Wednesday, July 28, 2010

LC WAS RIGHT (over The Hills)*

Okay. I know The Hills ended weeks ago which in internet time is like five years, but I have to say: LC was right. She knew early on that Spencer was bad news.

And you know what? The producers should have listened to her. I have this feeling that one of the reasons she left The Hills is that she was fed up with being pressured to film with Hedi and Spencer, and maybe also a little annoyed that she had to keep pretending that there was some on-again/off-again thing with Brody. If the producers had simply gotten rid of Heidi and Spencer -- who were ridiculous and boring anyway -- and refocused the show on Lauren and other young women exploring their careers in Los Angeles, The Hills might have ended on a note that secured its reputation as a pop-culture phenomenon. Instead, it was like a sad little gasp.

I re-watched the first episode of The Hills during the incessant marathon that preceded the series finale, and I was struck by how different the show had become by the final season. The first episode is filled with close-ups of faces and details, silences, and the main story is that Lauren is starting fashion school and trying to get an internship. The women are ambitious and optimistic, and the main relationships are those among the women. The boys are on the periphery. Even into season six, when there was little interesting left, the show's most compelling moments continued to be those between the women.

There's been plenty of discussion about The Hills closing montage. It was effective at acknowledging the constructions of real/unreal that pervaded the show and characterize its environs, but why did it focus on Brody? Initially, I was somewhat baffled that Brody was the subject of the closing shot, but I've come to the conclusion that his silhouette against the painted backdrop actually recalled the initial disruption and symbolized the subsequent fall of the show. In this way, it is probably a fit ending. Jason was bad, but he was *really* Lauren's boyfriend. It's been widely acknowledged that Brody and Spencer hatched a plan to get on the show by dating the leading ladies, and they did. And we all know how that turned out.

In a perfect world, there would have never been a Brody or Spencer on The Hills, and the closing shot of the series might have been one of Lauren confidently striding down the runway at the finale of her own first fashion show. But Lauren left the show, perhaps because she was too real for the contrived drama of the hothouse. So instead we get Brody -- chiseled and robotic -- bidding farewell to Kristin (whose total lack of ambition kept her presence rather vague and pointless). As Kristin's car pulls away, Brody cuts a generic silhouette against the fake hills on a studio lot in the valley of the real hills as, somewhat half-heartedly, footage from the past six seasons flickers through a familiar and almost plain boring montage. When at last the painted background is rolled away and we see the cameras and the cranes and the crew, there is a reminder that at one time this show was interesting.

But LC moved on, and this is just what's left.

*this is just a sneak peek at our next project, CELEBRICIDAL (coming soon!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I just finished watching a few minutes of Luke Russert, the college-aged son of late TV host Tim Russert on Larry King. The passing of Russert the elder was very sad, as is every premature death. But the rush to make Luke Russert the "hair apparent," as Paulie Walnuts might say, is annoying. And not just because Luke Russert seems to be talentless, uncharismatic, and smug. Why the hell is he on TV as the voice of young America? By virtue of his class status and connections, he represents the perspective of a tiny minority of Americans. Hopefully, like Theresa Heinz Kerry's "allegedly" hunky son, trotted out on the 2004 campaign trail, who the MSM assumed the nation would collectively swoon for, my guess is that Luke Russert's stab at fame will be greeted with incredulity and annoyance.

As a Canadian, I am familiar with this process: the neoliberal crook Brian Mulroney has a son who rode his connections to fame as host of "Canadian Idol"; Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's unctuous and punch-worthy sons tried to milk careers out of their last name (like Russert, the chiaorscuro photograph of whom holding his father's anchor chair is one of the tackiest mementos mori I have ever seen, one of Trudeau's kids used the immediate post-death phase to market his "brand," in a flamboyantly theatrical eulogy that still causes involuntary wincing); even Eugene Levy's son has a career in Canadian media, as a host of The Hills aftershow on MTV Canada. This is fitting, of course, because The Hills is itself a vehicle for raging nepotism. It stars Brody Jenner, idiot son of track star Bruce Jenner (now stepfather of another clan of nepotizzerz, the Kardashian daughters of one of OJ Simpson's lawyer), whose previous attempt to become famous was as part of evil idiot Spencer Pratt's reality show about stepfather David Foster. The Hills also features Laguna Beach veterans who would not have careers were it not for the accomplishments of their well-heeled parents. (Remember Lauren Conrad showing Stephen around her multitrillion dollar cliffside crib-in-progress, as if she had something to do with it?)

On E!, film critic Jeffrey Lyons's fucktard son Ben prances around as if he actually earned his way into show biz. Mike Wallace's son Chris holds court on Fox News, ranting against handout-hungry liberals. This year's big film Juno was directed by celebuspawn Jason Reitman (who claims to be a passionate libertarian--i.e. a fan of the free market and enemy of the social welfare state, which of course is a very principled and courageous position for one born rich, well-connected, and healthy. Douche.) Judd Apatow, Josh Schwartz, and Seth Rogen are also kids of industry types. They have used their edge to mainstream fag jokes and celebrate fratboy stoner machismo of a most unimaginative kind. Double douches. Not to mention the careers of Kate Hudson and Rumer Willis, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, Kimberly and Sean Stewart, Tori Spelling, Bill Kristol and George W. Bush. Douchosity to the power of douche.

Even on the left, nepotiz runs rampant. Witness the careers of Naomi Klein and Chesa Boudin. In my field, US History, many kids of the famous and well-connected rule the roost: David Brinkley's son Alan, for instance, and Alfred Kazin's son, Michael are two of the most prominent dudes in the discipline.

I know I should offer some deep analysis of nepotism and why I hate it so much. Lacking the patience or discipline to do so, all I can say is: it annoys me. I wish folks were more honest about it. I wish that young offspring of the famous and successful were less smug and complacent. And given the generally mediocre quality of their work and thinking, I wish we could see and hear instead from the folks they skipped ahead of. I bet they are less irritating.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My New Favorite Show

There have been like 5 million things I've wanted to post about since I last blogged over here at Fluffy D. But I've been too mercurial or lazy to actually get to any of them...until now. This because I cannot contain my excitement about America's Best Dance Crew.

Remember when Project Runway first started? And it was like, omg! it is so fun to watch people be creative? Well ABDC reminds me of that. Some of these kids are so creative it is sick. And the judges, especially Lil' Mama, are hilarious.

This show makes me really really happy. The only drawback is that I am starting to like really cheesy music (ie "Apologize" by One Republic feat Timbaland). Once I saw the Jabbawokeez dance to that shit, I was hooked.

My faves so far: supercrew,
fanny pack
and asiid

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

5 Theses on The Hills

(this post is repurposed from a comment on zigizgger)

Devastated by the end of the Hills mini-season-plus... inspired by the writings of femme feral, zigzigger, dr. television, and of course songs about buildings and food... so: some additional mist for the grill from two perspectives, one (labor history) in which I am actively training, and the other (art criticism) in which I am but a hacky pretender.

Thesis 1: Reality television is, among other things--probably first and foremost-- an accumulation strategy. MTV is part of a large transnational corp; labor costs are among the most nettlesome barriers to increased profitability. Using performers like LC, Lo, and Heidi who apparently style their own hair, do their own makeup, and wear their own clothes, hang out at readymade locations like Hyde and Don Antonio's (not to mention the fake job sites) , and are illuminated by natural light means that a whole raft of unionized professionals are unnecessary. That is, in reality-speak, what it is.

Why I love the Hills despite the dangers its success poses to one of the few remaining one-hundred-percent unionized modes of creative production is that it resists the urge to humiliate the performers it enlists. On The Hills, like on Survivor or Shot of Love with Tila Tequila, the people we watch are working--and unlike actors, their work is undisguised, in service only of its own realization (as such Spencer Pratt is absolutley right that he "works harder" than actors, although apparently he does understand why) and what we watch is their work.

Thesis 2: The difference between LC and your average reality show contestant or personality is that LC retains dignity that others are forced to sacrifice in order to participate. LC is not made to prance around in outfits she hates, smooch scorpions, or dance on bars. The existence of a separate "LC 2" covered in the tabloids is, in fact, a testament to the dignity of her labor. She gets to protect a measure of privacy, interiority, intimacy, experience that we cannot purchase. This is why, the LC sex tape about which Spencer and Heidi compulsively speak has such a vital structural role within the Hills's organzing logic. Not because it would prove that LC is not a "good girl"--an irrelevant claim, at best-- but because it would deprive LC of the rare status she has negotiated, a celebrity whose work does not require the complete demolition of her private subjectivity, the exposure of her anatomy, or compliance with the brutal economy of exhibitionism and attention that has ensnared so many others.

Thesis 3: At the same time, the Hills format is also--intentionally, by design, brilliantly-- a vehicle for all manner of branding, including the continuing branding of what on Laguna Beach was the "OC" lifestyle (no laughing matter--Mike Davis points out that OCs have been popping up in Dubai and suburban India, gated communities with Jamba Juices and Starbucks that apparently make the miseries of neoliberalism outside the gates easier to stomach), and which on the Hills is something like "twentysomething coastal consumer citizenship."

I have a bit to say about this. "Twentysomething coastal consumer citizenship" is structed on deep paradoxes that should make us uneasy... and The Hills does make us uneasy... we sense that this way of life is unstable (how long can a vain and entitled ruling class claim NYC and LA for itself?), parasitic (how much of this is funded by expensive educations, trust funds, connections), in some way deeply anhedonic (even the "fun" careers of music, fashion, and PR seem dull, monotonous, often marked by abusive managers and arbitrary demands). But this lifestyle also articulates a philosophy about public space and the legitimacy of different strategies of profiting off of the commons.

LA has long been the epicenter of "twentysomething coastal consumer citizenship" as neoliberal ideology. Lauren and Lo and the camera crews of the Hills have a social warrant to use the sidewalks and streets of LA to make money. In contrast, the poor cannot even use these same public spaces in order to survive, with the rise of broken windows policing and the virtual criminalization of homelessness. Even the act of inhabiting public space in LA as an identifiably Mexican-American or African-American youngster has been criminalized... the LAPD now considers merely being out of doors as criteria for entering youth into gang databases. And as recent NYPD shootings demonstrate, being outside and African American is grounds enough for murder by the police.

Thesis 4: But merely criticizng the brand that the Hills is selling is ultimately too reductive. The Hills has a character--Spencer Pratt--who embodies this lifestyle brand and its ethic in the manner of a character in a medieval mystery play. In Spencer Pratt we see "twentysomething coastal consumer citizenship" in all of its appalling awfulness. And not only because of Pratt's (disturbingly patchy and unattractive) mustache-twirling and scenery-chewing. I am convinced that he is there as a force of repulsion for LC. She does not hate him for what he has done, she hates him for what he is. She does not want to be him. In the end, she will fail. But that is in the nature of tragedy, and it is clear that the Hills is a quite classic tragedy, resonating especially with the Wharton and Dreiser tragedies of capitalism's excess from the last Gilded Age.

Thesis 5: Finally, I want to say something about form. The Hills is utterly brilliant in its formal integrity. It is also clearly, in my view, a work of high minimalism-- right up there with "Groundhog Day" in the canon of pop takes on this form. The materials used by the Hills's creators are ruthlessly kept to a minimum, and deployed in mathematical permutations: from the shots of street life, to the music cues, to the very conflicts staged by the principals. Like the Ibsen maxim that a gun introduced in Act I will go off in Act V, on the Hills, any element introduced anywhere will be re-used across the matrix of personal relationships. LC ditches a job opportunity for a lame boyfriend? So will Heidi. Not out of a lack of imagination on the part of the creators, but out of a rigid commitment to testing a hypothesis: repetition is interesting.

Repetition is also the symbol of the underside of capitalist pleasure-seeking-- the endless procession of logos and trademarks, the cloned spaces of commercial real estate, the looped grooves of pop music, the constricted language of empty phrases and ambiguous gestures. Here is where I emphatically celebrate the Hills. Has any work of art ever traversed the terrain of blankness, repetition, and redundancy to better effect? I don't think so. If historians of the future are judicious, they will watch the Hills to get a sense of the affective character of turn-of-the-century American capitalism.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pro Nails

basically the best thing since lil' mama's lipgloss

Tuesday, February 26, 2008



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hex Presse

It occurred to me that I ought to mention HEX PRESSE, a feminist micro-press. Hex Presse is the print/tangible companion to WOMB POETRY. You can read our mission statement here and buy our games, chapbooks, and other fun things here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'm not the only one

who was totally annoyed by Knocked Up

he threw the unused condom on the floor!!!! I audibly gasped in horror. what an asshole. I don't care how cuddly you make the guy. that. is. fucked. up.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I HATE Spencer Pratt: Annoying Boy of the Week

brody jenner and spencer pratt pretend to be cool

Spencer Pratt is a PARISite...literally. First he shows up on The Hills wearing dog tags, destroying friendships, and telling lies, and now he is on FOX. FUCKING. NEWS. explaining to Geraldo why he started the "save Paris" petition. I. hate. this. guy.

I don't even know where to begin; truth be told, I've often thought of posting about this miscreant, but I just haven't had the stomach to think about him for the amount of time required to construct sentences. But here I am.

I didn't think it was possible for me to hate someone from the reality tv world more than I hate Slade Smiley, but I do. Spencer Pratt is similar to Slade Smiley in that he has a pathologically inflated sense of self-importance and is really good at emotionally abusing and isolating his significant other (the also-odious Heidi Montag), but he is even more infantile, boring, transparent, and ridiculous. He advised his client Brody Jenner to "get that bitch [nicole richie] to eat" for publicity purposes, and he and Jenner both seem to have made it their mission to suck as much exposure out of their connection to The Hills as possible. Here are some choices quotes from an interview with MTV Reality World:

My new plan to keep everything secret like a ninja. Too many ideas are taken from me. I wouldn’t even know where to start with that one. My hustle is just too crazy. I’m trying to take over the world.

and later, when asked about his depiction on The Hills:

Well, I want to start to have our side of the story come out. I want to get a blog so people can know what’s going on with Spencer on the daily. Lauren narrates The Hills. Spencer is going to narrate his blog. Imagine if Spencer narrated The Hills… It’s how you skew it. If I’m the narrator, wait to see how much people love Spencer.

One of the most sickening moments of TV this year is when Spencer, in the season finale of The Hills, holds up what he calls his "homeboy phone." This is in response to Jenner's questions about how he will transition from "playa" to Heidi's full-time domestic partner (for whom he keeps a "girlfriend" phone). You see, he coerced Heidi into moving in with him so he doesn't have to deal with her friends. It's a pretty textbook abuse tactic, really. As is his move to manage Heidi's "career." This is yet another thing Pratt has in common with Slade Smiley, who recently began managing the career of his ex-fiance, Jo. It isn't hard to see that these management moves are little more than a transparent attempt to control the lives (and bodies -- Heidi just had a boob and nose job, supposedly at Spencer's urging) of their significant others.

Sadly, this isn't the first time we've seen men abuse women on our favorite music channel, and I'm not even talking about the exploitation of women in music videos. Just about every dude on the past few seasons of the Real World is an abusive misogynist, and let's not forget the abusive antics of Laguna Beach and Hills alum Jason Wahler. This trend is horribly troubling, and I really do worry about how young viewers of these shows perceive these men.

The conflation of the "romantic" and "abusive" in storytelling isn't new, but I DO think it is different when it happens in a reality show. I'm still thinking through how and why that is, but the most obvious consequence is that we must wonder about Lauren and Heidi's (who are real people) health and safety. We must question the ethics of the show makers in a way that is different from how we evaluate a fiction writer's choices because real people could get hurt. MTV seems to be making a number of shows in which real women are put in danger for the sake of drama, and that ain't cool.

Related links:
How to tell if you are in an abusive relationship

Related Annoying Boys of the Week:
Wes from the Real World Austin
The Drooling Dunces of Laguna Beach
Annoying Boys of the Week 4.16.06

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Feminaissance and Wack

So I did get a little taste of Feminaissance on Saturday. It took us forever to leave the house so we only made the last panel, but it was a very interesting one. I wish that I had been less caffeine deprived...but this is what happens when you stay up until 4 am every night!

As I mentioned earlier, Eileen Myles is AMAZING. I'm still organizing my thoughts about the other presentations, but here are some of the notes I took during E.M.'s presentation from the "categories" panel:

- the world determines your gender before you do
- one can be caught in the midst of two [gendered] performances: one true and one false
- hormones are writing (!!!)
- gender is a public thought
- gender and "things." In inflected languages (i.e. Latin) nouns are given masculine or feminine endings. In English, some things are gendered. For example, ships are "she." Also discussed gender and hurricanes. After the panel I did some research. As it turns out, the gender of hurricanes alternates through the alphabet, which seems sort of conceptually elegant to me -- this idea of alternating gender as something controlled/contained by letters and "names." You can see this list of names here. Also, why don't we name earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Does a hurricane seem somehow more "live"; or perhaps a storm seems more distinct from the planet itself?

We also made what felt like a very cursory tour of the WACK show, which is electric and dense and thrilling. The concentration of feminist art creates a very palpable sense of urgency and power. It also highlights a desire to "get out" of the museums, which is to say that it draws attention to/makes clear the limits of the museum. Forms are used and simultaneously undermined. Museum spaces are productive and necessary and often feel like sanctuaries, but the underlying imperative -- the quicksilver vein of the WACK show -- is that we must change the world outside the museum. This may seem like a banal point, but trust me -- it has a sharpened tip in the context of this exhibit.

Anyway, the MOCA is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. Besides the WACK show, there are some very interesting pieces there. Among them are some texty pieces by Alexandra Grant, including a glinting silver wire mesh sphere which seemed like something out of one of my dreams. Another piece I *loved* was by chilean artist Livia Marin. This piece involved over 2k tubes of lipstick (!!!) aranged on a curved base; the tips of the lipstick were sculpted into all sorts of shapes and reminded me of chess pieces in drag. Thrilling.

Friday, April 20, 2007

This Almost Makes Me Want to Have Kids

via feministing

ETA: I usually *hate* stupid youtube videos of little kids doing "cute" things, but this one is special. trust me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shark Jumpers

Lonely Girl and Veronica Mars, I hardly knew thee.

Also, Twin Peaks Season 2 is FINALLY out on DVD. Some say TP "jumped the shark" in season 2. I say it's still pretty good TV.

Why isn't My So-Called Life on DVD anymore?

My New Favorite Band is Mika Miko

also, some Raincoats for your rainy days


an anti-war poeming project for "national" poetry month over at ovaries & sequins.

also, new poems online here and here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007