Saturday, June 6, 2009

Runner-up: Too Good to be True? - A Look into an Episode of My Super Sweet 16

My Super Sweet 16 first premiered on MTV in January of 2005, long before terms like “financial crisis” and “global economic meltdown” entered the average American’s vocabulary. In each episode of the show, MTV’s cameras follow around a real, soon-to-be 16-year-old and document the planning that goes into their sixteenth birthday party. These are no normal teenagers, however; MTV has tracked down the most outrageously spoiled adolescents possible for our viewing pleasure. The extreme level of indulgence displayed on the show makes viewers question whether or not My Super Sweet 16 is reality TV or complete fiction, however; no 16-year-old purchases $300,000 in jewelry for her birthday party, right?

Wrong. Savannah, the star of the episode I watched for this review, receives diamond bracelets, necklaces, and earrings worth this hefty amount before hopping in the enormous limousine that transports her and a cadre of friends to her party. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The designer dresses, entertainment (in the form of exotic animals and an oxygen bar), and trendy club she gets for her party certainly aren’t free. Neither is the shiny new BMW convertible she receives as a gift at the episode’s conclusion. It is nearly impossible to make an estimate as to the total amount of cash Savannah’s family spends over the course of the whole episode, but it is somewhere in the range of a million dollars. Not too shabby for a birthday party, eh?

This extravagant display of wealth is one of the episode’s two main attractions, the other being Savannah’s competition with her mom to see who can hold the cameras’ attention the longest. Mother and daughter fight over who gets to buy the most jewelry, who gets to wear the most extravagant dress, and even who gets to look the “hottest” at the party. This bickering seems ridiculous to almost any viewer, but reminds us that even the super rich aren’t perfect.

Although My Super Sweet 16 remains in MTV’s rotation of reality TV programming, the show is something of an anachronism given the present state of our global economy. Each episode is designed to flatter wealth by the standards set before the recession, so Savannah’s party seems even more over-the-top now. The show’s entertainment value wasn’t particularly high when it first aired a couple of years ago (Savannah’s princess-like sense of entitlement gets old fast), but if anything, it is evidence that the times are changing. One can only wonder what Savannah and the rest of her family’s thoughts are on the episode today.

Owen Boochever

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