“This Isn’t High School”: Watching MTV’s The City


Last week Allie and Adam’s did-he-cheat or did-he-not fest on The City gave way to some mild excitement–Would the two models combust in a flaming ball of lies and neutral, frozen expressions? Would the fragility of Whitney as ostensible center of gravity for this doomed circle of vapid clowns collapse into a supernova, or black hole? Perhaps more drama was on the way…

The love scuffle continued last night as Allie, presumably forced by MTV producers, turned to Whitney for some motherly comfort and advice. After an exquisite and minimal exchange of words Whitney wisely suggested that if she trusts Adam to leave it alone, but if doubt persists, then Allie must question the culprit hag. Basically: you’re on your own. Allie’s true beauty doesn’t merely lie in her alien-like features or her nasally droning voice, but in her utterly expressionless demeanor; what she made of Whitney’s prudent words was as legible as a dense cloud of smoke.

By now Whitney’s gotten the hang of who the key players are in her New York life. Erin seems to be making a nice exit. Her sole contribution to the episode was to, as people on TV shows do, lay out the all-important thematic ground for the show’s sixth episode: Girls have to look out for each other. Just like Allie, Whitney too sought out the warm consolation of a female friend, recapping the spat for the benefit of Olivia Palermo, her deranged socialite conscience. Now we’re getting somewhere. But at even the slightest mention of Allie and Adam, Olivia brilliantly shuts her down, saying “Whitney you’re an adult. You’re 23. This isn’t high school.” Wait a minute, I feel perplexed.

As the boys prepare for an art show at the Collective Hardware warehouse in the Lower East Side, Jay finally gets some balls and asks Adam hombre a hombre whether he did in fact make it with the model. Fade to commercial.

At the show, Whitney (who proudly declares “I’ve never been to an art opening before”) and clan converge at the scene with the guys on one side of the room, and the women on the other. Off in the ladies’ corner, the hag makes her way towards Allie, while Olivia and Nevan stand by, vulture-style, praying for carnage. A helpful subtitle decodes Allie’s frantic whispering: Awkward. Awkward. Awkward. And so the two have it out, in the most non-catfight, cordial manner possible. The hag insisted that she did in fact kiss Adam and that he “never said he had a girlfriend.” They both end up crying.

Now, as I continue to refrain from shooting myself, Adam and Allie have another battle out on the street, with him barely denying the whole thing (The City motto: less is more) and her attempting to hail a cab. We know where this going. This robot breakup won’t last long. “Stand By Your Man” wasn’t a hit for nothing.

Back in the real world Olivia and Nevan cozy up to discuss the night’s mishaps. Appropriately, Olivia says Whitney needs some new friends fast. Nevan points out that he only knew three people at the art show–“it was so hipster,” he says, despairingly. Where’s Justin Bobby when you really need him?–Araceli Cruz

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 27, 2009

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