Dobrow's Not So Sweet on Hometown Gal's Party

Media Reviews for Media People: MTV's 'My Super Sweet 16'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It has come to my attention that a gal from my high school was recently featured on "My Super Sweet 16," MTV's commerce-drenched look at wannabe debutantes who deserve a thorough tasing. Since the bearer of these sad tidings was my mommy, I assumed that the description -- unchecked, unapologetic avarice! repeated use of the word "bitch" in a non-canine context! -- was a bit exaggerated. Still, couch-bound anthropologist that I am, I felt obliged to investigate further.
My Super Sweet 16

Yashika from 'My Super Sweet 16.'

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Mom got it right. "My Super Sweet 16," which chronicles the planning and execution of a gaudy birthday bash, is why the terrorists hate us. It's why teen illiteracy is spiking and why the Antarctic ice shelves are crumbling. It doesn't merely send the wrong message about class and privilege and respect for those within and without one's social orbit; it trumpets that message from the highest mountaintop, beaming it into the population's iPod-sealed ear canals.

Blinded by the bling
It's also a hoot, in the worst there-is-a-remote-control-in-my-hand-but-I-am-powerless-to-change-the-channel way. I mean, come on. You have a callow 15-year-old girl preening for the cameras, assaulting her meek acolytes with lines like "What the hell are you wearing? ARE YOU AWARE THAT THIS IS MY BIRTHDAY?" and insisting that daddy buy her a $100,000 Mercedes to commemorate the occasion. The kicker? You don't get your driver's license in The Jer-Z until age 17.

MTV is clearly in on the gag. There's no underlying public service message here, no priggish after-school-special morality (though I note with keen interest the absence of the Bartles & Jaymes beverages and related substances that made sweet-sixteen soirees tolerable in my day). No rational human being can take any of this stuff seriously, not as a cautionary tale of irresponsible parenting nor as one of spoiled youth running amok.

Except, maybe, for those who haven't yet escaped high school's long shadow. But they're losers. They have braces and read books.

In a bigger-picture sense, it's interesting to note how basic cable has been infested by what I'll call hatin'-on-people programming. The only reason to watch a show like "My Super Sweet 16" -- or, for that matter, "The Real Housewives of New York City," "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and every VH-1 show that doesn't involve funnyfolk opining that "Britney Spears had the 'Best Week Ever' because she remembered to feed her children" -- is to blithely bask in the disgust the viewer is programmed to feel for the protagonists.

Beyond annoying
My first reaction to my hometown "Super Sweet 16" gal was to wish upon her a senior year straight out of a Molly Ringwald fever dream: ostracism by her peers, a prominent, bulbous pimple on prom night, etc. I credit the producers for their skillful provocation of such a visceral response. One glimpse at the episode's online chat board reveals an almost cathartic outpouring of loathing, not to mention an extended cameo by the horsemen of the spelling-and-grammar apocalypse.

Is it a good thing that so many shows seem to be shooting for, and achieving, such a reaction? Who cares? They're entertaining. Turning to your TV for cutting social insight is like turning to your dog for light conversation.

"My Super Sweet 16" is out of regular circulation on MTV, so I caught the show and its online-only "After Party" on MTV.com. I'm pleased to announce that, after years of technological nincompoopery, MTV's Overdrive video player finally works. Nice job! The newly functional and largely tchotchke-free site, in fact, offers one of the more streamlined online viewing experiences this side of Hulu.

Product placement overload
Meanwhile, whatever issues the ascetics among us might have with the worship at the altar of consumption, "My Super Sweet 16" is a product-integrator's snow day and pep rally rolled into one. Brand names are currency in this universe, so any number of upmarket companies get plugged: Mercedes, Lamborghini, Lord & Taylor (in the bonus web content), and even the next town over's jewelry store, kind of our own little hayseed Tiffany's. The ads on the site and between video segments -- for T-Mobile, Doritos and "The Ruins" -- are lower-end and, clearly, more appropriate for a sizable percentage of the viewing audience.

So that's that. The blingy bacchanalia "My Super Sweet 16" depicts have been around for years. It was just a matter of time before some savvy producer would appeal to the celebrants' ego and lack of self-awareness, and get permission to film the whole sordid shebang.

I applaud that producer. I'm going to go dunk my head in the sink now.
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