Tess (from left), Alexis and Gabrielle of "Pretty Wild"
I take pride in my ability to sit down and waste my life in front of my TV, but I did something recently even my deprived mind feels ashamed about: I watched "Pretty Wild." Every last despicable second.
Here's a rundown for those unfamiliar: "Pretty Wild" is an E! "reality" show about three vapid L.A. sisters and their crazy, pug-eyed mother. Alexis, the middle child and the show's main squeeze, is the center of attention because her personality is a black hole of awfulness and because she was involved in the Bling Ring, that group of bored rich kids who stole stuff from celebs like Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom. The movie "The Bling Ring," now in theaters, tells that story.
Alexis' adopted older sister Tess is a Playboy cyber celeb and "actress" with direct-to-DVD practically tramp-stamped on her hiney. Gabby is the youngest and most practical (and therefore most boring) sister.
Andrea, their former Playmate mom, has the voice of Minnie Mouse but the eyes of Joan Crawford at her Mommy Deariest. She home-schools her girls, teaching them the way of "The Secret"—that book every New York Times Best Seller-addicted housewife had on her pool chair for five years, which as far as I can tell is a notebook full of squiggly lines and pictures of Buddha. They're modestly wealthy Valley inhabitants who love stripper poles, lingerie and bizarre exercise equipment.
The whole show is filmed in a pseudo-reality dream world. It's obvious E! had a hand in the production, since scenes play out in a mechanical fashion. Alexis' "arrest episode" looks more like a "Dateline" re-enactment than actual people reacting to actual devastating news. Gabby's scenes reek of line delivery. The reaction shots are manufactured by Made For Gifs Inc.
And yet, the laughably bad production quality and overt fakeness of the show is why it's such a masterpiece of modern reality TV. That fakeness lends itself to the show's mission statement: Look at how hard these people grasp at a reality that doesn't exist. And it's a rather poignant theme in today's celeb-obsessed world.
Alexis is everyone's favorite, not just for her epic meltdowns ("EVERY TIME YOU F***ING YELL I HAVE TO RE-RECORD IT!"), but because her insane personality is the stuff reality shows were created to behold. She's the product of every Valley Girl mom—vapid, medicated, self-involved and over-sexualized, yet blissfully unaware of how ridiculous she sounds. She laments a journalist's ability to properly chronicle her courtroom fashion, while she continues to delude herself with heroin (which she admitted later on Twitter) and narcissism.
Alexis also has a fascinating obsession with power. She mentions, quite often, her "destiny to be a leader." "I wanna lead a country one day for all I know" is the "Bling Ring" movie's most notable line, but it's also a thing Alexis genuinely said, word for word. Drug-fueled or not, that's powerful stuff. Emma Watson may parody her in the movie with a knowing wink, but Alexis Neiers exists—in fact, whole legions of Alexis Neierses exist.
Which leads to the grossest thing about "Pretty Wild": how relatable it ends up becoming. This is the era of selfies and divine ascension. Girls Alexis' age—girls MY age—are the products of our Depression-era grandparents. Our moms and dads were raised so frugally, they let loose when they started having kids of their own, giving way to our "all of you are special" generation.
For Alexis Neiers, stealing Orlando Bloom's Rolexes was a way to cash in on that dream of superiority because she relates physical objects to importance, the way some of us might relate academic credentials or random acts of kindness. Our lives may not intersect with Neiers', but they certainly run parallel. However heightened and ballooned the show may be (we can't all afford Christian Louboutin heels—or even $29 little brown Bebe shoes), the reason it's so utterly watchable is because it cuts right to the bone. It's like looking in a fun house mirror—a distorted version of something familiar.
If you're like me, that realization will scare you. You'll stop wearing makeup for a few days and remove "like" from your vocabulary. You won't wear anything that be described as "fun" or "hot." And that's exactly why I'd call "Pretty Wild" the most important reality show of the past decade. Because it's, in the words of Alexis Neiers, a "huge learning lesson" for us: This is your face. This is your face on Ritalin-induced self and celeb obsession.
Lindsey Romain is a RedEye intern.
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