October 17, 2005
Reality: It's not just for off-camera life anymore.
Welcome to the O.C. Bitch!
Or how I learned to stop hating on and love the bombshell.
Like OMG! There's been a seismic shift of tectonic proportions in California recently and if you weren't paying close enough attention, then it like totally went undetected on your cultural Richter scale. Fortunately for you, I'm here to train my magnifying lens on the profound mind warp that is the second season of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.
Lest you think I'm blowing this out of proportion more than what so-and-so said to so-and-so about so-and-so at the nail salon, allow me to expound:
At the end of the premiere season, L.C. and Stephen were off to college on the far end of the world from Laguna. San Francisco (yes, she pulled a Felicity and followed his dreams). So when news spread that there would be a second season of the high school reality series, I wondered how such a thing could be executed.
The answer is: Brilliantly.
The producers did the unthinkable. They transferred the point of view from L.C.'s to Kristin's! I know! Bananas, right? I mean, how were we to navigate the already too-insipid-for-words Laguna Inferno with the Queen Bee as our guide?
|Imagine if in the sophomore season of Ally McBeal, the show had suddenly shifted to Georgia's perspective and neurotic voiceover while Ally hung around, pathetically pining for Billy. Or try to picture Cordelia the Vampire Slayer.|
This wouldn't be the first time that MTV, the grandfather of reality television (the only people who ever refer to PBS' American Family are people writing esoteric pieces on the evolution of reality television), shattered the narrative confines of the genre and toyed with editorial perspective.
In 2003, the second season of Sorority Life and the first of Fraternity Life were taped simultaneously at the University of Buffalo. This allowed for unprecedented crossover potential between two non-competition reality shows. "Characters" from one show might appear briefly on the other or a story could begin on Sorority Life and conclude on Fraternity Life, like how Law & Order and Homicide used to kick it.
This reached its apex during the fifth episode that season of each series. A feud involving banner-stealing and house-trashing erupted between the girls of DZO and the boys of SCO. First we saw the incident from the girls' perspective. And then, everything we thought we knew was turned upside down when we saw the same period of time shown from the crafty boys' points of view. I'm not ashamed to say, that hour of television rocked my world.
Then there was the ill-fated fauxmance between Sorority girl Nicole and Fraternity boy Tim. At 10, everything seemed hunky dory through Nicole's rose-colored lens. Then at 10:30, we could all see that she needed a copy of He's Just Not That Into You even more than L.C. For instance, the clueless chick showed up early one morning on Sorority to surprise her faux-beau with breakfast. Something seemed a little off, but he welcomed her in. It wasn't until that night's episode of Fraternity that we saw another coed leaving Tim's bed seconds before Nicole arrived.
Combined, the Buffalo seasons were like Rashomon or Pulp Fiction or Boomtown (take your pick). It was enough to blow Tommy Westphall's mind!
I also wasn't buying Kristin as the likable heroine of the show nor was I digging all the new vacant faces. Luckily, the producers (in their "unobtrusive" production style) helped ease our transition by featuring both L.C. and Stephen — home for Christmas break — prominently amidst the new cast. I was savvy to the new perspective the powers-that-be were shoving down my throat and I wouldn't be having any of it.
But a funny thing happened as this season progressed. I found myself liking Kristin more and more and growing weary of L.C. (I was never fond of Stephen — see my "Previously on." above). Suddenly, the girl I once rooted for seemed pathetic to me. She made like Rory Gilmore and dropped out of college. She started hanging around (and from the looks of the previews for tonight's installment, cradle-robbing) the high school kids and seemed to be more focused on clinging to the MTV spotlight (that like Stephen had shunned her for Kristin) than getting on with her adult life. By the end of the academic year, she'd been joined by Stephen (I imagine in her diary she wrote: "We're both dropouts. Soulmates!") and it's only a matter of seasons before they become the David Woodersons of Laguna Beach High.
|Unlike most reality bitches, Kristin owns her bitchiness and can laugh at it. She doesn't pretend she's anything else and is quite possibly the least hypocritical girl on Laguna Beach (which, if you've never seen the show, is damning with the very faintest of praise)|
Plus, now that we're seeing things from her side, glimmers of her humanity have shone through. She was a surprisingly supportive friend to Jessica throughout that misguided waif's ordeal with Jason and offered much insightful advice. Of course, she's still Kristin, so a few episodes later, she turned around and made out with Jessica's new crush. But aside from a little questionable loyalty, about the worst you can say about her is that she plays with boys' hearts — and when the boys are as vapid as the ones that populate Laguna, can you really blame her?
The revolutionary development here has implications that extend far beyond the admittedly important world of television. Putting aside the role of the producers, its amazing to see how a slight adjustment of where you're coming from can totally alter your perception of a person. Maybe if we could all flip the editorial switches in our consciousnesses a little more often, the world would be a less-dramatic place. Lord knows Laguna Beach would be.
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