June 25th, 2009

The Real Gossip Girls (and Boys) of New York City

With the help of the “real” housewives of Orange County, New York and New Jersey, Bravo has built a reputation for documenting the lives of the fabulously wealthy. 0509the-gossip-girl-cast1 Tuesday night, with the premiere of “NYC Prep,” the channel shifted its focus to a younger generation of self-labeled elite:  a group of six rich and largely unsupervised teenagers, most of whom attend New York City private schools.  Many responses to the show’s first episode dwell on the stark contrast between the enjoyably ludicrous tone of the “Real Housewives” series and the awkwardness inherent in watching teenagers preen and pose for one another, and for the camera.

Writing for the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley finds the teens’ antics–so full of fake bravado–painful to watch:

New York has a way of making kids grow up too soon, but even the most expensive schools and sophisticated circles don’t seem to protect children from their own naïveté. And that exposure is what ultimately makes “NYC Prep” so different from “Gossip Girl.”

If these sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds are noticeably naive and vulnerable on camera, it begs the question–should such young people bear the inevitable scrutiny and ridicule of reality television?  The “NYC Prep” private schools, which remain unnamed on the show, aren’t happy being cast in the spotlight with these six Bravo stars.  The heads of both Nightingale-Bamford and the Dwight School have publicly discouraged current students from courting “such exposure, knowing that best intentions are usually subsumed by a media machine” (this from Nightingale-Bamford’s Dorothy Hutcheson).  The Dwight School claims there will be “zero tolerance” from now on for students whose media exposure reflects unfavorably on the school.

Should Schools Ban Students From Reality TV? [New York Times]

Rich Kids, Don’t Look Now, But Your Teenage Angst Is Showing [New York Times]

NYC Prep Makes Us Feel Like Teenagers Again [New York Magazine]

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