‘Cooking With Paris’ Shows Us a Familiar, Tiresome Hilton Persona: TV Review
Last year, Paris Hilton appeared in the documentary "This Is Paris," in which she argued that she is not the person we see on TV. Her somewhat pale personality, she said, purposely obscures the real you. Her new Netflix series, the lavishly over-produced “Cooking With Paris” series, appears to be a first attempt to test this case by going beyond Hilton, explaining herself, and deepening her game of image management.
I have no reason not to believe that Hilton is performing when she's in front of the camera and showing breathtaking curiosity. But does it matter? Paris Hilton may not really float in a sea of guaranteed claims like "Paris" does on Netflix. But last but not least, she is the one who thinks this deed is more funny than bone-weary.
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The premise here is similar to that of "The Simple Life," the Fox series that started Hilton's career as a reality star. Then as now, Hilton finds himself in an unfamiliar situation and has to deal with it. The difference lies in the level of difficulty: On "The Simple Life", Hilton toured America with co-star Nicole Richie. Here she only leaves her kitchen to visit grocery stores and to stock up; Well-known guests come to her and together they prepare a meal. This type of social distancing seems effective. At home, when dealing with a curated guest list, Hilton has a secure overview of how she would like to present herself.
And its default tends to be a pose of proud ignorance. What could once have read as her familiar carefree - the Paris that we have known since the early 2000s is iconic because it is laconic - now worries. In an episode about Hilton's taco dinner with rapper Saweetie, Hilton mispronounces Mexican food names beyond the point of amusement; She keeps talking about producers trying to explain what cotija cheese is and ends up saying, "It's Corrita." Her "chief of staff," a woman who does much of the actual hospitality on the show, arranges a taco-shaped piñata to decorate the dinner scene, which Hilton greets with "Yo quiero Taco Bell!" And when he thinks about Mexico, Hilton tells Saweetie that the resort of Tulum is “like Ibiza mixed with a sexy island”.
A show about an unskilled househusband trying to prepare fun meals isn't necessarily the basis for staging a debate about authenticity and representation in the food media. But Hilton got a giant megaphone from Netflix and only has the imagination to use it to say, for example, that Mexico is the place that reminds her of Taco Bell and Tulum; Having the opportunity to learn a single word, Hilton decides it's cooler to live in a reality where she's the boss.
It can be easy to forget how big Hilton was in her moment, and Cooking With Paris just seems to be reaching for something in the past all the time. Hilton's repetitive catchphrase "sliving" (a clumsy portmanteau of "kill" and "live") is a transparent attempt to recapture the magic of "that's hot" when it was magic. Having Kim Kardashian West guest on the first episode is a meta-nod to Hilton's own personal story. Kardashian West appeared as a reality star like Hilton after enduring being the subject of a leaked sex video; Unlike Hilton, who first rose to fame, Kardashian West has always had an easy time connecting, if only barely, the fabric of her high-flying life to the earth.
Hilton prepares food together, showing their own ineptitude, and Kardashian West barely plays along. ("Why does that keep getting brown?" Asks Hilton of French toast on the stove. "Because it just boils," replies Kardashian West.) While the Kardashian family raises many questions of their own, Kim's good-natured competence has kept them through more than one Decade of cultural change. Hilton's struck confusion about what normal people do is harder to bear.
The very fact that there is Cooking With Paris suggests things are on the upswing for Hilton, and at an opportune time: the revelations of the abuse of Britney Spears, a character whose time was an object of the paparazzi -Lust coincided with that of Hilton, have intensified only one season of re-evaluation. Our culture looks back in time to see which interpretation that worked a decade ago doesn't fit the mood today. This happens on a large and small scale: large film producers who have abused people have been banned from the industry for the time being. Talk show interviews with starlets like Lindsay Lohan, who seemed like rabid joke to some, now seem to commit the sin of knocking down. Monica Lewinsky's public image as a seductress of the White House has been dotted for quite a long time by Lewinsky herself, in essays, speeches, and on social media. And Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, a couple who were famously hungry and tasteless in their heyday in 2003 for flaunting their passion and wealth, were hailed as the love story we need now after they reunited.
Hilton has asked for the same reassessment, but it's hard to say exactly how it will be granted. Her previous treatment (by the media as well as in what she described as an abusive youth) has been truly troubling on a human level. She deserves our kindness. But the second question - our continued attention - is more complicated. Based on "Cooking With Paris", she didn't deserve it: there has simply not been two decades of interest in the character of an incurably bored person. And the Hilton image coexists unpleasantly with a heightened awareness of inequality in our entire society: who will stand up for a person, even a fictional one, superimposed on the real Hilton, who literally shows their lack of interest in going beyond the protection of others Wealth?
Paris Hilton's mother currently appears on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," a show that ruthlessly undermines the claims of its cast; At “Cooking With Paris” the demands are the star. At the end of the series, we learned from Hilton that she sometimes enjoys cooking; that she has a staff willing and able to transform a space of her home into a themed restaurant at her disposal; that she likes compliments; and that she doesn't like to learn new things. None of this hurts. But if Hilton wants to keep an eye on us, at some point it might help to create something bigger and more permanent than a pose.
“Cooking With Paris” is out on Netflix on August 4th.
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