Monday, October 13, 2008


So, as a spin-off of MTV's miserable show Super Sweet 16, they have created Exiled. I'm not sure if Sweet 16 is still producing new episodes, but if they are it's a big slap in the face of all Americans during our Super Sweet Economic Crisis. Exiled seems like a good idea: take these spoiled brats away from their enabling parents and show them what life is like outside their bubble of wealth.

But after watching an episode, I'm not so sure America(or the World) needs this show right now. It pains me that being sent to Kenya or Thailand or India is presented as punishment - these are amazing places. Even the name "Exiled" has a negative connotation.The editing doesn't help: when the brats are shown their traditional bedrooms and bathrooms, there are horror-movie sound effects, with no reguard to the fact that real families live there and are proud of their houses. I imagine if the host families ever see finished episodes, they would be insulted by the presentation of their homes as something to fear.

These beautiful places are essentially being used as spoiled-child re-hab. And what does that do for our image abroad? We are sending them our worst in the hopes that the outside will have some cathartic effect on their spoiled souls. Meanwhile, we are showing a whole community that Americans are weak, lazy, unpleasant creatures. How could this be a good thing?

The one thing I like about the show is that there is time for the host-siblings to vent. They are allowed to force the brat to work and do chores and they can criticize when it's due. "Don't be lazy" seems to be the general idea. So, maybe when the spoiled audience sees that other cultures have no tolerance for diva-like behavior, they will think a little bit. But probably not. I really wonder how they find the host-families and what they tell them about what they've signed up for? It seems like they already know to expect the brats will be brats. But is that because they expect all us Americans to behave this way?

The show's creators are using someone from the developing world, their home, community and culture to "teach" something to spoiled American teenagers. But in doing so they are completely disrespecting that culture. The teens shriek and squirm at the most basic of chores, like taking care of and slaughtering animals for food. Just where did they think fried chicken came from? It's not a cultural exchange; it's force-feeding teenage audiences old stereotypes of the third world: bugs, strange food, scary toilets. All for entertainment. MTV doesn't really believe the teens will change in just a week, does it? They're just one more thing to sell. Maybe MTV needs to Exile itself.

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