‘The Simple Life’ was an accidentally brilliant reflection on America’s political divide

Few people are more emblematic of pop culture in the Bush years than Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie — and their time captivating public interest is far from over. The original reality TV show socialites are making a comeback thanks to to a millennial induced wave of 00s nostalgia. Today they are mostly lauded for their generation-shaping fashion choices, but their contribution to culture is much grander than their legacy of making crotch-length Von Dutch mini skirts socially acceptable. Aside from inventing the kind of celebrity that created a path for the all-encompassing Kardashian reign, Paris and Nicole’s career-making reality TV show The Simple Life is, in retrospect, an accidentally brilliant commentary on white America.

Although the show initially aired 13 years before Trump’s election, The Simple Life is a meditation on America’s deep-seated cultural and class divide. The show maintains this unique ability to fascinate its viewers from both ends of the spectrum –– rural and/or conservative folk gawk at rich nihilism, while affluent and/or urban folk gawk at pastoral traditionalism. What viewers at the time likely didn’t anticipate was that these rifts, exploited gleefully by producers for entertainment, would evolve into something far more sinister. As the world watches Trump’s American trash fire with bewilderment, particularly in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings and the majorly depressing but not entirely shocking illumination of white women’s unwavering allegiance to the GOP in the midterms, it’s Paris and Nicole who may provide some unlikely answers to the prevalent and pressing question: “how the hell did we get here?”

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