My daughter, 21, just called from the States. We were discussing bargain vintage-shopping at Goodwill, her work at a contemporary art center, the price of antiques, her Art History exam, what we've been up to since we last saw each other a few weeks ago. The usual mother-daughter transatlantic chit-chat, provided oh-so-cheaply, by Skype.
Then she tossed out the following. "Have you ever heard of The Hills? It's a supposed reality TV show on MTV." [ed note: needless to say, I'm 100% ignorant in that TV-viewing arena] "The latest episode takes place in Paris. It was so lame! Of course, I'm embarrassed to admit that I was even watching it, because the show is so vapid. But this segment was called 'Paris Changes Everything,' so I had to check it out. This was incredible. The girls, who supposedly work for Teen Vogue, have a driver the whole time and don't even have jet-lag. It was so staged! They didn't do anything typically French: they're in Paris to cover a debutante ball at Le Crillon. You don't see much of Paris. What clichés they do show of the city are accurately portrayed, but it's so superficial."
This from a young woman who spent the summer she was 16 wandering the streets of Paris in a heat wave taking an impressive series of 35mm black-and-white photos with her Minolta. She's studied here and visited here. She's been filmed here for a documentary. She might be the first to agree that, indeed, Paris Changes Everything. But not anything like The Hills.
So of course I had to check out this Valley-Girl show on line. Fortunately I'd already eaten dinner so I didn't have to worry about losing my appetite. I clicked onto the web link for the latest episode and I admit that I sat through thirty painful minutes of this palaver. Has Paris really devolved to this, in contemporary American popular culture? Where the major drama for aspiring young Americans -- Lauren and Whitney -- in this fair city are
1) when will the Colette boutique open so I can pick up the shoes?
2) how can I get the stains out of my Alberta Ferretti dress?
3) triumph at the boutique -- Alberta Ferretti is replacing the dress!
As far as I can see, Paris Changes Nothing for these idiotic actress-girls, except that they keep chanting "Oh-My-God? It's Sooooo Pretty?" The episode was a tour de force of product placement and clichés. The Crillon debutante ball, though I know it does really exist, seemed to be populated with Hollywood's pseudo-version of what French debutantes are like. I will admit right here that in the past I loved the Paris scenes in Sex and the City and the Devil Wears Prada. But is this MTV extrapolation the nouveau trend -- now to relegate Paris to being merely a lightweight, frivolous bimbo destination in American eyes? Gawd, I hope not. Think of the consequences.
One of the final Parisian scenes in The Hills (and be forewarned if you actually dare to watch this -- it's interspersed with more vapidity from Colorado) is Lauren's final trek around the city in a ball gown, on a motorcycle, with a handsome young Frenchman who calls her "Darling," blows kisses and winks goodbye to her. Hmm. Reality TV?
Okay, well, I can call this evening my The Hills diet, because it sure made me lose my appetite for a while.