‘The Hills:’ Heidi’s New Face Makes The Show Get Real

Heidi Montag (MTV)

Heidi Montag (MTV)

It’s ironic.  Heidi Montag’s decision to become the world’s fakest person made ‘The Hills’ get real.  And last night’s season premiere was excellent television.  Heidi’s complete physical transformation pierced the scripted veneer of the alleged reality show. The producers knew that, after months of magazines detailing Heidi’s new look, the first shot of her face was the money shot.  Heidi’s first appearance in the episode was an obviously staged scene of her packing to visit her parents in Colorado, deliberately shot so that her hair always covered her face. It was like waiting for an injured soap opera character’s bandages to be removed, so you can see the recast.

When Heidi arrived in Colorado, the camera captured her mother’s look of utter horror as she came face to face with the complete stranger with her daughter’s DNA.  Then the camera finally panned to Heidi.  Had we not already seen it a thousand times, it would have been a huge shock.  The episode was apparently taped so recently after the surgery that her jaw was still immobile. As a result, she spoke in a soft baby voice. Even when she was angry, she could not yell.  It reminded me of the ‘Little Mermaid’: in exchange for looking like all the other girls, you will lose your voice, and everything else that makes you distinctive.

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Heidi’s conversation with her family was both funny and painful.  When her mother pointed out that she had risked her life by having so many surgeries at once, Heidi shot back, “There’s brain surgery every day,” apparently unaware of the difference between elective and medically necessary procedures or that people die during brain surgery all the time.

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Her mother said, “It sounds like you want to look like Barbie.”    Heidi readily acknowledged that she did. Mission accomplished!  I wonder if she had her feet altered so she can only walk with high heels.  Her mother delivered the brutal truth: she thought Heidi looked better before.

But it was genuinely heartbreaking when her mother and sister both commented on how self-confident Heidi was before she moved to California, and wondered what happened.  She shot back that they couldn’t understand because they lived in the mountains. I wonder how they felt about being told they were too unattractive to succeed in Los Angeles.  Her step-father’s line was chilling: “How does it make you feel now that you’re starting to become this person that you wanted to be?”  Heidi was the proverbial small town girl who was willing to do whatever it takes to be a star.  Only she lacked the insight to realize that being a star and being famous are not the same thing.

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It is easy to condemn Heidi.  There have been so many articles about how pretty she was before the surgery. That’s revisionist history.  When the show began, there were so many mean-spirited comments about her “Jay Leno chin,” and about how she was not as attractive as Lauren Conrad or Whitney Port.  She has mentioned being teased about her appearance as a child. All of the criticism obviously had a tremendous psychological impact on her.

In the show’s other storyline, the rest of the cast went to Miami, where Kristin partied way too hard.  I realized that I was having trouble telling Kristin, Lo and Stephanie apart. They all have the same hair, dress alike, and have similar facial features.  Thank God Audrina is a brunette, or she would look just like the rest of them.  Heidi was the only one who looked a little different, and it obviously made her feel inferior.  There’s an interesting story about the pressure to look homogenious among young stars.  But this is ‘The Hills.’ So the editors left in her mother brutally offering to put Heidi’s burger in the blender so she could chew it. I laughed, even though I know that almost every celebrity has had some form of cosmetic enhancement.  Heidi’s mistake was only in going a couple steps too far.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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