Monday, February 27, 2006

My new reality show

I'm sitting here watching a truly revolting display of the elements of American culture that cause so many people around the world not to want to be Americans. The show is called My Super Sweet 16; it follows several families planning parties for their children's (mostly, but not exclusively, daughters') 16th birthdays. What unites these kids is that they are among the worst spoiled brats I have ever seen or heard of. One of the girls has a personal hair stylist for the party, at a cost of $10,000. That's just the stylist; the budget for the entire party is over $200,000. Surprisingly enough, with such material wealth showered upon them at such a young age, these children come to expect it, and they throw astounding temper tantrums when their stratospheric expectations are not met in every detail.

When I turned 16, I got a four-year-old Dodge Colt (made by Mitsubishi) with an automatic transmission; it could do 0 to 60 kilometers per hour [~ 35 mph] in about 11 seconds on dry level pavement, but it got me to school or my friends' houses or the movie theater. It was a hand-me-down from my mother, who took advantage of the opportunity to get a brand new car. I was happy just to have a car, which in most parts of the world would be an unthinkable luxury for a child. I don't remember my birthday party; I don't think I had one that year. The "big deal" for my childhood birthday parties was having a half dozen friends sleep over — that way we could play poker or Dungeons & Dragons or what have you, until 5 a.m., gorging ourselves on gourmet potato chips and expensive vintage Dr. Pepper, and maybe even a pizza.

Having seen a few other "reality TV" shows, it occurred to me that an appropriate combination would be to cross My Super Sweet 16 with something like Super Nanny. The kid would be led to believe that the show would be all about planning her big party, but about a week before the big day, the show's producers would introduce the twist: the nanny, with the power to give her a time-out at the first sign of a tantrum, and to unilaterally cut line items from the party budget as a penalty for bad behavior. Foul language to your mother? Your party just moved from the Hilton to the Holiday Inn. Do it again, and we'll bump you down to Motel 6, and after that, it's a single room at the No-Tell Motel, complete with designer cockroaches. Any damage to the party venue will come out of your allowance — doubled. You're only 16, so the closest you get to alcohol is sparkling grape juice. If you throw an all-out tantrum, your party gets cancelled and you're grounded for a month, with no phone privileges.

It astounds me that so few people seem to understand the connection between the unearned wealth these kids take for granted and their unacceptable behavior. On top of that, younger kids see these parties as an example of what they are entitled to, just for turning 16. Beyond that, how about America's sense of entitlement in the world? We have the biggest army and the biggest economy, so you'd better just give us your oil, work in our sweatshops, eat at McDonald's, and do whatever the fuck we say. We deserve it because we as a nation are filthy rich. That attitude is clearly the secret to winning the hearts and minds of the rest of the world.

Actually, that gives me a great idea: we should tear down the rubble of the Al Askariya mosque (مرقد الامامين علي الهادي والحسن العسكري) in Samarra, Iraq, and replace it with a McDonald's, a stripper bar, and a Honey-Baked Ham store! What better way to symbolize the post-Saddam future?

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