The Hills, 11

“Left this city for a day,” sings The Feeling. Shot of two men from the waist down on a sunny sidewalk. One in surf shorts holds a blue Powerade; one in white dress pants walks a Lhasa Apso. Shot of a crowd of people on the sidewalk from the waist up. Shot of two blonde girls in pink tank tops and short white shorts, walking toward the camera. They are slightly out of focus. Their bodies are fit and tan and they are wearing clogs. Close-up of a black stretch limo with a white Playboy bunny emblem on the side. The limo passes the camera. A tan BMW passes the camera. “You took me southwards on a plane and showed me Spain,” continues the song. A drilling sound joins the song. Shot of the outside of a beige apartment complex. The sign says: “Heidi and Spencer’s Apartment, Hollywood, CA.” Shot of a blender whirring with purple liquid inside. A man’s tan hand presses the top of the blender down. The machine is industrial. Next to the blender are a blue plastic cup, a white container of protein Milk mix, and a bottle of Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids. Behind the blender are two bottles of champagne. Wider angle shot of the blender and the man with the hand. His hair is curly blonde and he is wearing a black t-shirt with unreadable white letters. White letters appear in the right hand bottom corner of the screen. They say: “Spencer, Heidi’s Boyfriend.”  “I liked,” begins a girl’s voice. Shot of Heidi’s face. She is not wearing makeup. The screen says “Heidi.” “All your friends last night,” Heidi continues in a sing-song voice. She bats her eyelashes and shrugs. Shot of Spencer in the kitchen. He is looking down at the counter and doing something below the camera’s view. “You know, they love you,” he says, smiling at the counter. Shot of Heidi. She has on a grey hoodie with a navy rose print. “They seem very nice, all of them,” she says. She waves some papers mostly out of the camera’s view. Behind her is a large flat screen TV, turned off. Shot of Spencer. “Oh, Frankie invited us to his birthday party at Les Deux tonight,” he says. There is a sound of papers shuffling. Shot of Heidi on a cream couch. The couch appears to have a raised floral print. Heidi holds letters in her hand. “Oh yeah?” she says. Heidi shuffles the letters around. Several of them appear to be opened. Shot of Spencer. He stares at the bottle of Liquid Aminos he is holding in front of his face. “Is um Lauren going?” Heidi asks. Spencer puts the bottle down. Shot of Heidi. She looks at her French-manicured fingernails, then makes a fist and twirls it. Shot of Spencer. It is now possible to read the letters on his shirt. They say “Innovation Management.” “Uh she actually just called me, I just missed her call uh uh I’ll call her back and ask her and see what she says,” he says, smiling. His teeth are white. He looks down at something he is doing on the counter. “I wish that Audrina,” Heidi interrupts. Shot of Heidi on the couch. “—and Lauren would have come last night,” Heidi finishes. She twirls her hand, mostly out of the frame.  Shot of Spencer in the kitchen. He is moving around a lot. “I mean I totally accept that she doesn’t like me,” Spencer says. Shot of Heidi. “Yeah,” says Heidi, grimacing. “But she shouldn’t take that out on you,” continues Spencer. “I know,” says Heidi, furrowing her brow. “Our friendship shouldn’t suffer from it,” she mumbles, looking down. Punky guitar music begins. “There’s something wrong here,” sings Cori Yarckin. Shot of Spencer in the kitchen, hands pressed to the counter. He looks to the side then to the front again. He opens and shuts his mouth. Shot of Heidi. She shakes her head. Her eyes shift back and forth. 

Copyright © 2014 by Kate Durbin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2014.

About this Poem

“To create ‘The Hills’ I transcribed, over the course of a year, an entire episode of MTV’s hit reality show. It took me about two hours to transcribe approximately two minutes of TV time, and it took me even longer to painstakingly edit the entire episode. It was important to me to note every instance of ‘slippage’ between on and ‘off’ screen—for example, all the glimpses of camera men and microphone packs. Equally important was to translate the dialogue in careful detail, all the idiosyncrasies of human speech. The reason I chose to transcribe ‘The Hills’ is that, unlike many reality shows, ‘The Hills’ was not afraid to consciously play with its own artifice in front of viewers, as the final episode of the series demonstrates, when, at the very end, a grip comes in and rolls the Hollywood sign away. I wanted to do the same thing for readers that the show did: reveal the construction of the text as it was being played. I also wanted to turn reality television into literature, not so much by rewriting it, but rather by revealing the ways in which it already is literature. In other words, I wanted to reveal the script. You see, we are all carrying it.”

—Kate Durbin