By Joanna D'Angelo

Okay I admit it. I watch The Hills. Heck, I watch the spin-off show The City too. I'm well past the age when I can relate to the lives of 20-somethings. Especially rich, well-dressed and somewhat spoiled 20-somethings. But I haven't forgotten what those years were like. Desperately trying to find ourselves and our place in the world. Dealing with a broken heart that we think is never going to mend. Having to negotiate between friends who were "fighting" - often involving many late night phone conversations. Yes, that kind of thing happens in our 20s. At least it happened in my 20s and it happens all the time on The Hills - except with designer clothes and perfectly coiffed hair.

The Hills wrapped up its fifth season tonight with a wedding (Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt), new beginnings (the grand entrance of Kristin Cavallari of Laguna Beach fame) and a fond farewell to Lauren Conrad (or LC as she is known to her friends). But what will become of The Hills now that Lauren has left?

The Hills has become a veritable pop culture phenomenon.
A docu-soap - heavy emphasis on soap - where the romances, social lives and occasional work lives of a group of friends who live in L.A are filmed, edited and packaged for the youth of North America to devour. The cast members are all well-to-do, upper middle class 20-somethings - whose parents are either wealthy or wealthy/famous. Brody Jenner - one of the cast members is the son of former Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner. Bruce Jenner on the other hand is on his own reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians...but that's another story. But there-in lies the appeal for millions of viewers. The fact that they are wealthy, good looking, well dressed 20-somethings.

So back to Lauren Conrad's exit from the show. The producers decided to bring Kristin Cavallari back into the MTV fold to fill the void. But back when they were high school girls on Laguna Beach - Kristin's "Rizzo" had always been that of a foil to Lauren's "Sandy". Then Lauren moved to L.A. and onto The Hills - where she grew up into the "Mary Richards" of the show.

Lauren was essentially the star of The Hills. She was the cast member - heck "character" we all rooted for. She was the girl that all the girls watching at home - related to. But since she has now left the show - The Hills lacks a central female character for the primarily female audience to rally 'round. It's like The Mary Tyler Moore Show without Mary Tyler Moore.

I certainly am not comparing The Hills to one of TV's most beloved comedies or Laguna Beach to that phenomenal musical but producers at MTV have done a clever job of slotting the cast members into definite roles that mimic - in a "reality-show" way - various iconic characters from movies and classic TV. Which is one of the reasons why The Hills is so popular. Even though many of the young kids who watch The Hills don't even know who Mary Tyler Moore is - they do subliminally understand what she means. The idea of rooting for a hero (or in this case) heroine on a quest - is nothing new to us - as Joseph Campbell illuminated in his seminal work A Hero With A Thousand Faces. It's one of the driving forces of storytelling. And even - dare I say - reality TV-telling.


  1. 'At least it happened in my 20s and it happens all the time on The Hills - except with designer clothes and perfectly coiffed hair.' - LOL! My group of 20-somethings were more like the cast from 'Fame'. We had wacky clothes and lots of creative fire and ate lots of Kraft Dinner.

  2. Interesting post, Jo!

    I have to admit though, I've never seen The Hills or The City (though I did watch MTM!). *gulp*

    I do think we root for heroes and heroines no matter what the setting and I think the archetypes within television resonate within us. In B.C. there were plays enacted with actors portraying the various gods and goddesses--the first source. *grin*

    Nowadays, we still like those larger-than-life characters. Why I just heard that Archie proposed to Veronica (not Betty! *gasp!*) and people are sounding off 'for and against' with vehemence. We see it as a cultural phenomenon but I think it's just human. Or as someone, I think Woody Allen, said, The difference between comedy and tragedy: Comedy--someone else slips on a banana. Tragedy--YOU slip on a banana. Smiles,
    Chiron O'Keefe

  3. Julia - not so much Fame for me - but definitely writer/filmmakers in that group. And Kraft Dinner - I'm Italian so that was only a last resort ;)

    Chiron - I agree it's those great myths that started it all this storytelling stuff - aren't we just re-telling those myths? ;) Now regarding Archie proposing to Veronica? I think that's a good match actually - isn't that what works in romance fiction - the good guy with the bad girl. He redeems her and she makes him less stuffy. Then good girl Betty should end up with bad boy Reggie - who in my opinion was much more interesting **G**!

  4. Joanna, My first thought on reading your headline was, "WTF? Has she lost her mind?" That said, I enjoyed your exploration of The Hills and why is has resonated with so many people.

    I have never watched an episode (didn't catch Laguna Beach, either), but after reading this post, I can understand why others do.

    Thank you.


  5. Hi Jennifer - well I like to analyze pop culture and these particular reality shows "speak" to a certain generation - they're hugely popular and that always fascinates me ;) so glad you stuck with me on this one ;)

    Plus - er - they are my guilty pleasure.


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