My Super Sweet 16
Ostentatious conspicuous consumption seems to be the theme these days. MTV’s Supersweet 16. I was watching one particular episode featuring Darnell Robinson, the 15.995 years old son of Sugar Hill Studios executive Leland Robinson, celebrating his 16th birthday has got to be the very best, or worst depending on the point of view, example of spending gone buck-freakin’ crazy wild. How much bling and glitz and materialism can one’s parents waste on nothing but…bling and glitz and materialism? How much value has been added to Darnell’s life now that he has experienced being the focal point of such a huge extravaganza? How much devaluation has the collective of other teenagers suffered because they could never hope to enjoy the same experience?
Darnell’s party was based on the Eddie Murphy movie “Coming to America”. The African prince Hakeem came to America to find his African queen. Women in Africa were too assimilated to a pseudo-westernized African culture for his taste. African women didn’t have enough independent thought for his taste. The perfect woman was an African American who wanted little more than to help her community. Hakeem did his best to downplay the excess of his royal life in order to win the heart of the woman he loved. The African prince understood that to be sure a woman loves him for who he was he could not tempt her with materialism. This aspect of the movie was entirely overlooked by Darnell’s party planner.
Excess was the theme of this particular MTV episode. But then again, excess is the theme of MTV. But then once again, excess is the theme of western culture. Darnell wanted to be a player and had enough people around him to yes up to his every whim. Darnell had friends wearing almost every stylish and iconic line of clothing imaginable to massage his ego. Darnell had young women and rare exotic animals auditioning to escort him to the ultra decadent bash. His parents didn’t hesitate one Rolex measured second to open their wallet to prove their love. Darnell had the adoration of every over stimulated young adult at the gala.
However, that wasn’t enough. There was the birthday gift. A top of the line arctic white Mercedes-Benz 550 was waiting for him in front of the hotel hosting the party. The night was true dedication to consumption. I think the numbers were $330,000 for the party and $110,000 for the car for a grand whopping total of $440,000 for the young man’s 16th birthday, pert near half a million dollars. Some might call it a small fortune. I may be wrong but Wal-Mart doesn’t even spend that much in annual payroll for one of its mega stores. Now that’s spending run amuck.
Was it worth it? I’m sure it depends on who you ask. With the obvious super deep pockets of Mr. Robinson I’m sure he would say it was worth every penny and then some. His son can be assured he got the best adoration money can buy. Unlike the arguably wiser Hakeem, the Robinson’s don’t give a flip about the veracity of people’s admiration of their son. Who cares about honest integrity when you can afford the finest substitute money can buy? And as long as no one else ever out does Darnell’s party it is assured that the Robinson’s will enjoy being the best party givers throughout the kingdom.
But the problem is it’s only a matter of time before someone else invites twice as many freeloaders, employs a venue that’s twice as glamorous, walks with twice the scantly clothed young ladies wearing dresses that reveal twice as much skin, hires twice as many big named hip hop artist, and buys a car that’s twice as expensive and four times as gaudy. Darnell will be a has-been until daddy ups the ante to become the number one spender again. The escalating war of party spending will be nurtured to even more intense excess. Welcome to the mad world of Mutually Assured Financial Folly (MAFF).
Without a doubt Mr. Robinson earned every penny of his fantastic wealth. His financial prowess is worth admiration. Music is one of the few industries where blacks are able to obtain a piece of the proverbial pie. All the zeroes of the Robinson’s bank accounts were built pennies at a time from a multitude of songs being sold and played endlessly. A large number of those pennies came from people who couldn’t afford to spend 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent of what the Robinson’s spent on daily food consumption let alone a party. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they were able to get something back for their support as well?
The Robinson’s chose a Hollywood themed imitation of an African kingdom as their model for the celebration of their son’s milestone in life. The kingdom of Robinson is doing very well and they want everyone to see their prosperity. Now what would happen if all that great prosperity was used for the fortification of other kingdoms? With great power comes great responsibility. With financial power comes financial responsibility. The resulting appreciation might earn Darnell and his family some honest adoration.
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