THE HILLS ARE ALIVE: If you remember who Juliana Hatfield is, you probably a) liked Nirvana’s Nevermind when it came out, but later told everyone you thought it was a sell-out and b) never knew what your parents and/or older siblings were talking about when they bragged or complained about all the sex they had in college – you only had one relationship before you graduated, and it mostly consisted of a year of increasingly awkward fumbling after that one night you both got drunk enough to do the actual, barely remembered, deed.
As you can tell by the paragraph above, I’m one of those people who remember Juliana Hatfield – singer for archetypical college rock band the Blake Babies, and solo artist and cover girl during the early ‘90s grunge “revolution.” I hadn’t thought of her for years until I clicked a link to her MySpace page, and a rambling, vituperative rant about MTV’s The Hills that said volumes about the show’s weird, bitter appeal when it wasn’t bringing back memories of Sassy magazine.
Hatfield starts out by recalling her anger when she was dropped by her record company over a decade ago – both at the suits who declined to release her third solo album citing its lack of a single, and at herself for her own “guilt, shame, and embarrassment at being part of this system that exploits women/people and their art.” She talks about how she never wore make-up when she was in the Blake Babies, and a song she recorded after her major label break-up that expressed her disgust at the whole vast machinery of celebrity culture that seems to implicate everyone in a codependent relationship of watchers and watched.
Or at least I think that’s what she was talking about – frankly, I kept drifting and remembering with a wince most of the women I was involved with, and how I have to remember to have myself chemically castrated should I ever be single again. This all leads to an ardent diatribe about The Hills, and the show’s fans “who think it’s that easy - who think real life is like TV - are mistaken and they are in for a harsh reality check when they bounce into the Teen Vogue and Bolthouse (yeah - that’s what it’s called) offices with their perfect hair and perfect makeup, looking for their cushy dream job with awesome fringe benefits.”
And then we get to the point, as Hatfield despairs that “I hate the fact that I know Heidi Montag’s name; that I know who she is; that she takes up any space at all in my consciousness. And the fact that I actually enjoy watching The Hills proves that television - and cable TV in particular - has ruined my brain. And I don’t even have cable in my home but, still, the damage gets/got done - see how dangerous and insidious it is? I’ve watched The Hills when I could’ve been reading a book or painting a painting or trying to find a cure for cancer.”
I don’t even watch The Hills and I feel the same way, but I’ll be honest – I don’t think anyone was every expecting me, or Juliana, to come up with a cure for cancer.