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Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My Super Sweet Sixteen, Part Triplets

My Super Sweet Sixteen, Part VIII – Let’s Label Some Triplets

The folks at MTV tried something different this time. The subjects of this episode are: triplets; not extraordinary in any real way, good or bad, except for the fact that they look the same; 18 instead of 16. This show is normally much like “Behind the Music” or “The Real World,” in that there’s a formula you apply, and the only changes are the people involved. On this show, there’s always a crazy parent, a party planner, a dress that costs too much, a decked-out venue, passing out of the invitations complete with exclusion, a spoiled kid acting bratty, a bunch of party-goers who act all crazy for the camera, the subject kicking people out of the party, and the money total at the end. There are slight variations in every episode, but those are the basics.

What this episode did (which turned out kinda boring, btw) was throw most of those conventions out the window in favor of a story arc, namely these three triplets and how they wanted to prove their individuality. There were no crazy parents, no parental drama, no dress chaos, no kicking people out of the party, very little mention of the triplets’ friends, no inappropriate dancing, and no money total (except what the band cost). On top of all that, these girls are 18 instead of the sixteen. This was an 18th birthday party, and a pretty average one at that. So the whole thing was just MTV meeting these triplets and cramming them into the show, formula (and age) be darned. It was a terrible, terrible decision, as these triplets, while slightly catty, are about as interesting as a fart compared with the likes of Ava and Sophie. So the storyline was edited in to force entertainment out of a dull situation. Did they succeed? I’m afraid not.

Our story starts with mildly lurid shots of the triplets with one of them (Candis – “The Cocky One”) voicing over, “fulfilling…every guy’s fantasy about triplets.” Eww, and a thousand times eww. Why are you even thinking about that? At least they got the ickiest line over with in the first five seconds. These girls should not know what “every guy’s fantasy” is, especially if it’s about them. You know some hormonal teenage idiots told them something about a foursome, which they then applied to the whole of mankind. Judging by the clip, the fantasy involves really ugly showgirl outfits and belly flab. From the first montage, I gathered that this was going to be some sort of sex episode, because the girls were shown in the aforementioned pink-and-black lingerie hooker uniforms, belly-exposing bikinis, and other outfits that they assume would make them “every guy’s fantasy.” But it turns out that most of the time, the girls are dressed like normal teenage girls – kind of refreshing, but also boring. I actually wouldn’t have minded a sex episode, because at least it would have given me something to write about.

There comes a point in every triplet’s life when she must strike out on her own and become an independent young woman. MTV has decided to help them with this by editing them to seem like they have one dominant personality trait that makes them different from their siblings. For Candace, it’s that she’s “Cocky.” For Jessica, it’s that she’s “Jealous.” So far, these are easy to remember because of the alliteration – Cocky Candace vs. Jealous Jessica. Bringing up the rear is Ashley, who is known for MTV purposes as “The Wet Blanket.” Now, I happen to like wet blankets. They’re the perfect thing to put out the fires of slutiness and bratty behavior. As far as MTV is concerned, being a wet blanket means you have a low self-esteem and extreme levels of modesty. Diddy hates modesty. This is probably the most disturbing aspect of the episode – they take the most sympathetic girl in the history of the show and make her into the heavy.

The backdrop for all this lack of action is Fremont, CA. Fun fact: I send a lot of laptop computers to be repaired in Fremont. Ok, that fact isn’t very fun, but since I write the city down on a shipping memo twice a week I thought I had to mention it. Sheesh. The girls live ½ the time with their mother, the other half with their dad. We see mom for a total of 0.6 seconds when they introduce her, dad for about a minute as he introduces the neo-pop-punk band he bought for the party. The situation doesn’t seem too contentious, although there was a divorce at some point, and those are never good. At least in this episode we aren’t treated to scenes of the girls using temper tantrums to steamroll their parents. Again, refreshing, but what’s the point of all this if the girls aren’t going to be bratty?

Have I complained enough about the girls' dullness? Can we get on with it please?

Cocky Candis does play the part of the MTV-style “Sweet Sixteen Brat” pretty well. She voices over much of the episode, although MTV could be lying to us about that. It’s not like we can even tell the girls' voices apart. She describes the party and the lame Vegas motif they’re using, and says that “People are definitely jealous that they can’t do something this big…it’s pathetic.” I’m not sure if she meant the party or the jealous people. Fun fact: most people who think that other people are “just jealous” of their money are in fact enormously bossy tools who think they’re better than common folk and therefore attract the sort of hostility usually reserved for Neo-Nazis and people who are trying to break into one’s car. Some people with money feel blessed to be fortunate, and don’t lord it over others. Consequently, they also don’t have to deal with that “jealousy.”
Candis is clearly a Bourgeois scumbag.

The girls hand-picked 125 people, making their party a little less exclusive than Sophie’s last week. They don’t show much of the invitation presentations except for one guy the girls mock for not knowing which triplet is which. Oh, and a little later the girls all get dressed up to drive to the house of this total dreamboat named Michael Born and present him with an invitation or three. He and his angel choir answer the door, and he says he will show up, and the girls swoon like drunken idiots. It’s pretty clear M. Born likes the attention of (MTV and) the triplets, since he spent all those years working on his look. More on this turkey a bit later.

One of the fun and unfair things that MTV does is show footage that undercuts what a character is saying while that person is saying it. For example, as the girls talk about how they want to be viewed as individuals rather than “The Triplets,” MTV is showing them trying on the same ugly hats and trying on the same ugly dresses. Who would have thought MTV could be so subtle and layered?

Candis freaks out as the limo driver is 20 minutes late for his appointment to take them to the party planner (now we’re talking – this is the kind of pointless overspending we need more of), but Ashley talks her down. Ashley is so cool. She’d never be like that cocky Candis. She’s her own triplet. Or maybe I’m just fooling myself. The Party Planner shows the three enthusiastic girls what she’s put together for a Vegas theme, and suggests they ride in on Harleys. One of the girls, I can’t remember which (better copy that phrase to the clipboard) really likes that idea. Then, the showgirls idea is floated. Candis could not be more excited about dressing like a showgirl. She wants attention from boys, you see. Jessica and Ashley are lukewarm to the idea, because they want attention that doesn’t involve a garter belt.

While we’re on the subject, I’m going to put myself out there a little bit and tell you that I don’t get the whole “showgirl” thing. It’s just not attractive, and always involves ugly outfits with feathers. Feathers aren’t sexy in any context. Also, the girls are hideously made-up, plastic-looking, and leathery. Feathers and leathers are what I think of when I think of showgirls. That’s not sexy. Plus, they just basically dance around like a bunch of sedated strippers, don’t they? They might walk around, spin here and there, put their hands in the air, and do some kicks. It’s not alluring, it’s robotic.

Candis gets the brilliant idea that she will perform a song at the party with this one band she knows. That’s her way of getting the most attention. Unfortunately for her, she cannot sing. At one point, she’s practicing singing all alone, and MTV edits in the sound of a dog howling in the background. Again, unfair but fun. When we hear her sing, we instantly know that her story arc will end badly, and that Cocky Candis will get her comeuppance.

Jess and Ash see that their triplet is going to do something to get attention, and they totally copy her. MTV tries to make us think that the two jealous girls separately went to the party planner to flesh out ideas on solo acts they could do, but my wife for one isn’t buying it. It sure seems like MTV put them up to it so that their story arc could work out. Anyway, the Planner suggests that one of the girls, I can’t remember which, try “fire-eating.” I’m kind of disappointed that never materialized. Jessica decides to “tango,” which isn’t a euphemism for anything. We don’t know what Ashley’s going to do, because MTV doesn’t want us to know. What can a wet blanket do except frustrate those who are cold?

This is the point in the show where they go to M. Born’s (or as Candis calls him, “The only thing that matters.”) house. As they get all dolled up, one of the girls, I can’t remember which, tells the others, “You girls givin' up on looking better than me yet?” That’s funny, so I’m assuming it was Ashley. The best moments in the episode are when the girls get catty with each other – at times they get downright mean. As they are getting ready for the party later in the episode, Candis actually calls one of the girls, I can’t remember which an “evil whore.” That’s one reason why this isn’t a Sweet 18 Party – these girls aren’t sweet. Of course, they aren’t terribly sour either. They’re somewhere in between, and MTV viewers demand less balance.

The girls ditch the Harleys and trade down to a magician instead. I find magicians besides Gob Bluth to be creepy. Candis is still pushing the whole showgirl angle, and this time jealous Jessica joins her because she, too, wants to get attention from boys. She’s tired of Candis getting all the attention. Keep in mind that these girls look exactly alike. Anyway, Ashley’s clearly uncomfortable with the idea, but one of the girls, I can’t remember which accuses her of “acting like we’re going to come out there like sluts,” which is accurate but not something the political Ashley would put in those words. What they settle on is giant cardboard cutouts of them in showgirl outfits, which is sort of a lose-lose compromise, if you think about it. The girls don’t get the attention they crave, but they still dress like sluts. Seems like a bad idea to me, but then again I’m not a teenage girl.

The girls get in their pink-and-black showgirl outfits and the photographer tells them he wants them to look “like dolls.” You can’t express objectification much clearer than that, can you? Feminism is dead. The girls get photos taken in a big pink-and-black feathered group (during which Candis utters the “every boy’s fantasy” line, which makes me cringe all over again), and then separately. These girls are not attractive, I’m sorry. Again, it’s not like they’re a herd of wooly mammoths like Sophie – they’re just average-to-weird-looking teenage girls. And they should never – ever -- wear something that bares their midriff, because girlfriend, things are a real mess there in the middle.

During Jealous Jessica’s photo shoot, she tries to act all sexy, apparently. I didn’t really notice her, having been stunned by the sheer amount of feathers there were in the group shot. Poor black birds. Anyway, Candis is like, pissed that one of the other girls would try to be sexy. She’s the sexy one, dang it! So then Jealous Candis, er, Cocky Candis goes out there and struts her stuff in front of the camera lens. She reclaims the “Sexiest Triplet” title (again, they look exactly alike), and says that “No one can take that away from me.” That’s true, because the title exists only in her mind. No one can take away her imaginary friends, either.

Thankfully, these girls don’t subject us to multiple dress changes and last-minute wardrobe alterations, and they get right to the par-tay. The shindig seems way less formal than the other ones we’ve seen (except possibly Hart’s, but he’s a boy), and consequently beats me down a lot less. It actually looks a little fun. Everything’s just more chill and drama-free, and that may have more to do with the fact that these girls are 18 than anything else. They’re two whole years more mature than the others.

Anyway, M. Born shows up in the gayest tight black velour t-shirt you can imagine. Whatever you’re picturing in your head, it’s gayer than that. M. Born spends a lot of time on his looks, you can tell. He appears to be about 25 years old, with a fake tan and too much time in the gym. Actually, he looks like he should be on MTV’s “The Real World.” I don’t know for a fact that he’s a tool, but I find it hard to believe that a non-tool would wear that shirt. I mean, you see yourself in the mirror in that thing, and you don’t laugh? Come on, M. Born. The girls still think he’s dreamy, though, so I guess it’s working for him. Tool.

He can’t tell which triplet is which, and eventually asks one of his lapdogs which one is Jessica and which one is Ashley (he’s got Candis down, as do I – she’s the one with the bangs and not wearing a dress). This is especially funny since even after clarifying, he gets it wrong. He gives Ashley Jessica’s flower, and suddenly his fairy-tale like spell on the triplets is over. They no longer like him. Boy, they really take this whole “being themselves” thing seriously, eh? All it took was one mistake, and this guy is slid out the door on his own hair gel. If he wasn’t such a tool and an MTV camera whore, I’d feel sorry for him. At any rate, for loving and then turning on M. Born, I do pronounce these girls officially dumb.

The one black kid at the party dances really well.

Now it’s time for the girls to express their independence from the Triplets by performing something without the others. Candis is first up, with her dog-killing sing-along. She expresses concern that the loudness of the crowd will cover up her singing. Dogs all over the world rejoice as Candis performs the song with the band, and does not put her face close enough to the microphone to be heard. I don’t know if MTV just edited her totally out to be funny, but the crowd could not hear her at all. She was glad to be the center of attention for a while, though, and said she felt like “a rock star.” In the words of Reverend Lovejoy, “That’s super.”

Jessica next gets into a Tango costume and dances. The best part about this is Candis saying she liked it, but was kind of mad Jessica snuck around on her and planned the dance without her knowledge. Candis doesn’t like the other two thinking for themselves, apparently. Triplets are so weird.

Finally, Ashley caps off the episode by throwing out all her values and dressing in her own personal showgirl uniform and walking through the crowd. I have to hand it to her -- she does have good posture. Her boyfriend can’t believe how great it is that his girlfriend looks so classless, and goes into seizures of joy. It’s actually kinda cute, his reaction. Everyone else at the party also loves Ashley’s decision to parade half-naked through the crowd, including Candis and Jessica. one of the girls, I can’t remember which, even says, “She’s not the wet blanket anymore.” Aww…it just goes to show that if you compromise your principles, people who are less principled will love you. That’ll come in handy when she’s stripping.

Ok, to be fair to Ashley, it wasn’t a terribly slutty outfit or anything. It did have the dreaded bare-midriff with her gut sticking out, which was unfortunate. The rest of it was somehow both too skimpy and too bulky. I’m not sure how that happened.

And to be fair to us, I will point out that dressing like a slut is not technically a talent, even if it does make you a hero to your sisters and MTV.

Cocky Candis, having ditched her ill-fated crush on M. Born, provides our epilogue as she hangs out with a dude named Aaron, and flirts with him real bad as the band her dad paid $40,000 for drones on in the background. She kisses him, and the world is back to normal. She’s back to being the sexiest triplet. Whew. Ashley’s reign lasted probably a half-hour. It was totally worth selling herself out, though, right?



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