Vanilla Ice Caps: My Super Sweet G20

Perhaps environmental awareness campaigners should stop modeling themselves on church sermons and start watching more MTV. Wealth-fantasy is a fact of life. Still, this wealth needn’t be pecuniary

This weekend the newspapers were bursting with opinions and coverage of the G20 summit. Newspapers that my friends and I quickly flicked through before stacking into a tidy pile and tuning in to MTV to watch a squeaky clean batch of My Super Sweet 16 repeats.

It’s this show that helped me stop taking sugar with my tea. Just watching the high-energy buzz of these sickeningly spoilt American kids can energise me for hours. You can almost get a suntan from the shine on their foreheads. I particularly love the episode where Rihanna is hired to arrive at the party on a camel, while inside Fat Man Scoop performs to the claps of a suffocatingly satin-strapped pack of teenagers, making his lyric “you gotta twen’y dolla’ bill put ya hand up” come across as some sort of sick joke.

It is understandable why critics bang on about how such shows “lead our children down the excessive paths of consumerism”, when instead we younguns should be focusing hard on the problems that will plague their lives, like climate change. Problems that these same critics blissfully ignored in their youths while they danced around their front rooms to Tina Turner.

The well-known journalist Charlie Brooker is one individual who loves complaining about My Super Sweet 16, how it epitomises everything that is wrong with young people today, how messed up the world is, blah blah blah. Yet, Brooker was born in 1971, the same year that Mariah Carey was born, who last month put in an offer for Fleur de Lys (the famous Beverley Hills estate) at $125 million. So is our generation really that alone in its materialistic fever?

Most people who follow My Super Sweet 16 actually watch it from a self-consciously ironic perspective. The show teaches youngsters the perils and sheer ridicule of wealth. It does not present a benchmark for success and there is no talk of how the families on the show have come to be so wealthy. We are simply presented with an isolated cartoonised pantomime, glossed over with glitter so many times that it becomes fiction, no different to children in the 1950s reading Cinderella. Although Cinderella of course has an unrealistic fairytale ending, where as My Super Sweet 16 highlights the tears, the stress, the negative energy and usually ends on a crass note.

The Guardian’s Jackie Ashley wrote a brilliant piece about climate change this morning and how “the west is condemned to a period of new frugality and greater modesty”. She handed politicians the responsibility for being the impetus of this change. Yet I believe young people really will wake up and make a considerable societal effort to manage the problems that our parents’ generation has sat by and watched.

Instead of condemning My Super Sweet 16, we should realise just why it is such compulsive viewing, so we can then apply these techniques to ‘serious’ issues in an attempt to help “our children” have headstrong priorities and environmental interests.

Firstly, MTV is second to none in terms of brilliant editing and production. My Super Sweet 16 is effectively a string of short, snappy, attention grabbing clips. It’s fast-moving, colourful, noisy and emphatic. It repeats micro-clips over and over, helping the whole program to saturate. It uses popular motifs – pop music, references to pop stars, catchphrases, popular jargon, percussion, sound effects...

Perhaps environmental awareness campaigners should stop modeling themselves on church sermons and start watching more MTV. Wealth-fantasy is a fact of life. Still, this wealth needn’t be pecuniary. The world has its own wealth of natural phenomena and colossal material around which we need to start building not an antithesis to pop culture, but a counterpart.

There you go, that's The Jack of Hearts preachiness over for a while!

Words: Jack Cullen

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