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The Hills

MTV’s reality TV Show “The Hills? follows a young woman living in California as she completes her internship with Teen Vogue. In the March 7th episode, Heidi is in Santa Barbara for the weekend with her boyfriend Spencer. Meanwhile, her best friend and roommate Lauren is working on an intense photo shoot in which hangers facing the wrong direction constitute a crisis. Her own weekend plans revolve around a double date with Blake, the tough hockey player. During the date, they make small talk and gossip about Spencer. Afterwards, Lauren chalks it up to a successful date, even though they both lament the fact that he didn’t get her number. Heidi had planned a girl’s night for her and Lauren when she got back, but she ditches it to go to a movie with Spencer.

The program was produced by MTV, presumably for a teenage audience. It airs on Wednesday evenings at 8:00, a time when most students in the target audience would have free time to watch it, and it can also be viewed online. The main goal of MTV seems to be exposing a young audience to pop culture and providing them with unrealistic “role models.?
The online version of the show consisted of a tiny screen with a constant barrage of advertisements below the screen. The ads targeted teens and young adults who would “identify? with the characters. The products advertised promise to give the consumers access to the glamorous, materialistic “reality? they are watching. Products such as “The Sims 2? and “Jessica Simpson hairdo extension? promote living vicariously, while one slogan for vhills.mtv.com actually reads: “Don’t just watch Lauren – live her life!? Ads for movies such as “Burnout Dominator? show guys are being targeted as well. The advertisement for Borat is ironic because this movie exposes and ridicules the cultural stereotypes, such as the frat boy mentality toward women, that shallow reality TV shows base themselves on. The common trend of these ads is to captivate a young generation yearning for the excitement of the characters on the show and then to sell them products that will make their own lives seem just as hip.
The obvious irony of reality TV is that it is not, in fact, realistic. The portrayal of young women in “The Hills? is normalized to a very narrow, unattainable, and unhealthy image. According to “The Hills,? women’s interests lie solely in fashion and men. And in effect, the purpose of fashion is to attract men, as shown by a well-dressed couple kissing in the photo shoot scene. This is patriarchy at its most powerful, suggesting that women’s lives are dominated by the task of finding a male partner. Hooks would refer to this focus as “’the enemy within,’ referring to our internalized sexism? (Hooks 14). The physical image of women is normalized as well: all of the characters are thin, beautiful, and wearing makeup and expensive clothing. The intention by the women is presumably attracting men, and the result is the men’s objectifying of the women. Spencer’s line to Heidi was: “How cute are you today, want to go to Santa Barbara?? Women are virtually powerless in this scenario because their sole worth rests on a characteristic over which they have minimal control. There was also no racial diversity on the show, and all of the dating and relationships were strictly heterosexual. All of the characters were from privileged economic classes, as shown by the fact that they were living the high life while steaming clothes for a living and then driving a Mercedes Benz home to their classy apartment.
Men are not central characters, but their influence is manifest in the friendships of the women. Heidi and Lauren’s “best friend? status was on the brink of collapse because a boyfriend was coming between them. Lauren’s other female friendship revolved around their double date and mutual search for male companions. The cat fights that result from female’s male-centered relationships show the power of patriarchy to dominate women.
Males are also objectified and normalized in reality TV. Audrey Lorde points out the cookie-cutter man: “’white, thin, male, young, heterosexual…and financially secure’? (Lorde 340). Here we see the connection to the advertisement: this ideal image fuels a market in which consumers attempt to buy perfection. Patriarchy also backs men into a corner: Lauren expressed her relief that her date was a hockey player and not a “wussy.? In addition, he was the one who failed to get her number, showing his burden of responsibility in perpetuating the relationship. Hooks points out that men are “psychologically dependent on the privileges (however relative) that they receive simply for having been born male. Many men feel that their lives are being threatened if these privileges are taken away, as they have structured no meaningful core identity? (Hooks 70). The date was a success in Lauren’s eyes because he was a good-looking athlete capable of small talk, not because she was impressed by his integrity of strength of character.
The teenage audience is highly impressionable. This show systematically presents them with an unrealistic standard which in turn lowers their self esteem and makes them more apt to buy conveniently advertised products that allow them to compensate for their perceived failures. The show is produced by MTV, a highly commercialized and far-reaching pop-culture giant. According to Viacom, which owns MTV, “MTV is the #1 24-hour ad-supported cable network among 12-34 year olds, 18-24 year olds and 12-24 year olds.? Given this information, the connection between pop culture idols, advertising, and teenage consumers is not surprising. The normalization reinforces gender and relationship stereotypes, leaving little room for change. The show does not challenge us to expand our tolerance for diversity in any aspect, rather it perpetuates the status quo. In addition, it directs our focus toward shallow materialism and away from any meaningful social message.
From a feminist’s viewpoint, “The Hills? falls perfectly into the type of normalizing mass-media that inhibits social progress.

Works Cited
Hooks, bell. Feminism is for EVERYBODY: Passionate Politics. Cambridge: South End Press, 2000.

“MTV: Music Television.? Viacom.com. 2005. Viacom International Inc. 18 March 2007. < http://www.viacom.com/view_brand.jhtml?inID=4§ionid=2>.

“The Hills.? MTV. 7 March 2007.

Yep, Gust and Ariana Ochoa Camacho. “The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor.? Commentary and Criticism. 340. (Quotation of Audrey Lorde).

Comments

Here is just some more shallow materialism in the form of online dating and relationship help..or just how to get a man. MTV is over rated.

It is really an advantage during a date if you know how to make small talk. You can keep your conversation going and your date more lively and not boring.

Small talk helps you to have successful conversations and even a successful date. If you know how to make small talk, your date would feel more comfortable with you. It could even make your date agree for a second date.

Small talk is really a big help if you want to make your date successful, or if you want to develop a good relationship with a person. Small talks require a good communication skills. Sometimes, small talk is just the beginning of a long conversation where you get to know the other person better.

Communication skills will help you make a small talk into a good conversation. Then it will also keep your conversation going if you have good communication skills.

Thank you for this thoughtful piece of writing. I'll be using it in my AP English class as we continue our unit on gender and its construction. Please drop me an email if you'd be willing to discuss some of the readings/viewings I do when teaching this unit (and others). I'd be interested in some feedback.

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