God bless the New Yorker for their ability to intellectualize anything. This week, they take on Lauren Conrad and Teh Hillz The Hills and end up confused about the hows and whys of the show's appeal: "Lauren looks like Marcia Brady, and the three others have dead eyes, although at least Whitney, alone of the girls, appears to understand what having a career means."

She and Lauren were interns at Teen Vogue's Los Angeles office, and Whitney had enough brains to say yes to a chance to spend the summer working in Paris, after Lauren, incredibly, turned it down to be with her boyfriend. That boneheaded decision, her boss tells her later, means that she's "going to always be known as the girl who didn't go to Paris."

You know you're in The Hills when Whitney Port is lauded as the brightest bulb. However, Whitney's vacancy is what I find to be so pleasing about her. And, btw? Lauren did end up in Paris eventually! You gotta mention that, New Yorker! She only turned it down the first time.

The gist of the article is that the critic herself, Nancy Franklin, can hardly understand the appeal; possibly nobody can. "I think people watch it mostly to figure out why they're watching it."

I believe the appeal is that the viewer is not required to look for a deeper meaning. There is no deeper meaning, and that's comforting. In this way, The Hills is the Zen Buddhism of TV. We watch and accept the moments that Lauren Conrad gives us; the reward is the journey, not the ending. As critic Nancy Franklin says, the world of reality TV "has a surface but no volume."

Most of the conversations start with one or another of the girls asking Lauren what she did the night before, and, constant as the questions are, they seem to be asked not out of curiosity but out of obligation, as if the girls were being paid to ask—as, indeed, they are.


The Frenemy Territory [New Yorker]