This episode: My Super Sweet 16: Season 1, Eps. 1, 3, 5-6, Season 5, Eps. 1, 7, 9, and Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 5-7. Watch it on Hulu.
Next episode: Catfish, Season 1, Eps. 1-4, 7-8, 13. Watch it on Hulu.
This month JS is taking a breather, but we’re excited to have our returning guest, Dave, on the podcast to discuss the all-time ‘classic’ MTV show My Super Sweet 16.
We start with our own reminiscences of our unglamorous 16th birthdays before tackling the usual topics of concept and structure – of what ended up being two different shows with the same name, as we also viewed the 2017 reboot. Then we discuss the show’s worldview and debate whether it is meant to condemn class inequities in America or whether it is a comfortable salve for viewers who would like to believe that they are immune to the behavior displayed on the show because they have superior ‘values’ imparted to them. We also talk about how the ever-present categories of race and gender play a part in the stereotypes of class being disseminated by this program and wonder just how authentic the narrative of this show is in light of an interview and article we found – is it played fairly straight or going into scripted territory?
Our final through line is an ongoing comparison and contrast between the positive vibes and group hugs of the reboot and the temper tantrums and exclusive guest lists of the original – we speculate as to why MTV decided to change up their successful formula and decide which version of the show we personally prefer.
Show Notes and Links
1:28 / Your hosts’ memories of their ‘Super Sweet 16’
2:14 / Does Dave have any experience with ‘Sweet 16’ culture?
3:48 / The spread of episodes we watched and why we picked them
6:57 / The concept and structure of the show
9:10 / Many segments tended to reoccur, particularly as the formula became more established
15:11 / Hitting the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) for Ava and Audrey – our most stereotypical celebrants
18:44 / Discussing the role of the parents in the show
20:59 / The formulaic nature of the show and how the first episode of Season 1 hadn’t quite established it yet
22:10 / Comparing the original to the reboot – microcelebrities and positive vibes
25:27 / Returning to the worldview of the original run – is it celebrating or condemning wealth?
27:13 / Did the original series give its participants the ‘Villain Edit’?
30:08 / This show is part of a larger cultural narrative around gender and wealth (Dave mentions the movie Mean Girls)
31:15 / The role of diversity in the show – is it progressive or does it give a false impression of class in America?
34:11 / How race and gender plays into the show’s worldview and popular reception – focuses on safe critique of ‘values’ and ‘spoiled teens’ as opposed to structural conditions
35:24 / Some narratives in the show run counter to the ‘lax parenting’ critique
37:02 / The show both stokes envy and resentment of the upper class – encourages viewers to think they would be ‘better’ in the same situation rather than condemning the situation itself
39:52 / How compelling was the reboot compared to the original? (More compelling participants and narratives, but also lacked some dramatic tension and the rubbernecking entertainment value.)
44:07 / The reboot felt more authentic and less manufactured in its narrative
45:58 / Mike apologizes for his second ‘academic article’ fail
48:31 / Our previous experiences with the show and initial impression of its authenticity (Our TOWIE episode)
50:58 / Dave was struck by the lack of diegetic dialogue and fast cuts from one segment to another
53:07 / Is there a ‘damage control’ aspect to the accusations of fakery?
58:05 / Final conclusion – there is some inauthenticity, but not full-on scripting
58:45 / Discussing the appeal of the original show
59:27 / Mike notes that this show stopped running when the recession hit in 2008
1:00:36 / What is the appeal of the reboot and why did they change the formula?
1:01:35 / Mike thinks this is a conscious attempt by MTV to cater to the worldview of a younger, diverse, culturally liberal audience
1:04:00 / Which version did we prefer? (We come down of the side of evil over niceness – in true reality TV fashion)
1:07:03 / Ending with our favorite motifs – the exhausted boredom of the adults and mundane nature of it all
1:09:19 / Reminding our listeners about the next show Mike is covering with JS – continuing the MTV train with Catfish: The TV Show