Things I Learned From Watching The Hills

1. MTV thinks we’re dumb (and they might be right)

In the later seasons of The Hills, the suspension of disbelief required from the viewers seemed to get bigger and bigger. We had to watch Audrina answer phones at Epic Records when homegirl was beginning to star in ‘major” movies like Sorority Row. Meanwhile, Lauren Conrad was struggling to keep her head above water with Whitney Port at People’s Revolution, which was a job? An internship? #NotClearOn what it actually was but I know her tasks including packing boxes with garment bags and typing at a computer. This all would’ve been an easy pill to swallow if we didn’t already know that Lauren had her own clothing line where she charged 400 bucks for cocktail dresses called “THE AUDRINA”. Why couldn’t we see the process of that instead? Oh, because we were still watching a reality show about twentysomethings trying to make it in Los Angeles. The irony being of course that a reality show about their struggles ultimately became the reason why they stopped having to struggle.

2. If you become famous, you could end up losing your mind. (Especially if you come from a place called Crested Butte, Colorado.)

Heidi Montag became quite the cautionary tale, didn’t she? Her evolution from sweet BFF to Lauren Conrad to brainwashed Frankenteen in an abusive relationship was something that shocked and horrified all of us. Perhaps we felt so strongly about Heidi and Spencer because we felt partially responsible for their existence. By giving Heidi and her controlling husband attention, we were allowing them to continue cashing the checks that funded Heidi’s makeover and music career. We gave them power by giving The Hills ratings and acted surprised when they manipulated the fame to their advantage. As someone who recently rewatched the entire series, I can say that watching Heidi become brainwashed by Spencer and consumed with celebrity is like watching a post-modern horror film. It’s our fault! Heidi and Spencer exposed the ugly nature of fame and forced us to examine our narcissistic culture in the process. Heidi ultimately couldn’t handle it. She succumbed to a predator—someone who was intent on exploiting her—and now she’s forever broken. We all should be ashamed of ourselves.

3. It’s possible to be both utterly bored and compelled by a TV show

The Hills was a brilliant show for many reasons, one of which being that people continually tuned in, despite knowing that nothing ever happened. Each episode ended with the viewer wanting more and accepting that they would never get it. It felt like a glorified piece of performance art. Los Angeles never looked more beautiful in the background of yet another boring conversation at a cafe. Here’s a typical conversation on The Hills:

Lauren: Hiiiiiiiii. You look pretty!
Audrina: Thankssssss. So do you. I love your top.
Lauren: Thank you…..
Audrina: So how was last night?
Lauren: It was a lot of drama. Heidi and Spencer showed up at Les Deux and started fighting with me.
Audrina: No….
Lauren: It’s just hard when you someone was your best friend and is like, no longer your best friend. I’ve never been so betrayed by a best friend before.
Audrina: Yeah….

It was sort of amazing how the conversations typically went. As a viewer, you wanted to shake them and say, “SPIT IT OUT! SAY SOMETHING!” but at the same time, there was something appealing about watching someone stare into the abyss while drenched in an ungodly amount of sun.

4. Guys in L.A. are gross

Lauren Conrad was the # 1 bro ho. She hung out with total douchebags like Brody Jenner and Frankie Delgado who owned raised trucks and wore trucker hats. I mean, it was kind of shocking how unfashionable and gross they were. Jenner was raised in Malibu but liked to pretend he was a thug, which I guess is a common issue amongst straight, rich, white boys. But still, I would’ve preferred her to pal around with at least one hot hipster boy.

5. Reality TV isn’t real

We knew this before but the show really sent the point home. It had the balls to disrespect the entire genre of reality TV by being blatantly scripted. I appreciated its candor. Anyone who claimed to be upset by it seemed to be missing the point of The Hills entirely. We never tuned in to relate. It was always meant to resemble a dreamworld. I mean, when were these girls ever relatable? Did anyone ever watch Audrina and be like, “OMG, I’m her. I’m such an Audrina and you’re such a Heidi!” I hope not. Dear god! TC mark

image – The Hills

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • Erinwarden

    pretty accurate. typos through me off a little, though.

    • Anon Smith


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  • Anonymous

    Wow, topical essay.

  • Five Minutes Wasted

    Thanks for reminding me to Google search Frankie Delgado and allowing me to learn that he dressed up as “Hanrique Potter” for Halloween. No really, thank you.

  • JD

    The Hills was so vapid and yet so captivating at the same time. It presented a life in L.A. that was so empty and superficial that there was something bizarrely compelling about it in it’s hyper-idealized vision of that city, even though it was essentially a show about a bunch of blonde/tan/pretty zombies driving around the city in their nice cars (and all of them seemed completely zoned out on xanax. And actuall, I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of them was on some sort of anti-anxiety medication. I kind of hope they are, otherwise, they would almost appear to be a little brain-damaged. I’m not trying to be funny). 

    • Joey

      I know I shouldn’t … but I still wish I had their life.

      • Jdsuperbadass

        You can! Just get a lobotomy and move to West Hollywood.

  • Michael Koh

    I think it’s that MTV knows that we’re dumb. 

    • Jdsuperbadass

      I think the The Hills can be viewed in two ways. Smart people can be entertained by the fact that it’s a horror movie-like comment on the values of a certain type of youth. And dumb people liked it because everyone had pretty clothes, drove nice cars, and hung out at trendy nightclubs. 

      • Mung Beans

        but there’s not really a difference, either way it’s just being a fan of The Hills

      • Jdsuperbadass

        I don’t understand. How is there not a difference? It’s like two people reading up on Ted Bundy. One is a clinical psych grad student studying the minds of serial killers and one is an aspiring serial killer. I think there’s a difference there, haha.

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