An August post about Lindsay Lohan’s cocaine scandal on PerezHilton.com garnered over 200 comments, only three of which were in support of the star. A representative example comes from the user Jennisyn, who comments, “Lindsay is a coward, a liar, and a fake. What a huge dissappointment [sic] she is to her friends, family, and fans. Do another line, Lindsay!!!”
The comments only get worse for other young, rich, female stars, especially those born into money (see: Paris Hilton). Given that few of us have met copious numbers of young female millionaires (we don’t all go to Princeton) over the past few years, how have Americans become so certain that rich female girls are catty, spoiled and worthless bitches? Answer: the movies.
From the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly, publications love to theorize on the effects of gossip blogs like TMZ.com and Perez Hilton. As Virginia Heffernan wrote in the Times in July, the days of idolizing young stars like Ava Gardner are over: “Instead, if Ava were still around [today], she’d appear on idontlikeyouinthatway.com or dlisted.com, and we wouldn’t ogle her face as much as her hairline … And there would be a caption, angry, as if Gardner had intruded on us, and not we on her: What the hell is wrong with Ava’s face?!”
But the shift from Ava Gardner to Lindsay Lohan was only accelerated, not created, by the gawk-and-awe movement . The first signs that American women were ready to turn on those they envy was the sudden onslaught of “Rich Girls Suck” movies, which are still being churned out monthly. Movies like “Clueless” and “The Heathers” were already being made, of course, but had a satirical, not spiteful attitude toward their subjects. The earliest and most prominent example of the more hateful variety was, ironically enough, Lindsay Lohan’s “Mean Girls,” which showed that not only were rich, spoiled girls ruthless, mean and moronic, but they would also corrupt your math-loving, navel-covering daughters if given the chance.
Since “Mean Girls” was a breakout hit, the new genre — and perspective — took off, infiltrating the national psyche. Since then, while rich guys wear polo shirts and sweetly woo the girl next door, rich plus young plus female began to equal whore. This line of thought has even reached Disney’s “High School Musical” series. Sharpay’s parents own the country club, so she is manipulative, blonde and wrathful. Meanwhile, sweet Gabriella has to work hard for her money lifeguarding at the club, and she is nice, open-minded and beautiful. These stereotypes carry over to most Disney Channel series, most notably hit shows “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and “Hannah Montana.”
The emotions behind the movies — we’d rather demean and pity those who are richer and prettier than us — were there to begin with, but “Rich Girls Suck” movies popularized the notion, paving the way for Perez Hilton (and for that other Hilton’s trial to run as the lead story on CNN).
Somehow these movies, predicated almost solely on the notion that there is an inverse relationship between the price tag on one’s clothes and one’s worth as a person, have struck such a chord that America can’t get enough of them. This summer, “Bratz” (which my five-year-old cousin proudly credits with teaching her the word “makeover”) and “Super Sweet 16” showed us, yet again, why we shouldn’t want to be young, rich and hot. This fall brings the popular “Gossip Girl” book series to the CW, and movies such as “Sydney White” starring Amanda Bynes promise to provide even more “insight” on why rich girls are vermin.
Of course, America quickly tires of bringing people down (see: Ben Affleck, recently Nicole Richie) and then is ready to build them back up again. The only thing we love more than shredding those we envy is a good comeback story to give us hope.
So while there may now seem to be no end in sight to “Rich Girls Gone Wild” movies, TV shows and books, it might not be long until the consensus shifts. Then we can enjoy Newsweek articles about how Paris Hilton is misunderstood and loves African orphans, and an Oscar-winning performance by Dakota Fanning in “I’m Poor, and Therefore Worthless .”