It's been said that Bambi was the best piece of anti-hunting propaganda ever produced. From this description of two new reality-based TV shows, there are some new contenders for the title of best anti-wealth propaganda out there.
Television's embarrassment of rich kids begins this week on cable's two most trend-setting channels. HBO presents the documentary Born Rich at 9 tonight, followed Tuesday by MTV's Rich Girls at 9:30 p.m.
As you might guess, Rich Girls is the more lighthearted, if less entertaining, of the two. It replaces the courageously stupid adventures of marginal pop idols with the materialistic odysseys of Tommy Hilfiger's teenage daughter Ally and her best friend, Jaime Gleicher.
How Rich Girls and Born Rich will strike the average viewer just scraping by, though, is hard to say. If you have any element of class consciousness in you, enjoying these socialites can be difficult.
Go ahead, nod in wistful appreciation as Gleicher declares, "Shopping is a drug. It's my drug." Force a giggle as Jaime laments being used by false friends while sharing a lollipop with her teacup Maltese, Star. But just in case we begin to think them shallow, spoiled brats, Ally says: "Just because we're rich doesn't mean we're not good people."
Since we don't see the girls hammering any nails into a Habitat for Humanity home, we'll just have to take her at her word.
On the flip side, the kids in Born Rich are brutal in their honesty, but in a way you kind of appreciate, like the whole "If you have to ask, you can't afford it" line.
[Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie] Johnson directed the film as part of his 21st-birthday quest to figure out what he called "the voodoo of inherited wealth." To help, he called upon moneyed pals such as Georgianna Bloomberg, S.I. Newhouse IV, Ivanka Trump and Josiah Hornblower, heir to the Vanderbilt and Whitney fortunes, all sources of forthright interviews about the taboo subject of wealth.
"I live in a country that everyone wants to believe is a meritocracy," he says as the documentary opens on a Gatsbyesque celebration overflowing with champagne. "We want to think that everyone earns what they have. I guess if it makes you feel better, keep telling yourself that."
Blunt but refreshingly honest. The same can't be said of most his subjects; the unabashedly snobbish statements of model, socialite and all-around jerk Cody Franchetti, who feels "no moral obligation for anyone," might make the average kindhearted person green with illness, not envy.