The XX Factor

Nice Girls Are So 2007

Susannah, you’re right that the appeal of the Real Housewives of New Jersey lies in their outsize cattiness . But in today’s XXtra Small, Torie writes about the anti- Housewife : The Hills’ Lauren Conrad and her new, semi-autobiographical book L.A. Candy . Conrad’s appeal has always been as the bland, nice girl.

As Torie notes, “Jane,” the heroine of Conrad’s thinly-veiled autobiography, is far more edgy than the palid Conrad:

Maybe it’s the influence of her “collaborator,” Nancy Ohlin, but Jane is a lot more interesting than Conrad was on The Hills-funnier, smarter, not nearly as dull. And she would never sign a contract without letting her dad’s lawyer OK it.

Salon’s Thomas Rogers weighs in on the Conrad phenomenon today as well:

Much of the appeal of Lauren Conrad, like the Bella Swan character in the “Twilight” novels, is that she’s a near-perfect cipher for young women. It’s her very blankness that made her so well-suited for “The Hills”-and a much better choice of star than the woman who will replace her on the show, Kristin Cavallari-because she doesn’t create drama. Drama happens to her. It’s a feeling that many junior-high-age girls (and some grown-ups) can easily identify with: I’m just trying to be nice-so why is everybody being so mean to me?

I disagree with Rogers that Conrad is a better choice for a star than the spunky Cavallari. Interest in Conrad’s mind-numbing exploits is already on the wane : Viewership for this season’s finale-Conrad’s last show-was down 15 percent from last year’s finale. Lauren Conrad’s appeal never seemed to be that she was the everygirl, it was that she was the ubergirl: blonde, rich, lucky. Sure, she was marginally relatable because she had “drama,” but she was never really a personality-free blank slate. She has a personality, it’s just boring.

In general, people don’t watch reality TV because they want to project themselves onto the main characters; they watch reality TV to be entertained by base ridiculousness. Or, at least that’s why Susannah and I seem to watch reality TV.