Brooke may be the classic film nerd of the group, but I’m apparently the in-house expert of MTV reality shows. That’s fine, I am not ashamed. We start our education with the first episodes of what would become a juggernaut: Laguna Beach: The Real O.C. Inspired by the hit Fox drama The O.C., the filming took place over the course of six months in 2004. The drama… was real.
AM: As noted above, the reason I picked Laguna Beach to start was because it became as culturally relevant as any Kardashian show. That’s a dubious claim at best, but how else are you filling your lazy Sunday afternoons if not with a MTV reality show marathon? Not only is there Laguna Beach, its successor The Hills, but then you have the whole of the Jersey Shore and Teen Mom oeuvres.
But I digress. I think the original Laguna Beach tapped into the zeitgeist of the moment, which was glorifying rich beautiful teens (wait, that’s what’s ALWAYS glorified on TV…). But it also introduced us to two young women who would help invent the “lifestyle brand” that’s become so ubiquitous in today’s internet: Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari. Brooke, what’s your take on your first foray into the lifestyles of the Beachy & Now-Famous?
BW: Okay, I have so much to say about absolutely everything in this show. But first, disclosure. This was the first time I have seen a single second of Laguna Beach, and now I can say I watched the whole damn first season in one go. I was the target audience for this show, so it’s sort of stunning that I managed to avoid it so completely, but there you have it. I am talented. Seeing it like this, removed from that time and the high school place was completely fascinating.
I 100% get the fondness everyone has for LC, she has a great nickname and she’s by far the most relatable person on this show. However, I don’t want her to get with Stephen. I know that’s what she wants, but it’s not what she needs. Also, LC wanting to be with Stephen makes her pretty much a bummer whenever he is around and with Kristin. It’s high school, I get it, you have to moon over someone, but let’s not with this guy. From what I have seen thus far, I believe Kristin was painted to be the villain in this scenario. But real talk, she’s the hero this group needed. She has an incredible sense of exactly who she is, and that’s rare, not just in high school, but in twenty-something life as well. And she also has the right measure on all of this relationship stuff. Girl is just out to have a good time with people who actually want her around.
So, I guess what I’m saying here is I am #TeamNeverStephen. I really just want these ladies to learn to love each other, cause they could do great things together. Okay, that was a lot. But, I said up front, I have a lot to say.
Also, can we talk about that Black and White party?
AM: Could the “Black & White Affair” have been ANY more lame? My suspicion was initially that they had no booze, but then again, I didn’t drink in high school (Hi Mom and Dad!) and we generally had way more fun than these kids that first big party. Plus, there’s oodles of red solo cups and suspiciously cocktail-looking cups roaming around almost every scene of this show. I think this was just a night that didn’t work out.
100% agree on the Kristin-as-Villain theme throughout the first season. We get a lot of Stephen and Kristin fighting and a lot of LC and her friends hopefully wishing and pining for her to be the one to argue with Stephen. But after seeing the entirety of season one, I can without a doubt say: Down with Slut-Shaming Stephen. I don’t know if that was a term in 2004-5, but the sentiment was. Thank you, MTV, for showing us a thoroughly soused 18-year-old boy repeatedly screaming “You’re a slut!” at his off-again girlfriend in Mexico. I hadn’t remembered that particular moment, but it was queasy to watch it again, especially given how much more girl-friendly the dialogue in our society has been pushed. (I’m being optimistic, ok?)
The other thing I’ll say for Kristin is that I truly believe she did not give a single shit about what people thought of her. It’s utterly unlike how I felt in high school and in college, to be frank. Sure, it’s easy enough to be confident when you’re beautiful, but Kristin’s confidence doesn’t ring false as it does for so many girls regardless of their looks. It’s not a cover and it’s not a front for some hidden childhood trauma involving her father. She seems to genuinely see the world as it is: Boys are not the end-all-be-all of her life, she just wants to have fun with her friends, and she knows who she likes and she doesn’t like.
And as for the central relationship? LC and Kristin never once speak to each other on camera during season one. They actually don’t even look at each other. I don’t know that they could ever have truly been friends given they both had it pretty bad for one #TeamNeverStephen but they certainly both have a quality that we can all aspire to. I for one was always #TeamLC for the aforementioned reasons, plus I loved and still love her sense of style. Girl knows what she’s doing in the fashion department, even at age 17, and that’s an incredible feat.
Brooke, what say you about the other boys of this show: Talan, Trey, Dieter and Polster: Random Enthusiast?
B: 100% agree about the “Black & White Affair.” I don’t think anyone had any fun at that party, but my super cool friends and I had the BEST time at our “Paris Hilton Goes to Jail” theme party, complete with root beer shots. Take notes, Laguna kids.
Okay, onto the other dudes. First, Dieter. I watched 11 episodes of this show and I don’t actually have any idea what he looks like. I have a reasonably clear picture of everyone else, but not that dude. He’s like some shadow person who shows up in The X-Files and cannot be remembered. I didn’t really “get” Trey at first, but by the time season’s end rolled around it was clear that he’s just this cool guy who wants to do something that matters. That kind of earnestness is vanishingly rare in reality television, good on ya Trey.
I feel like Polster is a guy who is effortlessly cool everywhere he goes. I also feel like he’s the friend you call when you want to learn how to learn how to curl, because he’s down. But Talan, Talan is my favorite. Why are these girls not trying to lock him down? He’s pretty adorbs, and he’s not into drama. 10/10 would jacuzzi with him. I mean, right?
Okay, Annemarie. Time for real talk, what is with these girls telling each other, “you would have really attractive babies.”
AM: Here’s why Talan isn’t locked down: He doesn’t have to be. I believe it’s in the intro to the first episode where LC informs us that Talan has hooked up with every girl in the junior and senior classes…twice. The man is probably a legend among his peers.
As for Trey, I like that odd duck. He’s definitely aware of the wealth bubble he resides in and other than the odd fashion statement or two (what’s with the studded belt he wears on his bicep?), he seems like he’d have been a good guy to be friends with in high school.
Let’s talk about the other girls for a minute. Aside from several of them telling Kristin and LC that Stephen would make beautiful children with them like they’re New York bubbes, there’s some drama to be had. Christina is the preacher’s daughter who gives up SMU for a shot at New York stardom and seems generally annoyed by pretty much everyone around her all the time, including her bestie Morgan. Morgan knows that she can’t stay in the Laguna bubble either, and must escape the party culture surrounding her to the hallowed halls of BYU. Which rejects her. Hopefully, she had a better backup plan than just showing up in Utah to be part of the “BYU scene.” A decent guidance counselor and halfway decent parenting would prevent this, yes?
Then there’s Lo. She does seem to have the only set of parents who won’t let her go on an unsupervised overnight camping trip with BOYS, and she’s also a good bestie to LC. And like Kristin, she just doesn’t care that she’s not that nice to everyone anymore. They’re graduating seniors!
That’s about all I have to say about this inaugural season of Laguna Beach. Brooke, any final thoughts?
B: Final? It’s like you think this article is flirting with the 1,500-word mark and we might be overdoing it or something. We’ve never overdone or overthought anything. But if conclude we must, I’ll leave it at this: camping with this group looks like a total drag, Stephen wearing his glasses on his forehead is a look deserving of all the shade (pun intended), I hope the producers start scripting this show more in the next season so the quips get sharper. Lo’s eye rolls might carry some heat, but honestly, I heard much better snark at my not-worthy-of-television high school. Step it up, fam.
That’s it for this week’s Required Viewing. Next we get back to the cinematic realm as we Brooke tries to convince Annemarie that “fuck me gently with a chainsaw” is a legit reference from an essential entry in the Winona Ryder canon.
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