Beware, parents! Put down that extra-small T-shirt bearing the word Princess in rhinestones, and flip on MTV to see what you and your indulgence are wroughting. Today’s pretty-in-pink materialism has smashed into the girl-power movement and given us the grabby, shallow acquisitiveness showcased in the network’s My Super Sweet 16. Now in its third season, Sweet 16 — whose tagline is ”Sometimes 16 ain’t so sweet” — is a celebration of greed and thoughtlessness, sort of a Girls Gone Wild with less flashing. Each week, a teen (almost always a girl, almost always a self-described ”Daddy’s girl”) is shown preparing for her birthday blowout, which is blaringly expensive, excessive, and exclusive. The tab for one former Miss Long Island’s Egyptian-themed party hit more than $300,000, in part because she wanted to ”show people how rich I am” (mission accomplished), while a New Hampshirite’s glitzy Roman toga party ended with the presentation of a Mercedes convertible.
None of Sweet 16 feels particularly shocking — rather, it feels depressingly inevitable. The girls here aren’t just rich and entitled, they’ve got a very specific, au courant breed of nastiness — the ’70s female self-esteem movement snowballed to horrific result. An Arizona blonde keeps a cutesy decorative wand in her room, ”because I’m a princess”; the Long Island teen reviews her party tab and claims ”I’m the princess and I deserved it”; the new Mercedes owner’s fete included an ice sculpture of her as ”Empress Chelsi” (no mere princess, she).
As much of a train wreck as Sweet 16 is, it never reaches the compelling level of a docuseries like Bravo’s Showbiz Moms & Dads because it ignores the biggest question it raises: Who the hell are these parents? A teenager with unlimited desires — and credit — is interesting only to a point (and that point is quickly reached if one is past the aspirational ”princess” period). Sweet 16 would be more than a shimmery annoyance if it delved into how this teencentricity truly played out: What exactly does Daddy hope to achieve by giving his daughter two luxury cars for her birthday? Does the mother who sent a boy home in a cop car for smushing her daughter’s cake feel… good about that? Are these parent-child relationships really as transactional as they seem? On the bright side, these young women certainly aren’t afraid to say exactly what they want, and to figure out how to get it, but it’s sad to think that all their hard-won female assertiveness is being channeled into projects like hiring hot dudes to carry them into their parties.