scripted reality: why wrestling and the hills are more alike than you think

I know what you’re thinking. Wrestling is a semi-sport where beefy people beat each other up, self-harm for audience entertainment and perspire inelegantly in PVC trunks. The Hills is a TV show about a group of flouncy, LA rich kids who insist that we share in every sordid detail of their privileged lives. They cannot possibly be connected.

thehillsandwwe

But, the WWE and The Hills are more alike than you might think.  On Tuesday, I was catching up on all the latest WWE gossip at PWTorch.com when I came across a story about former WWE Diva, Torrie Wilson, appearing on the American version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here alongside Spencer Pratt from The Hills. Being in the UK, I don’t have access to this show. Even if I did I doubt I’d watch it. I can bearly bring myself to watch the British version, mainly because they choose celebs so obscure I don’t know who they are. And that’s saying something because I’m quite obsessed with popular culture.

So, apparently Spencer had been upsetting all his fellow contestants in the jungle basecamp and had started a fierce squabble with Torrie Wilson. If I remember correctly it involved an unfounded allegation of steroid use. The PWTorch article also asked readers to identify which heel wrestler Spencer reminded them of.  I got to thinking, the similarities between WWE and The Hills really are striking. I can tell you need a little convincing, so let me elaborate.

Both the WWE and The Hills produce television which, on the surface, appears to be real. But when you apply some logic to them neither are entirely truthful or natural.  We know that when someone gets kicked in the head in wrestling, it isn’t a full force kick. Like when Randy Orton kicked Ric Flair in the skull on Raw this week. We KNOW the kick was just a scuff of the skin rather than a huge crack.  And that’s ok. We suspend our grasp of reality and get lost in the story for the duration of the show. We buy in to characters that are half real, half an exaggeration of their actual personalities. We go along with scripted storylines, we cheer and boo at heroes and villains, and we anticipate what might happen to those characters the following week.

The Hills is much the same. Yes, the people the show follows are real people. But the reality we see on the screen is a distorted, skewed and slightly manufactured version of reality. Whenever you see Lauren  meeting with Brody for lunch, they have mic-packs clipped to their jeans. They may have arranged to meet for lunch in advance, but before they could sit down to that meal, a production team has wired them up and has  set cameras up across the street to capture their conversation. It’s real, but far from natural.

The Hills also has its fair share of heroes and villains. Those of us who are fans of the show like nothing better than discussing how flaky Justin is and how Audrina is just so silly for returning to him over and over again. And when they play the “Coming up next on The Hills…..” clip at the end of every show, we almost can’t stand the seven day wait to find out what happens next in the lives of our favourite “characters”.

Also, both shows are aspirational. I have made no secret of the fact that I’d sell a kidney to look and move like Michelle McCool. I’m sure there are men who watch Randy Orton, John Cena and CM Punk and feel the same way.  Despite knowing the lives of professional wrestlers are short, painful and emotionally draining, many fans still secretly aspire to that lofty level of audience adoration.

When watching The Hills, that laid-back, wealthy, fashionable, cool lifestyle is certainly aspirational. Be honest, if you’re a woman who watches The Hills, you’ve probably secretly imagined yourself living Lauren Conrad’s life, despite knowing full well that what we see on screen is just a tiny, exciting snapshot of her actual life. After watching an espisode of The Hills I find myself thinking in their rhythm of speaking. You know what I mean. That “I know, riiiiight? Ok, so, I called Doug last night and you TOTALLY won’t believe what he said to me. Like, for real, OH MY GOD he was so mean to me.” I can’t lie, when I’ve been watching a really amazing episode of Raw (rare at the moment, I know, but still) I get a little spring in my step. I feel a bit feistier. Like I’ve got fire in my belly. It rubs off on me.

So you see, even though it seems unlikely, the ‘it’s real, but it’s not’ formula applies to two entirely unconnected TV entities and makes them bedfellows. Now, with the serious media analysis over (ha, I’m just SOOO academic), time for something a little more light-hearted to finish. PWTorch asked us to assign Spencer Pratt to a WWE heel, right? So let’s do a quick run-through of the cast to see what we can come up with. If you are familiar with The Hills, feel free to disagree with my choices and suggest alternatives. This would be a whole lot easier if the women of the WWE were given more time to develop public personas, but I covered that already in an earlier post. Let’s see what we have here……….

LAUREN

Strong, dependable, and fun. The kind of girl you want to be best friends with.

lc

She is …….

mj

Mickie James

——————————————–

HEIDI

Naive, headstrong, misses the joke sometimes and can’t do what she knows is for her own good.

hmontag

She is……

WWE Diva Maria Kanellis attends a press conference announcing th

Maria

——————————————–

STEPHANIE

Seems like she’s your friend but not always trustworthy. Watch your back.

sp

She is……

maryse

Maryse

——————————————–

AUDRINA

A beautiful girl who you’d love to be friends with, but she has questionable taste in men.

Audrina-Patridge

She is…….

mmcool

Michelle McCool

——————————————–

LO

Kind of a background friend. Not the first person you think of but always there in a crisis.

lo-

She is…….

afox

Alicia Fox

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SPENCER

A complete and utter prick who most people would like to punch in the eye.

spencer_pratt

He is…….

Untitled-1

The Miz

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BRODY

Charismatic, always around when needed but a little shady when it comes to the ladies.

bjenner

He is…..

Untitled-2Edge

——————————————–

DOUG

A little sleazy and full of his own inflated sense of self-importance.

dougreinhardt2

He is……

matt_hardy

Matt Hardy

——————————————–

JUSTIN

Manages to blow every opportunity he gets.

8686_photo

He is……

kennedy

Mr. Kennedy (Sorry, Ken. Cheap shot, I know.)