Unpopular opinion: "The Hills was an empowering TV show and we're too scared to admit it."

Like thousands of other women across the world I once willingly participated in a wide-spread TV cover-up.

It was pretty light work on my part, to be honest. All I did was watch glamourous (to my then youthful eyes at least) reality TV series The Hills and quietly pretended I didn’t know most of the Los Angeles-based drama taking place on the screen was actually just scripted by clever producers.

Yet even with that tiny piece of conveniently ignored information out in the world, the antics depicted on The Hills very much became the stuff of pop culture legend since it premiered in 2006.

Check out the trailer for The Hills: New Beginnings.

The series was originally developed as a spin-off of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, a reality series that itself was thrust onto the air in order to quickly cash in on the soaring popularity of teen drama The OC .

The reboot of the series, entitled  The Hills: New Beginnings will make debut in Australia on Monday, June 25 on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Fetch.

Running for six seasons, The Hills centred on former Laguna Beach star Lauren Conrad who moved to LA to study fashion, complete internships where she always seemed to be standing forlornly next to a clothes rack, and have smoldering bitch fights with her frenemies/lovers in sticky-looking nightclubs.

Now I won’t go as far as to call The Hills important or even well-crafted television, even though it was somewhat revolutionary in the way it propelled forward the genre of scripted and narrative-style reality TV.

The truth is, it’s safe to say The Hills used up a fairly sizeable chunk of its air-time each week showing us endless footage of its non-diverse cast of women swanning about in bikinis and vapidly chewing their food in chic sidewalk cafes as they talked shit about one another like it was an Olympic sport.

It was a show that very much played up its core purpose of capturing a certain kind of eerily intoxicating privileged drama, but at some time it cannot be denied that The Hills also offered up a tiny story throughout its many episodes that was sprinkled with just a touch of career motivation and empowerment.

the hills remake
The cast of The Hills. Source: MTV.

It was always a small part of the series but it was also present enough to ensure that if you call The Hills one of TV's most fashionable dumpster fires, you should also concede in that same breath that it placed a spotlight on career, work and following your dreams as well.

If you don't believe me, just cast an eye over some of the trashtastic reality shows currently dominate our airwaves. Shows where women sit on beaches, lie about in rented mansions or get married off to total strangers.

At least The Hills regularly passed the Bechdel Test, a pop culture measurement device that asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

Do you ever see that on The Bachelor?

The Hills didn't really use its time in the spotlight to do a whole lot of good, but there are some positive scenes buried away in that nostalgic web of blonde hair and boob-tube dresses.

Scenes where series stars Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag, Audrina Patridge, Whitney Port and Lo Bosworth toiled away in offices and at internships, discussed their careers, dreamed big and generally gave us a tiny break from the boy talk and bitching through their pursuit of jobs.

Yes, all of their jobs were overly glamorous, often unattainable for people their age and in most cases... not actually real employment positions for which they would have received a real paycheck or interacted with their co-workers. But a sense of ambition in a scripted series is better than no ambition at all.


It can also be argued that stars of The Hills, including Lauren Conrad and Lo Bosworth, in reality went on to actually build the business empires they talked a big game about on the show. Conrad is now the founder of two fashion houses, the co-founder of fair trade online store The Little Market and author of nine books, while Bosworth is an author and entrepreneur who own a company that produces health care products.

This year, MTV will screen a revival of series called The Hills: New Beginnings, in order to bring many of the original series stars back into the spotlight for another grab at reality TV fame. Although it's too early to know how much it will mirror the early series in regards to plotlines and structure.

So next time someone is waxing lyrical about the vapid and trashy TV phenomenon that was The Hills, just remember that while those young women were slouching around the offices of Teen Vogue they were also doing a little good. Don't be afraid to admit that.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

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