s ideal of what a woman should be.

Kimberly declares that she hopes “those of you out there who criticise yourselves and your bodies, who look at thin girls all over the place in fashion, who watch outlandishly pretty young ladies on television, who admire movie stars and supermodels and yearn to be like them can know: That’s not what it looks like. Ever.”

It is also interesting to note that Heidi, and to a lesser extent Stephanie, Holly and Audrina, is the only one whose succumbed to this ideal.

Lauren Conrad, the original star of the show, got out when the going was good, and now leads a relatively quiet life as a fashion designer-cum-author slashie. Kristin, as her earlier comments illustrate, knows it’s only a job. Lo is fairly low-key and we really don’t know that much about her, which is probably the way she likes it. And while Audrina, Holly and Stephanie may have had surgical augmentations of some kind or another, they all remain fairly down-to-earth girls, or so it would seem.

Kimberly also notes that while almost everything on the show is fake, The Hills “is the realest account of female self-destruction I’ve ever seen on television”. This may be true, but this unravelling of Spencer and Heidi can be taken as an exercise in critical discourse about “reality” television, Hollywood and celebrity culture, which bodes the question: why can some people handle fame whilst others become the next Lindsay Lohan, trapped in a prison sentence, both literally and figuratively?

Elsewhere: [I Love Wildfox] That’s What Girls Are Made Of.

The Plastic Backlash.

famous plastic surgery

This week’s Famous runs a promising story on the decline of plastic surgery in Hollywood or, at least, the fact that “casting directors and producers are increasingly refusing to hire actresses who display signs of obvious surgery”.

The article on page 6, making it one of the magazines top stories this week, offers a pictorial display of the stars who may be facing unemployment due to the new movement, including Heidi Montag, Audrina Patridge, Ashlee Simpson and Megan Fox, along with the contention that casting directors are moving towards “Oz and the UK” because we have “more natural-looking actresses”, such as Teresa Palmer, Isabel Lucas and Rachel Taylor.

It’s a welcome and comforting change to read this kind of article, hot on the heels of Pirates of the Caribbean producers sending out a casting call with the express condition that actresses with “natural breasts only” need apply.

However, the article signs off with a quote from Pirates casting agent Sande Alessi:

“I don’t really mind if these stars do a tiny bit of something, but it just can’t be obvious”.

Maybe we still have a ways to go?

On a side note, the very next page features a spread on the numerous (alleged) surgeries of the Kardashian family. Last week’s cover girl and guest editor is this week’s before-and-after exemplar.