In the future, everyone will be famous for $15,000. WITH the emergence of a whole industry devoted to re-creating celebrity culture for anyone who can afford it, fame is a commodity like any other, although it's true that no matter how much you spend, you'll probably sacrifice your dignity as well.
Actually, $15,000 is a lowball estimate, since that would barely cover the event-space rental tab for the kind of lavish spectacles that have become prime-time fare on MTV's highly rated My Super Sweet 16. The show documents the excesses of privileged youths commemorating the mighty achievement of making it through their 16th year. Shell-shocked parents--always uttering the mantra "It was worth it"--typically peel off checks for upwards of $200,000. We learn that from the Sun Belt to Erie, Pa., the lack of taste knows no ethnic, religious or cultural bounds. You give teenagers $200,000, and they will spend it exactly as you would expect. The parties are the aesthetic equivalent of Hilary Duff MP3s.
Every culture has its coming-of-age rituals. A child is inducted into the adult realm through a transformative experience, whether it's becoming more steeped in religion or killing a deer or having a vision. It's true that I would be happy to send any of the children of My Super Sweet 16 into the desert by themselves for a while. Their blingy flings are not celebrations of accomplishment; they're celebrations of self. What used to mark the end of childhood now seems only an excuse to prolong the whiny, self-centered greediness that gives infantile a bad name. Far from joining polite society like the debutants of the past, the kids gleefully rip through social graces, alienating friends and sacrificing tact all in the name of creating a VIP room filled with people too young to drive themselves home.
The protagonists' excesses alone make for lurid, enjoyably outraged viewing. (Surely one celebrant's decision to dye her poodles pink should have prompted a call to the A.S.P.C.A.) A precocious celebutant makes her entrance via helicopter. A self-proclaimed "divo" (like diva but different) rents out the mall to stage a faux fashion show (prompting a backstage catfight over a limited supply of bustiers). There are hired dancers, a raj-like litter hoisted by hand-picked hotties and an apparent contractual obligation for someone to arrive in a stretch Hummer. I had no idea so many stretch Hummers even existed. No wonder we had to go to war in Iraq.