Monday, June 29, 2009

New Reality Show Shows Gossip Girl Lifestyle is Real

Those who dislike the Gossip Girl books, then later, the Gossip Girl TV show (like me) had trouble accepting that they were based on real life. However, a new reality TV show shows that some of the bad stuff in the books and on the TV show is indeed real.

The new show is called "NYC Prep" and it is rated TV-14 and airs on the cable channel Bravo.

In this clip note the part about getting into college and pulling strings that starts at 2:15. Perhaps what these teens don't realize is that even if that happens in real life, perhaps it would be better to be careful about mentioning it on camera! Is not discretion the better part of valor? Perhaps that is proof that until age 24 the brain is not fully formed and the judgement center that juggles the pro's and con's of consequences of one's actions is still developing and often leads to the worse of the two choices. (This is something Dr. Phil keeps talking about to explain why so many teens make bad choices in life, that they can't help it due to the normal state of their undeveloped brains!)

I watched the episode "Top Half of One Percent" and in it there are already discussions of casual sex, with one sixteen year old boy saying he easily hooks up with 2-16 girls a month so long as he goes to enough parties. (See video at 8:15.)

One girl is 16 and lives in the City with her 18 year old brother while her parents live full time in the Hamptons (Long Island). She brags that she can go out late at night since she is free of adult supervision. Her parents visit once a week, she says, and we saw them eating Chinese take out together. Their large for NYC kitchen laden with granite, top appliances and nice cabinetry is never cooked in. What an arrangement that brother and sister have!

The kids drink alcohol, it is stated. In one scene I saw the 18 year old drink water in a restaurant and as he walks off camera toward the bar, he says he is going to have a drink now, then the scene ends. This makes me wonder if Bravo plans to not show the underage drinking on camera? (In one episode of "Real Housewives of Orange County" they showed a girl aged 17 or 18 drinking and getting drunk at a party her parents held in the family's home. That sparked controversy and warnings after the show that the network did not advocate underage drinking.) When we see teens drinking cocktail looking drinks in the restaurant we can't know if there is alcohol in them or not but they talk about drinking so what are we supposed to think?

I note also my surprise that the teens host parties in restaurants! They say house parties are no longer done. In the scene where the 15 year old girl declares to her mother that she is hosting a party at a resataurant, and her mother seems unhappy with the idea, what I was wondering is who paid for that party?

Okay so my own past accusations that this type of lifestyle is not TYPICAL or NORMAL in America is still true. If some or even many or all of the prep school students in New York City aged 15-18 do live like this we need to remind ourselves that this is still not even 99% of American teens. I do wonder what percent it actually is...

The last thing to note is that although these teens are open with admitting what they do, they say their parents have no clue (in the Gossip Girl books it is portrayed that the parents support minors drinking alcohol even by providing them with it and drinking with them in public). I wonder what the parents will think when they watch the show on TV and realize what their child is actually doing?

I wonder if these reality TV show participants think they'll wind up as famous and rich as some of MTV's "The Hills"? Could that be their hope and dream, the fame that may come from it? They already have their parent's money so the money can't be the prime motivator. (Note: "The Hills" started on the first year after high school graduation and the stars were at least 18 if not 19 when it began so they were legal adults.)

I wonder what teens across America will think about this show and this lifestyle? Will this normalize the behavior and lead teens with more boring (normal) lives who are not that rich to think that is how everyone else is living?

The last thing I'll say is that I think Bravo is going out on a limb to dangerous territory showing minors living in this way. It is one thing to show what grown women do in their real lives in the "Real Housewives" series they have but another to have 15-18 year old's discussing casual sex and about how they drink alochol (remember the legal age to drink is 21). I note that the age of consent (to have sex) is 17 in New York state. One could debate what they mean by "hooking up". In a future episode, the teaser showed a discussion where the 18 year old asks the group who is still a virgin, so that is a clear discussion where we might see who has broken the law there.

When ABC aired the reality game-based show "Kid Nation" they were accused of exploiting minors (aged 8-16) and putting them in dangerous situations. I'd ask the same question of Bravo about "NYC Prep" except it is surely easier to see that these teens are already living their lives this way and what they are doing is not being set up by Bravo, it is clear that these teens are doing their thing and the cameras are just capturing it as it happens. I guess the question is, is it ethical for a television show and network to record and show underage minors doing illegal activities or talking about having done them even if it is happening in real life?

What good can come of watching this show?

That's what is on my mind today.

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Crimson Wife said...

I grew up in an affluent neighborhood, and sadly, this type of behavior isn't new. From what I saw in my hometown, it's mostly the kids of workaholic parents, often divorced/separated. The girls are so starved for affection that they resort to exploiting their bodies in the hopes of getting a boyfriend. Very sad :-(

Michelle said...

Makes me glad once again that we don't have TV. No, it is not ethical for the TV show to be doing what they are doing, but it is legal and should be, though a few tons of social and economic pressure from parents would be in order. Just because bad things happen in the world doesn't mean you have to immerse yourself in them. Stupid kids.

Also, I agree with Crimson Wife that risky behaviors are usually, but not always tracable to absent (either physically or emotionally) parents.