LOST IN THE HILLS In today’s society, teenage girls are predisposed by celebrity culture more than ever before. Oprah Winfrey refers to this troubling reality as “the marginalization of women.” She says “We are bombarded [from the media] with titillating images of women degraded and on display, scantily clad, overly objectified.
Sexualized CelebritiesBritney Spears
Sexualized CelebritiesMiley Cyrus
Sexualized CelebritiesMegan Fox
Enter Lauren, Audrina, Whitney, and Heidi After MTV unveiled it’s pseudo-reality program The Hills in 2006, the show’s modish quartet, Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge, Whitney Port, and Heidi Montag ascertained themselves as voguish entities of objectification and admiration from their devoted audience.
Victims of Vogue Teenage girls who are fixated by celebrity culture find themselves indulging in excessive consumerism by purchasing items such as: Hair Extensions Designer Fashions Makeup Other Stylish Articles to Imitate their idols
Nip/Tuck Even more disturbing, these celebrity-fixated girls contemplate breast augmentation and other forms of plastic surgery to beautify themselves in comparable to their celebrity icons.
The Lost Girls The Media Industry has become fundamentally accountable for the decline in the social pathologizing of this behavior. Dr. Robin Smith labeled these celebrity-fixated individuals as “lost girls.” MTV’s The Hills is exploiting the “lost girls” obsession with celebrity culture.
The Origins of Celebrity Culture The augmentation of celebrity-based culture can comparatively be ascribed to America’s exchange from a producing to a consuming civilization. Media Scholar Lawrence Levine states that the reallocation of our cultural perspective occurred in the late 19th century when upper and middle class Americans felt intimidated by a “new universe of strangers” who bristled with “anarchic change” and the specter of social fragmentation.
The Culture Of Personality To overcome these uncertainties, the culture skewed inward, away from “character” toward “personality” and to self-realization rather than selfless public virtue. The advent of a consumer society produced a culture of personality as a response to change in the social order. Personality became a means to distinguish our individual selves from the mass. In a culture preoccupied with personality, “celebrity” became a measure of success.
All The Rage From 1901 -1914, magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers, 74% of its subjects came from traditional fields such as politics, business, and other professions. By 1922, over half of their subjects came from the world of entertainment: sports figures like Joe Lewis and Babe Ruth to movie stars such as Gloria Swanson and Charlie Chaplin. The machinery providing mass information-the new broker network and the flourishing print, broadcasting, recording and film industries -created a ravenous market for celebrity culture. Media generated fame became a raging popular vogue.
Over the course of nearly a century, society has engaged in an obsessive adoration for iconic celebrity figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, and The Beatles.
Express Yourself In the 1980’s, the hyper-sexualized pop sensation Madonna instituted a new provocative fashion style that was emulated by her teenage female fan base.
Erotica: From Madonna to Britney Madonna’s erotic candor served as a precursor for the gradual embracement of sexualized young female celebrities such as Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Lindsey Lohan.
The Rise of the Material Girls In addition to sexuality, Madonna’s re-invention of fashion chic excessively influenced teenage girls to maintain a consciousness towards their wardrobes, thereby fueling consumerism.
The Rise of the Material Girls The Hills exploits the sexualized and trendsetting elements of celebrity culture and assails its targeted demographic by creating desires for unattainable perfection in regards to beauty, attire and trendy accompaniments
The Hills Come Alive On May 31, 2006, MTV unveiled The Hills. The show was a spinoff to the very popular Laguna Beach, a hybrid of reality television and popular California-based teen dramas such as Beverly Hills 90210 and The O.C.
From The O.C. to L.A. Lauren Conrad, “the nice girl” of Laguna Beach, departed the luminous and conservative environment of Orange County for the luxuriant artificiality of Los Angeles.
New City, New Drama The first episode entitled “New City, New Drama” begins with Lauren driving her BMW to her new luxurious apartment in West Hollywood. In the course of 15 minutes, the viewer is introduced to Lauren’s friends-Heidi Montag, Audrina Patridge, and Whitney Port. After a brief and unbelievably inept interview with Lisa Love, the West Coast Editor of Teen Vogue, Lauren receives a position with the prestigious magazine. This exemplifies a sense of entitlement that seems to have been bestowed on Ms. Conrad and fellow cast members.
The Mission Statement of The Hills The names of the restaurants, clubs, stores, and other locations are blatantly presented on the screen. This is a device that is used to advertise these establishments. Throughout the series, the girls are seen attending the trendiest nightclubs on a perpetual basis and conducting droning conversations centering on boys, clothes, and revelry. This corroborates the theory that the mission statement of The Hills is to solicit consumerism and hedonism to it’s maximum potential.
An Audience Runs to The Hills Created by Adam Divello, The Hills became a ratings sensation for MTV. The first episode of the extended portion of season 3 that aired on March 24, 2008 was the year’s highest rated cable telecast up to that point, as well as the most-watched telecast of the show’s history with a rating of 5.0 among viewers 12 to 34. On the following day, the episode was streamed 1.8 million times on MTV.com, while The Hills content in general was streamed about 2.2 million times on that day.
Media Royalty The show’s phenomenal success has generated a stunning profusion of media fascination which has allowed Lauren Conrad and her co-stars to be perceived as iconic royalty to “lost girls” fixated on celebrity culture. Over the course of 2 ½ years, The Hills has created a proliferation of consumerism that has infiltrated the mindset of its young audience. MTV president of Entertainment believes The Hills has become a bigger franchise than other generation-definers such as The Osbournes, TRL, and Jackass.
The Consumerism of Cult TV Cult fans spend enormous amounts of money on merchandise and fan gatherings that are in relation to their favorite shows. In the past, the dominion of cult television was considered to be populated by “geeks.” The stereotypical cult personas of a “geek” cult were unfashionable science-obsessed introverts who donned Star Trek costumes and engaged in theoretical and frivolous discussions about the show’s characters and plotlines.
The Rise of the “Chic” Cult In 1998, the female-driven and hypersexual HBO series Sex and the City served as an impetus for a dissimilar form of cult. The enviable fashions and emulations of its cast by its dedicated fan base contributed to the inauguration of a “chic” cult.
Fashion, Beauty, Sex, and Status Instead of being derided for replicating the wardrobe and style of a “geek” show, the populous of a “chic” cult are envied and admired by their peers for their fashion judgment. “Chic” cults also endorse beauty, sexual candidness, and elevated position.
Lost in “Chic” Comparable to the devotees of the CW’s sexually amoral Gossip Girl, the “chic” cult audience of The Hills is primarily composed of “lost girls” who have been cultivated by the program’s enviable universe.
Chic Vs Geek Cult Geek cult predominantly promotes cerebral stimulation and theoretical dialogues. Chic cult predominantly endorses beauty, fervent sexuality, and fashion trends. Geek Cult attracts “the outsider” while Chic Cult attracts “trendy cliques” and individuals seeking to be a members of the “in” crowd. Despite the idea of cult subscribing to the notion of anti-consumerism, both geek and chic cult show do ignite vast consumerism
The Cultivation of Distorted Reality Cultivation analysts advocate that people who watch an enormous amount of television begin to structure a perception of the world that’s much more comparable to a program’s universe then their own reality. Television thus cultivates a distorted social reality for its excessive consumers, compelling them to extend characteristics of the televised world into their own perceptions of a truthful reality.
Does Television Nurture American Beauty? Cultivation analysis also provides a useful way to address the relationship between television viewing and young girls’ beliefs about beauty and its importance. Television may nurture expectations of what beauty “looks “ like and how significant it is in everyday life.
The Perceptions of Beauty Studies have shown that girls who were heavier spectators also shared slightly more common perceptions of beauty than lighter viewers. The mainstreaming phenomenon is based on the idea that viewers who frequently share similar experiences such as (television viewing) begin to share universal perceptions. In a recent study, heavier viewers designations of beauty centered mainly on women, and they tend to envision beauty as an accessory.
Even though MTV proclaims The Hills as reality television, the show actually presents a utopian atmosphere of materialistic and synthetic personalities who attempt to convince a impressionable audience that beauty and wealth are easily attainable and are the construct to receiving true happiness.
For example, in season 3, Lauren simply purchases a 2.5 million dollar house for her and her friends Lo, and Audrina to live in.
MTV: A Hypnotherapist For Consumption MTV employs The Hills to take advantage of the “lost girls” who are cultivated by materialistic and superficial desires. Professor Ann E. Kaplan states “MTV, more than any other television network, may be said to be about consumption. It evokes a hypnotic trance in which the spectator is suspended in a state of unsatisfied desire but forever under the imminent satisfaction through some kind of purchase. In a separate study, Dean Abt found that teenagers, particularly young women, are more likely than other consumers to report personal connections or conscious “bridging experiences” with music videos.
Pseudo-Music Videos Even though The Hills is technically not a music video, the show itself presents a dominant number of scenes as pseudo-music videos. The show synchronizes pieces of the latest popular music by such artist as Fergie, Rhianna, and Natasha Bedingfield, with the visual narrative to enhance the ambiance of a particular scene.
MTV Cops to MTV Docs Pseudo-Music Videos became prominent with their inclusion in NBC’s Miami Vice in 1984. The show’s soundtrack became a multi-platinum best seller in 1985. Presently, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and the CBS’ CSI franchise are just some of the examples of shows that incorporate them frequently into their narrative.
Attention Impulsive Shoppers! Beginning with the episode “Paris Changes Everything” (ep. 3.19) , The Hills began displaying the song title and artist on the television screen during pseudo-music video scenes, establishing shots, and club scenes. MTV is alleviating the viewer from making an effort to locate a song’s artist and title by providing this instantaneous information. Within this age of the digital download, the viewer can purchase the song at their fingerprints while simultaneously viewing the show. MTV is exploiting the impulsive purchasing habits of teens to assist in the mass consumption of popular music. The average number of songs promoted during episodes are between 9 and 12.
In a similar vein to music videos, the stars of The Hills are always clad in chic wardrobes and maintain glamorous hairstyles. Additionally, the stars beautify themselves with fashionable jewelry, modish accessories, and makeup. Thus the cumulative result from the unification of celebrity culture fixation, the personal connection to music videos, and a cultivated distorted reality, the “lost girls” find themselves spending an excessive amount of money to emulate the stars of the show.
Fashion Entrepreneurs Lauren Conrad , Heidi Montag , Whitney port, and Audrina Patridge each have and had their own clothing lines. The average price of a Lauren Conrad babydoll dress is $130.00 Lauren and Heidi wear their own designs on the show.
Fashion Entrepreneurs Whitney Port’s clothing line, Eve and A, is a 17 piece collection featuring convertible dresses, tops, and jackets which range from $40 to $250.00
Fashion Entrepreneurs In October 2008, Audrina Patridge struck a deal with Divine Rights of Denim to launch her own clothing line as well.
Calling Dr. 90210! Another disturbing factor of the show’s influence on consumerism and beautification is the endorsement of cosmetic surgery. Heidi Montag, 22, has publicly admitted that she had breast augmentation, collagen lip injections, and rhinoplasty performed in April, 2007.
A Dangerous Role Model Montag is often seen in scant bikinis and attire which accentuate her amplified breasts. “Lost girls” view Montag’s cosmetic enhancements as a suitable process to achieve the notion of “perfect beauty.”
Gossip Girls The Hills also sanctions the consumption of tabloid reading, the preferred reading of “lost girls” absorbed by celebrity culture. The consumption of tabloid media is essential to ascertaining the complete narrative of the show.
Flash-Forward: The Cerebral Method ABC’s LOST employed a flash-forward narrative device at the end of it’s third season to enhance the videogame aesthetic of the show. Viewers were presented with a glimpse of the future and thus had to wait patiently for the show to methodically “fill in the blanks” with each subsequent episode.
Flash Forward: The Tabloid Method The tabloid stories that revolve around the current shenanigans of The Hills cast members are actually a fast-forward to the drama being portrayed on the screen. Since the episodes air weeks, sometimes months, after filming, the viewer is actually exposed to flashbacks of the “story.” To “fill in the blanks,” the viewer must maintain a consistent devotion to narrative. reading tabloid media to understand the full context of The Hills narrative.
Tabloid Media as Paratext Us Weekly is perhaps the most notorious form of tabloid media that features at least one of the show’s cast members on the cover at least once a month. Us Weekly is a vital form of the show’s paratext.
Tabloid Paratext Us Weekly publishes current stories on the events in the lives of the cast before they are presented on the show itself. The Star, and television tabloid shows such as Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, and TMZ are also essential contributors to the show’s paratext.
Endorsing the Beauty Myth In 2008, Lauren Conrad graced the cover of Us Weekly providing guidelines for dieting. This could be looked upon as further ammunition granted to the influence of celebrity culture on “lost girls.” Conrad’s dieting advice further endorses the myth that slenderness is a prerequisite for beauty.
SEX AND THE HILLS “This season is a million times better. It’s very Sex and the City—a lot more about sex and hooking up with guys, parties we go to and the whole Hollywood scene instead of just sitting at home with our boyfriends. It’s a much friskier show now.” --Heidi Montag, Stuff Magazine, February 2008
Into the Danger Zone Heidi Montag’s quote is a dangerous acknowledgement that “lost girls” desire to witness aberrant behavior that could possibly result in detrimental consequences. Excessive alcohol consumption combined with ardent attitudes towards sex can result in unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases.
Plunging Deeper Into the Abyss The Hills glamorizes Conrad’s sometimes excessive alcohol consumption and the constant patronage of clubs throughout Hollywood. Even though Conrad is of legal age, she is perceived as a role model for her young demographic. Her irresponsible overindulgence in carousing and alcohol use further alienates “lost girls” into a deeper abyss from reality. Although the audience has yet to view Conrad or any of the cast members engaged in sexual activity, the implications of carnality are ubiquitous.
Girls Gone Chauvinists One of the most troubling characteristics of the “chic” cult in relation to teenage girls is the acceptibility of sexual candidness. Ariel Levy of New York Magazine uses the Girls Gone Wild videos as an example of female chauvinism. Girls Gone Wild is a popular and suggestive video franchise which depicts images of young women engaging in nudity and other sexual antics on spring breaks.
Levy refers to women who participate in Girls Gone Wild videos as “female chauvinist pigs” because they are sexually objectifying their own sex.
Levy also contributes the obsession of consumerism as another reason for purchasing sexuality. In addition to imitating actresses and singers such as Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears, “lost girls” are also emulating sex stars such as Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton who were objects of best-selling sex videos.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape The disparity between Montag and Conrad began by former’s allegation of a sex tape between Lauren and ex-boyfriend Jason Wahler. The “sex tape” never surfaced, but the tabloid media has already exploited and objectified Conrad. The media presented Conrad as a female chauvinist despite the fact that the video, if it does exist, was supposedly produced for personal fullfilment and not for public consumption.
The Pervasiveness of Sexual Consumption In March 2008, nude photos of Audrina Patridge surfaced on the internet. Audrina explained in Myspace message that they were “taken when I was just out of high school and beginning to model.” She called herself “Naïve, overly trusting of people, and inexperienced.”
The Pervasiveness of Female Chauvinism When asked to comment on Audrina’s nude photos, Lauren Conrad’s former co-star on Laguna Beach, Kristen Cavalleri told Us Weekly that Patridge “can move on with it.” Cavalleri added “She looks good. Her body is bangin’.” Cavalleri’s comments focus on the superficial aspects on the photos and blatantly ignores the prevalence of female chauvinism that Ariel Levy has addressed.
Conrad, Montag, and Patridge have also sexualized themselves by posing for seductive photos in male-orientated magazines such as Maxim and Stuff. These pictorials are the most accessible to the public since they are sold in virtually every magazine retailer.
From Maxim to Rolling Stone The sexual objectification of The Hills cast is not just confined to men’s publications. On the cover of Rolling Stone’s May 15th, 2008 issue, Montag, Patridge, Conrad, and Port are presented in sexy undergarments. Their facial expressions possess seductive bliss to entice the magazine’s prospective consumers and newsstand patrons.
As a result of the media’s continuation to sexualize the young personalities of celebrity culture, “lost girls” are less inclined to pathologize the exploitation of sexuality.
From The Hills to The City On December 29 2008, MTV debuted The City, a spin-off of The Hills starring Whitney Port. The show takes place in Manhattan and subscribes to The Hills mission statement of consumerism beautification, and hedonism.
Spotted on the Upper East Side-A Real Life Gossip Girl One of the characters, Olivia Palermo, is a self-proclaimed socialite who personifies superficiality and the possesses the similar amoral attitudes of “lost girls.”
Ugly Betty—In defiance of The Hills Ugly Betty’s “Betty Suarez” represents a defiance against the superficiality attitudes of “lost girls.”
The character of “Betty Suarez” doesn’t subscribe to the notion of consumerism, beautification and the exhibition of her sexuality to gain acceptance by her co-workers at the ultra-chic fashion magazine that she works for. The show possesses a hyper-realistic narrative that focuses on the clash between the “chic”(the superficial employees of the magazine) and the “geek” “Betty Suarez.” The narrative ‘s mission statement appears to endorse the good-natured values that subscribe to inner-beauty rather than outward appearances.
The Hills persist as being a purveyor for the continual fascination for celebrity culture. Within the realm of the “chic” cult dominion, “lost girls” are sadly seduced by the notion that consumerism, beautification, and a hyper-sexualized demeanor are the essential components of creating a sense of self-worth and the reciprocation of admiration by their peers.
Lost Forever? Inside this acquisitive territory, “lost girls” are abandoning traditional values in favor of emulating the riotous lifestyles portrayed on such chic shows such as Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, and The Hills. Without the seizure of superficial power and sexual objectification that the media constructs for celebrities such as Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, the “lost girls” trapped beneath the “chic” authority will never be found.