Monday, April 20, 2009
MTV hit The Hills returns for a fifth season in predictably dramatic fashion, with a premier episode soaked rich in tears and champagne.
With this season marking the last in the series, viewers expect a sense of closure. Will Lauren forgive Heidi and rekindle their old friendship? Will Audrina ever get over Justin Bobby? What will become of Spencer and Heidi?
The first episode, the promos and teasers all indicate that the show will answer all these questions by season's end. The story line will come full circle, with season one's conundrums all solved and resolved by the season five finale. Then we see the illusion of it all.
The show only captures five years of these people's lives. True, society regards those adolescent and young adult years as the most exciting, most dramatic span in man's life, so by focusing on this period, MTV has captured here (lucrative) lightning in a bottle. However, by ending the series with a long-awaited, much-desired reconciliation of Lauren and Heidi, MTV implies that we can leave behind these two characters, who--the studio wants us to believe--will live happily ever after. They end the series on a high note because doing so will bring in profits--everyone likes a happy ending.
The truth, however, is that lives are dynamic, not static, that people continue to mature. Lauren and Heidi, should they become friends again--as seems increasingly likely--they could well break up the very week after production. This time, though, for once, there would be no camera crews, no producers, no studios to document it occurring. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, then did it happen? For Lauren and Heidi, their lives will continue to unfurl, but for the audience, it will reach an idyllic end by the end of this summer... or at least until the inevitable reunion show.
MTV thus promotes an illusion. Of course the seemingly scripted dialogue, the forced drama and edited emotions receive a great deal of attention. The underlying implication, however, that these five years are the only ones that truly matter, for the mere reason that TV covers them, presents an unsettling question. Do we exist now, if no one pays attention? Or can we really only call it living after we've been documented doing whatever it is we do?