Pratt has carved out an interesting niche for himself on social media since the peak of his fame, when he acted more or less like a player-coach on The Hills—puppet-mastering the drama of which he would play a central part. Ever self-aware, he made a career out of people loving to hate him (and in the vein of 80s-era Donald Trump, he knew how to play the tabloids). Now, on Snapchat, he wryly documents his normal post-celebrity life with the frequency and fervor of a reality TV producer. It is a clever piece of satire, poking fun at not only the elemental mundaneness of reality television but also the way in which we all, via Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and the like, have become quasi-celebrities in our own social circles.
The problem is that, unlike reality television, which most people realize is quote-unquote “fake,” we still consider Snapchat to be an accurate portrayal of how someone really is—a legitimate peek behind the curtain of fame. We may recognize that Snapchat is inherently performative—the same way Instagram is inherently performative—but we don’t necessarily believe it’s manipulated. There is no producer intervention on Snapchat. When our President tweets, he does so from a place of supposed authenticity. There is no filter; that’s part of his appeal.
Judging by Pratt’s portrayal of Alex Jones—who, to be clear, just happened to be staying at the same hotel—the talking head is more of an eccentric uncle than a bigoted conspiracy theorist. He is smiling and gregarious; Pratt, with his laconic, bro-y drawl, seems to be humoring him the way you would someone ridiculous you met at a party. In one video, a shirtless Jones gives Pratt “the scoop on Megyn Kelly”; in another, his arm is around Pratt's wife, Heidi Montag, and they’re discussing going snorkeling together. To an outsider, one might mistake them as friends.
Of course, Pratt is savvy enough to know that this is simply good TV, whether or not it's actually on TV. He doesn’t have an obligation to challenge Jones, or even ignore him. As the producer of his own fame—and an aspiring producer of others—he recognizes the big fish that has swam unknowingly into his little pond. And can we really blame him for reeling Jones in? This is quality entertainment, after all—a bizarre spectacle that is both a creature of and comment on our current political moment.
At the same time, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be fooled by the Great Normalizer that is social media—especially Snapchat. So I would implore you to hold onto the dissonance you feel when you find yourself enjoying Alex Jones and Spencer Pratt’s Hawaiian bromance. After all, one of them is a villain for real.