Nevertheless I admire the power or “magic” of “The Hills”, its carefree mix of seemingly mundane dialogue, catchy music and pretty visuals. Call “stars” like Lauren Conrad or Speidi stupid, but you can’t deny there’s a lot of talent at work to create something as mesmerizing out of… nothing.
A typical scene: Lauren Conrad and friend are walking down a boulevard in LA, it’s late afternoon and the pavement is flooded with sunlight. Some kind of happy-sad Indie-Rock-tune is playing in the background, and Lauren talks about washing her car or doing her hair. The camera shows them walking further down the street, their dialogue fades out and all that’s left is the music playing. The viewer has a couple of seconds left to admire the Boulevard, then the screen fades to black and the episode is over.
Looking at the Boulevard with the music and that talk of nothingness… I don’t know, it’s like the TV equivalent to elevator Muzak honed to perfection. One NYT-journalist went so far as to compare the shows aesthetics to Pasolini’s films. Well it is a little bit like Pasolini, except the fact that everyone seems to enjoy the nihilism they are trapped in.
The Hills makes this relationship between product, social environment, and intended audience more immanent; it places products directly in a naturalized social environment (The Hills) while cementing an alignment of values between the product and target market (young women) through viewer identification with Lauren.
The Hills then is not simply a lifestyle brand of reality television selling Prada bags alongside Pepsi products to young women aspiring to The Hills lifestyle; at the same time, The Hills represents a branded lifestyle.
The products that populate The Hills featured on seenonmtv.com or in The Virtual Hills are not simply discreet entities articulated to or “placed” in a reality television platform to create “branded content;” they appear as firmly embedded within and already belonging to the generalized, glamorous lifestyle represented by the show.