YouTube film review: This Is Paris
Ivan Radford | On 22, Feb 2021
This month saw Britney Spears put in a new spotlight, as Framing Britney Spears highlighted the pressing, controversial questions surrounding the conservatorship placed on her finances by her father. It also reframed her career through a post-#MeToo lens, making it clear the abundant, systemic sexism that the pop star experienced ever since she burst on to the media stage at a young age.
Belonging to that same club is Paris Hilton, who also saw a similar reframing of her career in hindsight through the YouTube Original documentary This Is Paris. Following on from 2008’s Paris, Not France, the film in some ways comes across as a PR exercise, one determined to present her modern image and career as a professional DJ – a far cry from the vapid reality TV star of 2003’s The Simple Life.
There are moments where she claims to have invented selfies and the idea of being a professional influencer. While these are to be taken with a sizeable pinch of salt, what’s notable is that these things are said not in the high-pitched voice we usually associate with her. Her voice here is several octaves lower, and director Alexandra Dean (Hedy Lamarr documentary Bombshell) does an excellent job of underscoring the gulf between Hilton on screen and Hilton off screen.
It immediately becomes clear how that affected persona took over her public identity, in the same way that the media fixated on the infamous “sex tape” recorded illicitly by her then boyfriend when she was younger. The response to that recalls the mistreatment of Spears by the TV and tabloid press, and the sound of camera shutters following Hilton wherever she goes only amplifies the amount of scrutiny given to her.
So far, so public knowledge, but the film goes on to hear her recount stories of alleged abuse at a school she was sent to when younger, one that involved long stunts in solitary confinement and prescription medicine. In some of the most moving scenes, Hilton meets with others who were also at the school to share memories of shared trauma.
The result is a film that draws a line from her formative experiences and subsequent vulnerability with the public persona that later became a defence mechanism of sorts against the world. It’s also a clear snapshot of how the systemic sexism faced by young female pop stars can only exacerbate such private problems, with little regard for their wellbeing or safeguarding. Raw footage of Hilton having to eject her current boyfriend from a musical festival after he appears to bully her only emphasises the fact that, even with Hilton less in the media spotlight, the battle is still going.