Can you think back on a book you read a month ago and tell me in specific detail what it was about? The answer to that may vary but many wouldn’t be able to tell me in full description what it was about, but if I were to ask what happened in the last episode of MTV’s hit show “The Hills”, I would have gotten the full detailed description of what happened with Heidi and her new makeover. In today’s society the hit new TV shows are getting more attention that any new hit novel that comes out in stores. The truth being that many of us remember a book in detail because we are compelled to read it for a class and are forced to remember it due to an assignment that is assigned to us, but otherwise given the choice to read it we would choose not to. Now why is it that this is happening? I find it to be because many of us are quicker to pick up the remote than to pick up a book on our spare time. We have become very attached to the television set that gives us all the information we believe we need instead of picking up a book or a paper to know what’s going on in the world. We become attached to technology and it becomes a part of our daily lives, turning to our cell phones for the time and date, the internet for the latest news and to our iPod’s to keep us engaged in what we are doing and out of touch with the outside world. It seems as though societies has created a new product in the form technology and in this case of real live characters in reality shows and found a way to profit off of their everyday situations. It is to say that without us the viewers having a need to watch them these characters would not exist. In doing so the producers create the idea of consumerism them being the product and us being the anxious buyer, not necessarily needing this new product but wanting it because something is telling us we need it. This becomes great for the producers who use this system in order to get the necessary ratings to keep them going in show business.
The hit TV show “The Hills” has gotten a lot of attention since the premier of the show “Laguna Beach” that aired in 2004, where the stars such as Heidi Montag, Kristin Cavallri and Lauren got their debut to the show business as young rich teenagers dealing with the day to day situation’s of high school in their perfect little world, as they realized how life could be outside their safe circle. From the drama of rumors being spread around each other and who said who about the other girl. As they grew up their lives changed from the young minded teenagers with minor problems and seemingly perfect lives to the woman we see now on the new episodes of “The Hills”, dealing with what is seen as the same drama just in a different scene, that scene being Los Angeles. Now Marxism would claim that one can’t be a self because we are a product of society. In watching the episodes from “Laguna Beach” to “The Hills” I found myself putting the show on auto tune in order to make sure that I was there when the show came on to find out what new juicy drama was going on in the show. Knowing I had homework or chores to do, I always found myself being glued to the television set when the show came on. I found it very interesting that the drama that these women dealt with in their teenage years followed them in their adult years. In analyzing it even more, it became clear that the drama that these teenage girls were going through, was getting the attention of the audience and so the TV producers used that concept and attached it to the new episode “The Hills” that followed their lives in their adult years as they journeyed of into their careers and new lives with new loves. In being in that scene of the continuous fighting and arguing the cast found themselves creating a new product that the audience wanted more and more. This new product of drama filled situations became so popular that DVD’s were made and the companies were making major profit off of these cast members and the issues they dealt with on a daily basis that any “normal” person such as you or I would deal with everyday. The only difference being that these teenagers were rich kids that lived in Orange County in California. Us as the viewers became the anxious audience that stands around the Gorilla exhibit at the Zoo waiting to see what funny or dumb thing the Gorilla is going to make.
Karl Marx would claim in “The German Ideology”, that “As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore coincides with their production, both with what they produce and how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production” (Marx, pg 653). What Marx is referring to is that these rich teenagers are being watched due to their way of acting and in the setting they are placed. The setting being in that they are located in Orange County a beautiful place where many wealthy families live and choose to raise their children in. In choosing these teenagers in 2004 for the hit new show “Laguna Beach”, they found themselves in search of a particular lifestyle that involved the lives on the children of wealthy families and how their life was different to those that found themselves living miles away from this lovely place. As outsiders to this seemingly different world where kids at the age of 16 had a new BMW or a Mercedes Benz and had beach side houses to sit and relax and soak up the sun, we became attracted to their lifestyle and wanted to know more about them and so we found ourselves looking forward to each week’s episode to find out the new juicy drama. In doing so the producers used these young teenagers as bait in order to get the ratings they needed to keep the show going and make more money, and to market all the other things that were involved with these characters. They used consumerism in the way that they were selling to us a product in the form of these characters and eventually we started to feel as though we needed them in our lives. I know I found myself staying up and waiting to watch the new episode about who was going out with who and what drama was going on with Lauren and Kristin trying to get with her crush. In having our time consumed by these TV shows we are allowing ourselves to be submitted into believing that the fashions and lifestyles they are living are one’s we should follow. The producers create an eye candy for both boys and girls, showing us what looks good to the point where we begin to imagine that we need to act and dress the way they do on the television in order to get guys and girls like the ones you see on TV. In watching these characters, none would have imagined that these normal teenagers in their own little world would become who they are today.
As mentioned before Marxism claims that one can’t be the self because we are a product of society. Now this claim is very clearly seen in the life of Heidi Montag, a young high spirited girl that was very close to her family and followed her parent’s values. In watching her in the first episode of “The Hills”, she was the hard working girl that didn’t much care about her appearance. A very easy going girl working towards her future which would be a great thing for many viewers to see, but the producers clearly didn’t make the show to produce a girl who’s hard working towards her career, but were focused on the drama that surrounded Heidi and her best friend Lauren that soon was falling apart because of Heidi’s new boyfriend Spencer Pratt. In the world we live in and in the ideals of consumerism many want to see the sexy girls on TV with their bathing suits on and a perfect body.
This idea became what changes Heidi as we watched her in the next seasons after her debut in the first season of “The Hills”. We saw how her appearance slowly started changing, as we start looking in Season 3 where she is engaged to Spencer Pratt, we start seeing s different Heidi, a more fashionable girl with more make-up on her face and more into the new fashion that is coming on.
The speculation that she might be following an image of Barbie is clearly seen in the recent season where Heidi changes her whole appearance in submitting herself into multiple plastic procedures in order to enhance her appearance to somewhat resemble the Barbie image. She has a breast augmentation, cheekbone implants, nose and butt procedures that completely change the person who entered the show in the first season. It was in the beginning of the sixth episode where Heidi reveals her new look to her mother that she reveals that she wants to resemble the image of a Barbie. She begins resembling the clear picture that all women can think back on as little girls playing with their Barbie dolls. Barbie had the perfect smile, petite body that was perfectly proportioned with the perfect boyfriend and the beautiful car and home to go along with it. This was the life that Heidi pictured as she began her life and picturing her future with her husband Spencer along with their new home. Now the idea of ownig her own hoem and getting married is one that all girls envision as they are growing up but it is society that tell us that we need to be a certain size and look a certain way because its admired on televison.
The ideas that society bestow on us bring us to believe that being average and normal is no longer acceptable. In his article “The classless Utopia of Reality TV”, Alessandra Stanley shares her claim mentioning. “Reality shows are more honest, but they also breed a kind of country dimorphic disorder: half the nation is blond, beautiful and driving sports cars through Beverly Hills, while the other half is blond, sleazily oversexed and prone to hair-pulling and name-calling”, this helps support the idea that in order to be beautiful you need to fit the criteria that the TV shows are showing. Society gives you a rubric of what is acceptable or should I say admired and watches you try and resemble what it is you see on TV. From the clothes that the cast members are wearing to the cars they drive or the accessories they wear, we all want to resemble who they are. I wake up every morning extra early in order to look at my closet and figure out how I will be dressing that day with the idea of what I had just seen on TV the night before. I also find myself wanting to buy new clothes in order to look like the girls on TV. Not only are the fashions being resembled from the TV but the way they physically look. As in Heidi’s case she wanted to look more like Barbie, giving herself the confidence she was searching for. Now a day’s people are trying to resemble the stars they see on TV physically by undergoing the plastic surgery themselves. In the show “I want a famous face” that aired on MTV in 2005, where we saw average people undergoing surgery in order to look like their favorite stars on TV. In that season we saw a 26 year old woman who went in to get plastic surgery in order to resemble her face and body to look like Pamela Anderson in order to keep her business going of a porn star look alike of Pamela Anderson. Some of the procedures involved chin implants, lip injections and a bigger breast augmentation. It is needless to say that in the case of Gina she had been inspired by the image of Pamela Anderson because she stood for a great sex symbol in the adult industry. Once again it was a character shown on the TV that influenced a viewer because as a viewer they saw how much in this case Pamela Anderson was admired for her looks.
None the less it is clear that the claim of Marxism that one can’t be the self, because they are a product of society turns out to be true. From the beginning of the season of “Laguna Beach” with the new fresh faces of those rich teenagers that consumed our minds with their stories and drama, gluing us to the TV set every week in order to find out the new issues going on in their lives. These characters found themselves being a product to be had by us the viewers, the consumers wanting more and more. Moreover with the help of society in telling us that we needed to tune in every week to know what was going on in their lives. The producers used a group of teenage kids and used them as bait in order to get the younger audience to tune in giving them higher ratings and thus a bigger paycheck. The idea of giving in to society hit very close to the character Heidi as we saw her evolve from an innocent, quite girl following family morals to the woman we see now on the TV, who submerged herself into the idea of what is beautiful in society and giving into plastic surgery. Not only do these things happen to those on the bug screen but us as viewers find ourselves trying to copy what we see on TV and so keep buying into the idea of beauty through clothes, accessories, cars and even more changing our appearance physically. We did see the drastic impact it had on Gina from the episode of “I want famous face” on MTV, where she decided to submit herself into the world or plastic surgery in order to be who society made her believe she should be in order to get ahead in her life. Society brings up everyday a new product in hopes of grasping the viewers attention and with not much effort they are doing it, whether it be through a television show or through the latest technology telling you you must have it! As I am writing this paper I feel the urge to grab my phone and begin text messaging or grab the remote control and see what is on TV, a perfect example of what society has already instilled in us to be accustomed to in our daily lives.
Marx, Karl. “The German Ideology.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Victoria, Aus. Blackwell Publishing, 1998. Print. 653-658
Stanley, Alessandra. “The Classless Utopia of Reality TV” New York Times on the web 2, Dec. 2007. Television. 14, Dec. 2009