This week in nostalgia history: Buffy premieres, Lindsay Lohan hits MTV Spring Break and Perez Hilton is born
WRITING: RANDI BERGMAN
This week has been one for the ages in terms of pop culture news, with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview setting the proverbial roof of Buckingham Palace on fire with revelations of racism and bullying within the royal ranks. This week in nostalgia history, though, there was plenty to heat up the headlines, from the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the WB in 1997 to the time Lindsay Lohan hits MTV Spring Break in 2004.
Last week: Paris Hilton violates probation (again)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres, March 10, 1997
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on The WB network, the Los Angeles Times dubbed it “like Clueless with teeth” and a “way cooler, way funnier, way scarier” version of the movie that inspired the TV series. Indeed, the film version, a 1992 dark teen comedy starring Kristy Swanson in the titular role and Luke Perry as her bad boy paramour, is largely a footnote in the enduring success of the television series. Which in and itself changed the course of teen pop culture.
Back in 1997, The WB was a fledgling network with a couple of medium successful teen focused shows – 7th Heaven and Sister, Sister (which the network had purchased after its ABC cancellation) – on its roster. It launched Buffy as a mid-season replacement for the now forgotten Savannah, and it quickly became the number one show in the Monday night slot. Interest and critical acclaim for Buffy began to eclipse teen stalwarts like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Party of Five (which both played on Fox) and inspired The WB to launch subsequent hits like Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, Charmed, and Gilmore Girls. The rest is teen TV history, but for its own part, Buffy made snarky feminist quips a part of everyday teen lingo (“I mean, did we not put the ‘grr’ in ‘girl’?” Willow once asked) and put a sassy, powerful heroine front and centre at the helm of her own show. It also launched the career of its iconique star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who went on to be extremely iconic in such ‘90s classics as Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
More recently, Buffy has resurfaced in the news due to co-star Charisma Carpenter’s allegations of Joss Whedon’s bullying on-set. News of the toxic environment on set hit fans of the show hard, particularly due to the strength of its female characters. Whedon has yet to comment, but his ex wife Kai Cole released a statement, calling him a “hypocrite who was preaching feminist ideals” in a scathing op-ed.
Lindsay Lohan hits MTV Spring Break, March 12, 2004
MTV’s annual Spring Break extravaganza premiered in 1986, taking viewers to a different sunny locale each year with an unpredictable dose of attractive college kids partying on camera and humiliating themselves for 15 seconds of fame. Over the years, MTV Spring Break set the stage for some wild antics such as RuPaul, Gilbert Gottfried and Joey Lawrence crowning winners of a beauty pageant together and Jerry Springer getting teens to make each other cry.
The 2004 edition in Cancun, Mexico had the requisite noughties nostalgia elements, the pinnacle of which being Lindsay Lohan participating in an ab signing contest while there to promote Mean Girls – the actress was challenged to sign as many bare bodies as possible within a certain amount of time while wearing a pair of truly iconic pink tinted sunnies. Jessica Simpson was on hand too, singing her rendition of “Take My Breath Away” in low rise, stretchy wide gaucho pants (honestly you just had to be there…) and a keyhole tube top. Back then, we were still invested in the myth of her being a vocalist, which tracks given the cheers from the crowd. Matthew Perry was there, and so was Pauly Shore – an enduring fixture of spring break for the many years MTV Spring Break was on air. Why not!
Pagesixsixsix.com becomes PerezHilton.com, “Hollywood’s Most Hated Website, March 11, 2005
As recently evidenced in the Framing Britney Spears documentary, the mid 2000s were a different time. Tabloids appealed to our base instincts, mercilessly skewering the stars of the era for their perceived missteps. And this was the atmosphere that helped Perez Hilton (the pen name of Mario Lavandeira Jr.) rise to become one of Hollywood’s most controversial gossip queens. Hilton, a former actor and publicist started blogging in 2004 and about six months in, was featured on The Insider as one of Hollywood’s most hated websites (a title he later turned into his slogan) for the way he negged celebrities including Spears, Fergie, Kirsten Dunst, Mischa Barton and Lindsay Lohan. “When I first started the website, it was called PageSixSixSix.com. And I loved that name because you kind of instantly knew it was all about devilish gossip,” Hilton told ABC. He was later sued by the New York Post, prompting him to change it PerezHilton.com in 2005.
PerezHilton.com became a trusted source for celebrity gossip because of Hilton’s close ties to celebrity publicists, agents and managers. He was also amazing at satirizing the headlines with his signature MS Paint doodles atop paparazzi images. At its height, the site garnered 4.5 million hits a day.
Hilton’s blogging style was often mean spirited, “outing” several gay celebrities, including Lance Bass, Neil Patrick Harris and Clay Aitken, and inciting ire from many in the LGBTQ community. More recently, he expressed regret for the way he covered Spears, at one point even selling shirts with the recently deceased Heath Ledger’s photo that read, “Why couldn’t it have been Britney.” On Good Morning Britain, Hilton said, “I regret a lot or most of what I said about Britney. Thankfully, hopefully, many of us get older and wiser.”
What’s the statute of limitations on cancellation?