“Exiled” lets spoiled teens think they’ve learned something
Thu, Aug 21, 2008 (midnight)
An important part of watching MTV’s reality sensation My Super Sweet 16 is wishing horrible, unpleasant things on the bratty, pampered teenagers who whine and throw fits about petty, insignificant things and demand royal treatment from their family members and anyone around them. After more than three years of showcasing these largely unrepentant egotists, MTV has finally figured out a way to capitalize on the seething hatred the show’s audience has for its stars with the new My Super Sweet 16 Presents: Exiled (MTV, Mondays, 10:30 p.m.). Exiled follows up on some of the most heinously self-centered subjects as they continue to laze about in luxury years after their lavish parties, having apparently learned nothing from being portrayed as horrible monsters on national television.
The concept of the show is that each episode focuses on one former 16er as she (or he, in one case) is sent far away from the opulent comforts to which she is accustomed and forced to live for a week in the African desert, or the Amazon jungle, or the Norwegian tundra, in a small village with local natives. This is meant to open the person’s eyes to the struggles of people in other cultures, but the audience appeal is likely to be in watching pampered princesses flail about in cow-dung huts and mosquito-infested swamps.
MTV has made a feeble effort to pretend the show is about social consciousness, providing an online destination for viewers to learn more about the cultures depicted in each episode, and of course one can expect the participants to act suitably humbled at the end of each episode (or at least the opener). In this way, though, Exiled is even worse than Sweet 16 itself; there’s no redemption, no lessons learned on Sweet 16, just rampant consumerism depicted at its basest. You can easily hate the Sweet 16ers because you know you’re getting their unadulterated worst selves.
But Exiled invites that hate and then attempts to turn it around on you, to somehow prove that a week spent with an MTV camera crew and some photogenic impoverished people makes up for a lifetime of wretched indolence. In a strange way it accomplishes the exact opposite result of Sweet 16 itself; instead of spending half an hour hoping for unspeakable tragedy to befall the hateful teens, you find yourself feeling sorry for them, rooting for them to reject MTV’s predetermined narrative and not return home professing a newfound respect for other cultures and gratitude for all the wonderful things they have in their lives.
These people are all over 18 now; they aren’t obligated by their parents to participate in the show, and could easily refuse if they wanted to. They’re still playing the camera for attention, only this time around instead of being their genuine evil selves, they’re using the media savvy they built up by appearing on TV once and seeing the results to craft a much more flattering self-portrait, abetted by the show’s producers. Never mind that this doesn’t solve any of their actual problems: A real attempt at rectifying the situation would put these people in normal, American jobs and get them to earn a living on their own, or at least acknowledge the root of their issues by carting their indulgent, clueless parents off to the ends of the world with them. Instead Exiled just feeds its stars’ egos even more, turning them from honest, proud bitches into sly, self-righteous hypocrites. And in the process, it destroys its own entertainment value.
The bottom line: *