The world of New York City's wealthy is insular and intensely private, which is the appeal of NYC Prep, but also the reason the show is not a reliable portrayal of the city's private school students and their lifestyle.
As Julie Bosman writes for the New York Times, the teens on the show talk freely about money, status and dating:
All of which contradicted an unspoken rule at many private schools: to be showy or prideful is not only culturally inappropriate, but also in supremely bad taste. To be showy or prideful on reality television appears to be even worse. As a measure of how strongly private schools discourage students and families from drawing attention to themselves, none of the more than a dozen parents contacted for this article would consent to be identified. Several said they feared the wrath of administrators.
But none of that matters, as long as you're making good TV, right? As New York magazine's Vanessa Grigoriadis points out, though NYC Prep is supposed to be a real life Gossip Girl, it's actually The Real Kids of New York City, modeled after the Real Housewives franchise. Writes Grigoriadis: "The Housewives series, of course, is a freak show."
It's clear that producers of NYC Prep cast breakout star PC because of his personality and ability to effortlessly utter sound-bites (Examples: "Money flows like the wind." "It's who you know and how much money you have." "People want to strive to act like an asshole.") Which isn't to say he's not rich: His grandfather is a self-made billionaire; his family may be, Grigoriadis claims, "the richest to ever be featured on reality TV." But newsflash: Not all rich kids talk like PC. If you're watching this show to find out what private school students in New York are really like, you're not getting the full picture (much like Real Housewives doesn't show "real" "housewives.") This is according to parents:
"These producers completely manipulated these kids, feeding them lines and telling them to insult each other," says one. "This is going to hurt these kids emotionally, because they are saying that they are something they are not. It's a terrible lie."
Since I grew up in New York and attended a couple of private schools — albeit briefly — I definitely agree that the truly rich and truly "elite" are not the spotlight-seekers. Usually the wannabes were flashy and bragged about cash and status. But most reality show audiences don't expect to see "reality," anyway. One thing is for sure: The show has brought out New York City's finest snobbery. Victoria Goldman, the author of The Manhattan Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools tells the Times: "The schools on this show are all at the bottom. There would never be a Brearley girl* on this show."
*Brearley is an Upper East Side all-girls school that Caroline Kennedy attended.