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Laguna Beach: The Finer Potrayal of Our Youth


Laguna Beach was created by MTV to capitalize off the success of Fox’s The OC. MTV originally marketed the show as ‘The Real OC’, but this changed once The OC became passé and Laguna Beach more popular than the original. The premise of the show is that cameras follow several teenagers in high school and their socialization and interaction with friends, community and the camera are documented. Each season of the show contains a narrator, one that the audience primarily follows and is supposed to identify with. As an audience we see Laguna through their eyes and pick up on their direct characterization of other people on the show. This character has, so far, always been female. In the first season a girl named Lauren, or LC, was the main voice and we followed her as she dealt with the boy she can never get, Stephen, the minx he is always with, Kristen, and plenty of ‘drama’.

The program airs on MTV, produced by MTV Networks. The show is currently in it’s off-season, but when it airs it is typically in the nine o’clock hour on either a Tuesday or Wednesday night. As originally stated, this show began as the real life alternative to The OC, a fictionalized take on the lives of rich teenagers and their parents in California’s wealthy Orange County. Other than the original nine o’clock broadcast, this show is re-run constantly throughout MTV’s schedule both during the day and at night, making it easily attainable by different audiences of different ages. The show is also currently available on both DVD (Which is have, both seasons), iTunes and on the MTV website.

The audience to Laguna Beach is teenagers, of who primarily are females. Given that the narrator of the show is female, this would make females the target audience. Although there are plenty of representations of males in the show, so teenage males would be considered the secondary audience here. Commercials that typically air during the program include make up brands like Cover Girl, hair products like Garnier Nutrisse, clothing brands like Old Navy and American Eagle, cell phone companies like T-Mobile and Sprint, and especially other MTV ‘reality’ shows like Real World, The Challenge, Sweet Sixteen and so on. By these examples, it’s obvious MTV wants it’s viewers to buy and then watch their other shows. They attempt to build in these audiences so they will be dedicated viewers every night of the week. This show is a peek into the life of the wealthy young adults, so people of any social class will view it. People of a lower class rank will watch and come out empty handed, while those with expendable incomes and Mommy/Daddy’s money will enjoy it because of the materialization that the show promotes.

The episode of Laguna Beach I watched was the first one of the series, and introduced many of the key players as they socialized with one another, and ended with a throwing of a ‘Black & White Affair’. They show these teenagers shopping, talking on their cell phones, laughing, playing with make up and doing their nails like it is normal behavior. On normalization, Gust Yep and Ariana Ochoa Camacho, in their article The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor, write, “One powerful strategy for this closure [heterosexuality as a institution of the Midwest] is normalization…which refers to the process of constructing, establishing, and (re)producing a taken-for-granted, unquestionable, and all encompassing standard used to measure goodness, desirability, morality, rationality, and superiority.?

The episode begins with the setup of all key players. LC, the narrator, details the love triangle involving the innocent Stephen and the ‘whore’ Kristen. This biased portrayal of Kristen begins in the credits where LC is shown smiling and working on homework while Kristen is shown emerging from a pool wearing a skimpy bikini. This triangle is the typical set up where there are two women fighting for the male, who is seen as the innocent one in the situation. Yep & Ariana also reflect on this male power complex by saying, “…[the male] has tremendous proactive power…while the women are given very limited reactive power.? As the show continues there is constant contrasting viewpoints given of LC and Kristen. LC is continuously shown with her friends representing the ‘nice girl’ persona, socialization politely, dressing in clean colors and styles, simple underdone makeup and longing over Stephen by not acting out, she manages also to display the helpless, “come save me white knight I need you? persona. Kristen is shown as going out of her way to Stephen (going to his work, going on a date), establishing that she has the upper hand between t he two girls. Stephen is shown as a guy having a good time with his friends, careless, and also has these two girls on the side in which he has all the power. Stephen is shown as saying, “Kristen is fun for fooling around with and hooking up, but as a girlfriend I would say LC is better for that.? At the Black & White party, thrown at an upscale pricey hotel on the coast, everyone wears black except for Kristin, who boldly chose a revealing white dress. On her outfit selection LC comments, “Kristen is the only girl wearing white, how ironic.? Another character, Lo, details, “White is flashy and tacky.? In the sea of black you can pinpoint Kristen, playing the whore in this setup. The white is paralleled to the scarlet letter; she is branded as this persona of the whore and is pointed at as so among her peers. When Kristen leaves with Stephen at the end of the show, LC is on the balcony looking helpless as a maudlin song plays representing her helplessness and desire for her to be “saved? by Stephen.

There is a dominant portrayal of heterosexuality in this show. There is not one gay character admittedly shown. I say admittedly because in the background of two or three episodes there is a male named Gary, though his homosexuality is never stated, he is shown with the girls giddily laughing and acting flamboyant. There is also a dominance of white. There is only one character of a different ethnicity, Cammie, but she is a mix and blends with the other tanned girls of her age. And she is not shown dominantly until season three where she is a main character. Everyone on this show is wealthy. There are continuous shots of Laguna’s gorgeous community, the big houses, expensive stores, ocean coastline, and lush green, tropical atmosphere. The show goes out of its way to specifically show how much money these people have. In one scene, LC shows Stephen the site where her architect dad is building their new house. She shows him her room, where wide eyed she tells, “I have two closets, this one [pointing to one side of the room] is for my shoes and purses, and the other [pointing to the other side] for my clothes.? They show shots of palm trees being craned into the front yard. LC stands on the edge of the property facing a gorgeous view of the ocean and says, “I think this is the Jacuzzi...no wait, this is the pool? to which Stephen says, “This house is like the OC.? Does he not realize the atmosphere he lives in is exactly the OC, or is this a subtle scripted conversation to establish that this show really is the ‘The Real OC’ and they want their audience to specifically know this.

Laguna Beach is a frivolous and entertaining reality show. I admit I watched it religiously, and continued to purchase them on DVD for further enjoyment. It is not a show to be taken seriously. It is obvious this show is somewhat scripted and slanted in a certain light. I am known by my friends for liking things of this frivolous nature; things that promote materialization, shopping, ‘pretty things’. But I know where to cross the line at taking things seriously. The questionable thing is, what do younger audience who are more naïve and still developing their ideals and practices think of the show? Are they taking this seriously and shaping themselves off the identities displayed in the show? It’s possible, but what else is MTV known for? It’s definitely not the music.


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