November 9, 2012 - 5:53pm
BY GIBSON JOHNS
In Flashback Friday, Daily Arts Blogger Gibson Johns revisits the reality TV gems of yesteryear.
You are cordially invited to relive one of MTV’s most polarizing reality shows ever: “My Super Sweet 16.”
As “Sweet Sixteen,” the theme song by Hilary Duff, told us, each episode followed a girl (or the occasional guy) who just wanted to “spread her wings” because this was her “chance to shine” and to “discover (that there is) so much more to life.”
Yeah, right. Each of these teenage nightmares was on a mission to throw the party of the century, get a new car in front of a thousand people on their birthday, and have MTV document every amazingly horrible second of it.
Each spoiled teen would start out going to a super important meeting with their party planner, who was there to let them go over their parents’ budget and make their bordering-on-impossible dreams come true. In this meeting, they would think up a theme for the party, which was usually something crazy inventive like Arabian Nights or Hollywood or Winter Wonderland, and then write a check and tell the unknowing party planner that they better not fuck it up. Poor things never knew what hit ’em.
Next on the list was usually picking out a dress or two (or eight). If the girl lived in a city, this usually meant bringing at least four friends and their mother to come with them as a limo drove them around to various stores to pick out the dress. If the girl lived in the suburbs, this usually meant getting it custom-made. Obviously, price was never an issue — and on the off chance that it was, there would be an ensuing bitchfit resulting in a victory for the birthday girl. Ava, a not-so-sweet sixteeener from season one, was so intent on getting the right dress that she flew all the way from LA to Paris to get it. That’s dedication, people!
The power that these girls had over their parents was seriously scary. For most of the fathers, avoiding the emotional turmoil of watching their daughters cry over not getting a six-tiered cake decorated like a stack of Tiffany’s boxes was worth the extra 5,000 dollars. The mothers, on the other hand, simply wanted to live vicariously through their fabulous daughters and not giving them what they wanted would put that lifestyle in jeopardy.
Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the show was the handing out of the invitations. Sure, most normal people send invitations in the mail, but these girls were anything but normal. In their eyes, sending something via mail was for people who attend public school and shop at The Gap. In other words, there wasn’t a chance in hell they were doing it.
To hand out invitations, the girls would round up their whole school or grade in an open setting and call out the names of the chosen ones to come and get their invitations. It was like the lottery in “The Hunger Games,” only you wanted your name to get called. If it wasn’t, you were dead to these girls. It was brutal, exclusive, and brilliantly bitchy. Sometimes they would make the invitation ceremony even more ridiculous, though. Sierra, for example, got chauffeured around to each invitee’s house to personally deliver their invitation, which was accompanied by a Louis Vuitton cupcake (this was the same girl who arrived to her party via helicopter, though, so none of this was surprising).
Throughout their respective episodes, these girls talked themselves up as essentially God’s gifts to this planet and you got the sense that they were throwing these parties in an effort to make everyone else think that as well. Sophie, a memorable brat from season two whose party was Moulin Rouge themed, said about her and her friends, “I wouldn’t say that we’re popular, I’d just say that we’re socially advanced.” Like, come on. During her actual party, there was some drama about a girl showing up uninvited, and Sophie told the bouncer, “Do not let this bitch in. If you do, you’re fired.” Those are some strong words coming from a sixteen year old, no?
The one thing that every girl saw as a make-it-or-break-it moment of her party was, of course, the grand entrance. What was the best way to wow her guests after keeping them waiting for upwards of an hour and call even more attention towards herself? Was it by being brought in on a chaise by a bunch of guys (who had to try-out, obviously) with chiseled bodies? Maybe it was to come in a helicopter or be escorted in by Ciara. Regardless of the method these girls chose, you best believe that it was going to be totally epic.
What these girls wanted was to have their party talked about for years to come. If it didn’t bring them — or solidify their already existing — Queen Bee status, then the party was a failure. Usually though, there was nothing to worry about. These Sweet Sixteen’s were unbelievable. What made this show so addicting to watch (besides, of course, the intense horror you felt listening to the way these Sweet Sixteeners talked) was the fact that, as a viewer, not only did you dream of having a party like this yourself, but you also dreamed of simply being invited to a party like this.
“My Super Sweet Sixteen” became a cultural phenomenon in that it set an essentially unreachably high bar for the quality that Sweet Sixteens had to reach. You had to have a theme, an invitation ceremony featuring scorned outcasts, a legendary performer, and, finally, get a car. The receiving of a car became so expected by both the Sweet Sixteeners and the viewers that I wouldn’t be surprised if MTV started to pay for the cars themselves to ensure it would happen.
In Ava’s episode, for example, she drove to another city with a friend to go shopping without telling her parents, so they told her at her birthday dinner that she wasn’t getting a car. Cue instant tears. Said Ava, “I’m just like, so upset and like, hurt. They totally killed my birthday!” These girls wanted cars, and they wanted expensive ones, y’all!
Every episode and Sweet Sixteen would end with everyone at the party being shuffled outside for a “big surprise.” “Oh my god,” we all wondered. “I wonder what it could be! A car?!” Man, we were smart. As everyone rushed outside, something along the lines of a Range Rover or a Mercedes would roll up with a giant bow on top and everyone would freak out and tell the camera how jealous they were of the girl. It was their ultimate crowning moment and we were the lucky ones who got to watch it all happen. The girl would then get into her brand spankin’ new car with her only one or two actual friends at the party and drive off to leave everyone else in the dust.
In the end, “My Super Sweet Sixteen” really only taught us one thing. It was that, sometimes, sixteen just ain’t so sweet.