Saturday, April 22, 2006

My 'Super Sweet' Guilty Pleasure

Hey. So you wanna know what other nations hate us and why terrorists think that destroying the American Way of Life is a good idea? Tune in to MTV's "My Super Sweet 16" sometime and just revel in the trash.

The premise of the show -- if you've avoided it on well-justified principle -- is that underaged budding harridans cajole their loving, spineless fathers into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their 16th birthday parties (or, in the case of the episode I caught this afternoon, a quince or 15th birthday party for a girl shaming her Latina heritage). I've only seen three episodes, but I'm utterly hooked in that particular way that one gets hooked on MTV shows -- I don't know what time new episodes air and I don't much care, but I know that if I ever passed by MTV in the middle of a marathon, I might have to sit through the whole thing.

When this show was first announced, I thought it sounded like an awful idea, but I figured it wouldn't last very long. However, it seems to be successful, which forces me to raise the question: Does everybody watch it like I do, with a disgusted hilarity rooting for everything to fall apart at the end of each episode? I know, of course, that MTV probably wouldn't show a taped episode if the party turned out badly and the poor 16-year-old girl who wanted a pony-themed party was shocked and saddened when one pony pooped on the floor of the expensive club her daddy had rented and then another horse trampled the boy she had a crush on and a third horse ate the leather upholstery on what was supposed to be her brand new black-on-black Infiniti convertible and a fourth horse kicked Usher, who her daddy bribed to perform, in the nads. But I watch just in case, praying for the worst.

But are there people who actually watch "Super Sweet 16" and think that these are the coolest kids ever? Do they envy L.A. Reid's son for his MP3 player invitations and sympathize with his frustration when he thinks Kanye West can't play at the party? Do they understand the motivations of the nubile 15-year-old who performs a striptease at her own party in order to make her recent ex-boyfriend jealous as her classmates and guests whoop in approval? Do they wish they were like the bratty twerp from Arizona whose father -- the owner of three car dealerships -- purchases not one, but two cars for her birthday [The same girl who tells her mother off when the woman has the nerve to suggest that she looks too skanky in one of her birthday skirts]?

It's that same girl who contributes the best moment I've seen yet on the show: She's at an expensive modernist house that her dad's going to rent for the party. The real estate agent, sensing that the father is an easy touch, asks for $50,000 to rent the place for a single night. The father looks the guy in the eye and says, "Yeah. I was thinking more like $25,000." The agent is about to counter-offer when the daughter leans in and says, "Oh, $50,000 dollars is fine, Daddy." Thus, this girl gets a ridiculous party and two cars for her birthday and she also gets to chop off her father's testicles. On television! All in one week!

I don't remember what I did for my 16th birthday. I do know, though, that after four years of making payments, I'm finally on the verge of owning my very first car. Just in time for "My Super Sweet 29th."

Apparently, either viewers love the obnoxious entitlement of the rich, or else television executives think we do. There was that "Celebrity Cattle Drive" thing on E! and that WB show were poor young folks very briefly taught rich young folks how unprepared they were for the real world (before most of the poor kids went back to poverty and every one of the rich kids went back to wealth). But any show that makes you want to pimp-slap a child is doing something right, I guess.

As a depiction of American conspicuous consumption at its most conspicuous and despicable, our enemies need look no further.

Anybody else watching "My Super Sweet 16" or am I all alone?


  1. I keep checking it out because I feel some kind of responsibility as a cultural commentator type, and I keep being horrified and changing the channel after 30-60 seconds.

    I'd like to believe that people watch it to mock these awful kids, but I have a sinking feeling that the bulk of MTV's audience (i.e., tweens and high schoolers) don't watch anything ironically. My guess is that these people also considered "The Simple Life" to be aspirational.

  2. I'm entirely willing to accept the idea that I watch television and movies with just a smidge more irony than most viewers.

    I've made my peace with that idea...