Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Super Sweet Sixteen: Exiled

For years, MTV has had a steady decline into a fluffy cushion of teenage decadence of almost biblical levels. Not since dwarfs fought lesbians in the Ancient Greek coliseums has the citizens of a failed society been able to partake in such hedonism.

Of course, I'm talking about a show that features idiots wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on a one night event, so perhaps America has lost long before My Super Sweet Sixteen.

With MTV cameras rolling, My Super Sweet Sixteen featured a lot of teenagers (or 20-somethings pretending to be teenagers) as they purportedly put on the birthday party to end all birthday parties. In reality, they were spending wads of other people's cash in order to gain publicity on MTV's dime to attempt to get an acting gig or a singing contract, as evident by every birthday girl "performing" for their guests... and the video cameras rolling... and the millions of teenage girls who are watching simply because the show is in between reruns of the Hills. It's the modern day chicken vs. egg situation: can people get famous for doing nothing simply because they follow a show about people who already got famous for doing nothing?

I'm sure when Billy Idol died at gunpoint during the Korean War to protect our right to demand our MTV, he never pictured it turning to this. Surely the worst he thought it'd come to was A-Ha's Take On Me.

A few years and a couple thousand My Super Sweet Sixteen marathons later, MTV is slowly realizing that they are just plum out of drop-in-the-pan, up and coming yet one hit wonder rappers to feature performing in front of a throng of screaming upper class white teenagers. What's a music video channel to do? Resort to playing music videos? Have you seen the last Paramore music video? That's not an option, that's terrorism.

So Music Television, desperate to find something to run along with episodes of the Hills, has gone back to their former Sweet Sixteeners two-to-three years later to see where they are today. Surely after being featured on a television show broadcast across the universe showing oneself to the highest of bitches, they have re-evaluated their lives and done time in the peace corp or taken up a higher purpose in their studies, right?

Not in the Myspace generation, folks.

My Super Sweet Sixteen represents the ultimate in YouTube culture where someone is famous just because other people have seen them. Even years (and a few plastic surgeries for some of them) later, these girls still consider themselves the height of popularity long even if that BMWer they were gifted on their episode was a rental and the people invited to their party only pretended to like them for the cameras. The only Sixteener to actually have a career after throwing her party was already signed to N.E.R.D.'s record label before her episode, and since then she's only known for creating a dance that urges America to "chicken noodle soup with soda on the side."

So with this daunting outlook on the future of our Sweet Sixteen Feted America becoming grossly apparent, we now have the fun term of "Exile" coming into place. Often times it is considered customary for well off teenagers to spend a summer abroad after high school to really find themselves. Let's use this tradition to humiliate teenage girls that much more!

With MTV's cameras rolling on them again with presumably no clue why, the girls (and one gay guy, of course) arrive home one afternoon to find their entire family sternly sitting in the living room quiet. Surely an every day occurrence, MTV, nothing to be concerned about. It's not like the idea of the Family Meeting died out around the time of the Cold War and Duck and Cover. So MTV is there to capture a unique phenomenon: they want the girl's honest reaction to being bombarded intervention style, but sadly they are more dumbfounded as to why their just as greedy and messed up family are sitting in one room when there's HD TVs with digital cable, computers with Wi-Fi, and XBox games that won't play themselves in other rooms. It could be a microcosm for society if MTV were allowed to be symbolic.

Then the grim news is handed out to our death row patron: you have been greedy, we (as your parents and legal guardians) haven't taught you how to appreciate your wealth and good fortune as we ourselves revel in it, and, for the sake of human growth and extra promotion on television, we're letting MTV solve all the problems 18 years of crappy parenting has caused by sending you to a remote part of the world for a week. Because that can solve anything. Yes, even AIDS.

The girls are given an afternoon to pack for their trip to what White People can only envision as hell on earth, which gives us the delightful montage of deciding just which Coach bag will look cutest as you are running from tigers way down in Kenya. Surely you are going on an expenses paid trip to be scared straight the African way, you need at least 3 or 4 pairs of 500 dollar sunglasses to take with you. Then with their family crying and hugging them as they push them closer to their gate, our poor spoiled princesses hop on the red eye to realization.

9 times out of 10, an episode of Exiled follows a story arc so rigid you would think the story editors were using a photoshop template hacked into their Avid. Girl lands in place they know nothing about. People who live there welcome girl with open arms and very poor English skills. Girl is grossed out by everything... absolutely everything. Everything smells of dung and poor people to these girls which instantly triggers their gag reflex. You'd think they'd have learned to suppress that by now.

Right before the second commercial break and the end of act 2, the girls use a satellite cell phone (which I'm sure every denizen in Africa also had access to so they could order valuable medicine or get some phone sex or other crucial activities) to cry to their mommy or daddy about how absolutely horrible it is. Re-read that sentence. No where did I say "The girls confess that others have it way harder than themselves and voe to change for the better." That part never comes, children.

After our last commercial break, the story editors decide to throw us a curveball as our Sixteener suddenly realizes that where she's at is pretty cool and is accepted into the society with a smile on her face. Was there a whole two more days of the girl not acting like an Ugly American that unfortunately had to be cut? The editors cleverly found a plot device in this, however, as the girls room and work with a girl of their age from their exiled place of choice. So even if the Sixteener doesn't change or comes to terms with having to work for a living, we can manufacture a sisterly relationship between the two of them that bridges the gap between our cultures.

This show has the foreign policy knowledge of George W. Bush.

The girls, after having to endure an entire week in this other locale, then get to go home to their plush mansion, parents waiting to spoil them, housekeepers, and BMWs they invariable have dented and dinged in fender benders because, yes, the real world does take after Clueless. My Super Sweet Sixteen: Exiled attempts a stab at social consciousness but, in the end, it's just as vapid and pointless as the parties they featured 2 years ago. No one really learns anything other than editors can make it appear they have and the girls who come back from their exile invariably go right back to doing everything wrong they've done their whole life. There's a strong case to be made that sending the children is the wrong route in Exile. The problem doesn't stem from spoiled kids continuing to want to be spoiled. The problem lies with the parents who spoil them to begin with.

So perhaps MTV will gift us with a spin-off of this spin-off, a transcontinental parent swap where the lousy parents must go to an African village and walk miles for water, slaughter a goat to find their children, and make the tough choice of which fruit of their loins get the TB medicine and lives and which one dies. Maybe then we'll see some problems solved as the parents learn that money and designer labels can't cure epidemics and tribal class systems in warring nations.