January 5, 2009
Time to come down from ‘The Hills’
"The Hills," MTV's top-rated reality show, makes the spotlight seem so attainable. Welcome to the world of Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag. They are reality TV stars. They have minimal talent and lead very fancy lives. Montag works for SBE Entertainment Group and Bolthouse Productions, which looks like the easiest job on earth (other than Paula Abdul's on "American Idol"). At night, she hits Los Angeles' most glamorous hotspots.
Everyone now knows these hotspots, homes of expensive sushi, perfect-looking people, and the feeling of being a celebrity upon walking in. Maybe it is the paparazzi on Robertson Boulevard in front of The Ivy or the bright lights of Hollywood at Katsuya -- everyone wants to live like a "Hills" character.
But especially living where we do, as viewers, we can be victims of the illusion that fame is so effortless. We see that lifestyle as so accessible, but it is not. That is where the teenagers of Los Angeles falter. Fame is not easily attainable, and the Heidis and Laurens of this world should not be our role models.
The Mishnah of Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, says, "Who is rich? One who is happy with his portion." As Jews, we should learn not to make ourselves miserable because some people have more possessions than us. On "The Hills," all of the characters have everything -- nice cars and designer clothes -- yet appear only to desire more. They never act like they are happy with their lives and sometimes cause controversy just to make others jealous and unhappy.
The show may not be scripted, but the characters' lives are just as unrealistic as if it were. Two characters, Spencer Pratt and Brody Jenner, have never been shown holding a job on the show. Yet they easily can afford to live in nice apartments, eat at the hottest restaurants and party at the finest nightclubs.
In reality, the show is just a 30-minute commercial. Its camerawork is amazing, and it makes Hollywood look like heaven -- go party at Area and you do not need to worry about anything. But Hollywood is not heaven. People give up their lives to move to Hollywood and try to make it big, and 99 percent of them fail. Yes, the Walk of Fame exists, but what about the homeless people who sleep nearby and the parts of Hollywood that have not benefited from urban renewal?
Enter Lauren and Heidi: We do not have any talent, yet we make $75,000 an episode for being followed around on tape.
"The Hills" is a scam, an illusion of what Hollywood really is. If you really want to know what Hollywood is all about, take a drive down to Sunset and Gower and look at the poverty. And then, we all need to ask ourselves: Why do we tune in to this show every week?
You don't have to stop watching "The Hills," but realize that just because you live in Los Angeles, you are not automatically a celebrity. Pay attention to the not-so-dreamy side of Hollywood, because plenty of talented people miss their breaks. Take the rappers who hand out mix-tapes in front of the Virgin Megastore in Hollywood -- they might be very talented rappers, but they will not sell.
Brody, Heidi, Lauren and Spencer sell because they satisfy everyone's definition of a celebrity. We might live in Los Angeles, but we need to recognize that not everyone in this city is famous and wealthy. As teens, we should be able to see past "The Hills" and realize that we are not characters in a TV show. We live in a realistic world, and we need real role models so we can learn and grow.
Jeremy Lowe is a junior at Shalhevet and community editor of The Boiling Point, where this article first appeared.
Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the January issue is Dec. 15; deadline for the February issue is Jan. 15. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.