Sunday, March 30, 2014

You’re Cordially Invited To…The Birthday Battle

In American society, turning “sweet sixteen” isn’t just another birthday, but rather, a monumental time in teens’ lives when getting their drivers’ license means having more freedom, more fun, and no more having your parents drop you off at school every day.  And of course, how could I forget the surprise birthday party that your parents might throw you, with a few of your close friends surprising you with cake and presents when you walk into the door after tennis practice.  But not every American teen dreams of their sixteenth birthday like this…some dream bigger…and have a firm grip on daddy’s checkbook.  My Super Sweet 16 has significantly gone over-the-top in its birthday extravaganzas going so far as to having sixteen year olds compete against each other to conclude whom has the best birthday bash.  Our generation of sixteen years olds has transformed this monumental milestone of reaching closer to adulthood into an over-the-top birthday celebration that ultimately surrounds celebrity appearances and mile-high birthday cakes to impress others by having the “party of the year.”  Strap on your party hat and get your dancing shoes on…the battle begins!


My Super Sweet 16, a MTV documentary, highlights the party planning, Range Rover purchasing, designer dress shopping, and birthday bash extravaganza for the rich, spoiled teens of millionaire parents.  These soon-to-be sixteen year olds don’t just want a used vehicle nor a small get-together with a few close friends.  Their dreams are above and beyond the average, humble American sixteen year old.  You want Big Sean or Bow-Wow to perform at your party?  Daddy will bring them.  You want $10,000 worth of designer dresses from Paris because for heaven’s sake you can’t wear the same dress all night?  Daddy will buy them for you (Did I mention on his private jet?).  Viewers get an inside perspective of these mega-rich teens from the planning process to the birthday bash.  But, there can’t be a birthday party without a little drama sprinkled in.  MTV describes the show as showing viewers what it’s like to turn sixteen nowadays.  And the viewers definitely get an insider view of just what turning sixteen means as parents grant their every wish.  This show isn’t just being filmed and produced in the United States.  The United Kingdom has done the exact same replica of this American show highlighting UK teens turning sixteen the same way as Americans. 


A typical episode of My Super Sweet 16 has one birthday girl (or boy) planning and celebrating their big day in an hour timespan.  The birthday girl (or boy) starts the episode deciding the theme while the snowball effect continues with the invitations, dress shopping, car purchasing, and later, resulting in the birthday bash, let alone the cash flow spilling out from daddy’s wallet.  But, wait just a second.  That isn’t the only way the show is done.  Let’s put a twist to this.  After numerous episodes of My Super Sweet 16, the producers decided to kick the show into overdrive.  May I present to you…The Battle Royale.  Don’t hold your breath…William and Kate aren’t going to be making any special appearances, but rather, soon-to-be sixteen year old competitors go head to head to see who has the most extravagant birthday celebration. 


Battle Royale pairs up two Sweet 16 alums with two soon-to-be sixteen year olds who want to throw the most outrageous birthday party and win the ultimate title.  Our first contestant is Kristina, who wants her theme to be Heaven and Hell.  But, she isn’t alone in planning her party.  A little help from Lacey, gives her guidance on what hot guys should carry Kristina in her grand entrance like she’s the Cinderella of the ball, what dresses to wear, etc.  The rival, Kirsten, has a different vision for her birthday party.  She decides to invite over 200 people and having a Sports/Hip Hop theme party with a choreographed dance with her as the main dancer with a little assistance from Darnell to help her win.  At each category (best theme, best dress, and best party) of the party planning the viewers get to vote between the two on which one wins each category, and at the end, who had the best birthday party overall.  The two contestants go above and beyond trying to impress not only their competition, but the viewers, as well.  Now, let’s just take a step back from this to evaluate…sixteen year old girls are spending endless amounts of money to throw the most spectacular, outrageous, unforgettable birthday bash and win the Battle Royale.  And no, there isn’t a cash prize nor a family vacation that the winner gets awarded, but rather a trophy to sit on their bookshelf to collect dust and be forgotten within the year, and of course, the pure pleasure that they won.  These birthday parties that teenagers are having cost the same price or more than a wedding.  If this behavior is acceptable as a sixteen year old, then how far can the bar be raised to outdo peers and continue this competitive mindset to be number one when they are older?

Now, there can’t be a teen party without a little drama.  In Battle Royale, Kristina gets mad at her mom for not being timely with getting her outfit change ready quick enough.  Kristen’s grand entrance doesn’t happen exactly how she would’ve liked, but you would’ve thought the world was ending.  But, in the end, they both get brand new cars with gigantic bows on the top and forget all about the “oops” moments that previously occurred ten minutes earlier.  The drama the shows places into the episode only continues this idea that having a few bumps in the road might ultimately decrease their chances of winning the title.  Both girls want their party to be the best party the viewers have ever seen, so that they can have the bragging rights that they’re the best. 


Even though My Super Sweet 16 cancelled in 2008, every episode can still be viewed online, and the expectation of having these parties has not vanished.  There have been negative reactions from the media about the behaviors and expectations on the show.  The Huffington Post created a blog about the “16 Lessons Learned from My Super Sweet 16” and quite frankly, they are quite right. 


A few of these lessons included:

  • “Hair/make-up preps should clock in just under five hours.”  
  • “Super Sweet 16 parties require more dress changes than Oscar hosting.”
  • (my favorite) “Mercedes and BMWs are acceptable Super Sweet 16 presents.  A souped-up Lincoln might be acceptable on Pimp My Ride, but not at My Super Sweet 16.”

Our generation has taken competition to a new level no matter the price nor reward at the end.  The pure recognition of bragging rights has been engrained into our daily lives, and The Battle Royale creates a show that revolves around this competitive mindset into a show.  These competitors’ thoughts aren’t focused primarily on what they want for their party, but rather, what kind of party will beat the other competitor.  Maybe the cancellation of the show has proven a point that our generation needs to stop this behavior or maybe it’s left a legacy that needs to be continued?  No matter what, competition will forever continue.  But the key takeaway is that our generation and generations to come need to use competition to better ourselves, not look like complete, spoiled brats in front of the world. 



Works Cited


“16 Lessons From MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.” Huffpost TV. The Huffington Post, 08 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

“About My Super Sweet 16.” MTV. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

“My Super Sweet 16’s Battle Royale.” My Super Sweet 16. February 9, 2009. Television.
“My Super Sweet 16 UK.” My Super Sweet 16 UK. Television.


  1. I absolutely agree that My Super Sweet 16 was a pain to watch, especially the behavior of the spoiled d-bags that were on it. The two big questions I have regarding your post are 1) What stereotypes or messages do you think this show conveyed about class? 2) What does it say about generational differences? You obviously allude to the fact that these teens have parents with massive disposable incomes, but what does this show communicate to what was probably a middle-class/lower-class audience? And what would adults think about the next generation seeing teens behave this way? (I'm sure the negative views are obvious, but I'm sure there could be more interesting things at work) Fun post!

  2. Yes, I definitely agree with you on that the competition with having the BEST birthday party is being set at a younger age now. It used to be that you would throw an amazing 21st birthday party and now the age is falling to 16. It's almost crazy to think the length that people will go to and throw down a huge slum of money for one teenagers birthday. But really, what's the percentage of parents truly willing to drop that much cash for their child....but mainly, who is likely to be able to afford that type of party anyway? I bet the percentage is like 5% and that's what we see on TV. It makes me sad when teen viewers think they'll be able to have that type of party that they see on MTV when reality is that 1 out of 1,000 (or more) could have it. Reality TV isn't really reality anyway.....and competition with reality TV is hitting a younger audience.

  3. I think you make an interesting point about the competition of having the best party as a 16 year old. But I think it would be interesting if you researched if/how watching this show affected viewers thoughts of their own 16th birthday. I know personally this show was out when I turned 16 so I thought this is what parties were supposed to be like. And when my best friend and I had a combined 16th birthday party we tried to mimic some of the things from this show. Now we did not have a spending amount anywhere close to the people on this show, but we totally had a false idea of what these parties were supposed to be like. And now that it's canceled, are there still teens out there that were like me and thought this is what 16th birthdays were supposed to be like?


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