genme (genme) wrote,

My Super Sweet 16

Ana Marie Cox (aka the Wonkette, aka someone who I should have known at U of Chicago but somehow didn't) recently wrote a column in Time magazine about the MTV show "My Super Sweet 16." If you have not had the nauseating pleasure, this is a show about very rich, very spoiled kids whose parents spend half a million dollars on their birthday parties. When I mention it in the book, I point out that the irony of rich kids whining is likely to slip past the typical 15-year-old watching the show. Sure enough, one of my undergrads tells me her sister was disappointed with her perfectly nice 16th birthday party because it did not approach the excesses of this show. All I could do is shake my head.

At any rate, Cox's column focuses on how these youngsters want to be like celebrities. A few lines from the column: "Their blingy flings are not celebrations of accomplishment; they're celebrations of self." "Each guest of honor is really after only one thing: 'I feel famous. I love it,' says one." "Far from joining polite society like the debutates of the past, the kids gleefully rip through social graces, alienating friends and sacrificing tact."

I love pop culture analyses like this, but it's even more interesting to take it a little deeper: *Why* do these teens act this way? I'm sure there are multiple causes. At least one is the underlying psychology I lay out in _Generation Me_: the ever-present emphasis on the self that often crosses over into narcissism. The obsession with becoming famous or acting like a celebrity plays right into that -- the need for recognition is a subscale on the narcissism inventory (Items: "I wish someone would someday write my biography"," "I like to be the center of attention.")

Other possibilities -- Is American society more materialistic now than it was, say, 30 years ago? Or is it something else?
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