Lifetime's 'Sugar Daddies' Comes from a Real Trend

Lifetime, continuing its ongoing commitment to bringing the prestige of clickbait to basic cable television, has a new original movie, Sugar Daddies. And, deep breath: is Sugar Daddies based on a true story? Not really. And by Lifetime's usual metric, not at all. But the "Sugar Daddy" phenomenon is based on recent history. It was the stuff of Huffington Post think pieces that your mom probably forwarded you in a panic between the years of 2008-2012 with subject lines like "Scary!" and "can u believe this??" It preyed on every suburban parent's fear about their daughters being corrupted and taken advantage of by mysterious older men (which is not what really happens to all women who actually have sugar daddies).

But rather than basing the movie on a tell-all book or a horrifying murder case the way Lifetime often does with its originals, it's simply a fictional account. The story centers on Kara, a middle class college student who finds herself wrapped up in the world of "sugar daddies," thanks to a recommendation from a "worldly" roommate who explains that it'll be a handy way for Kara to pay her bills while she takes on a prestigious but unpaid internship alongside an ambitious class load and a badly paying waitressing gig.

For those who have never used the Internet and slept through the last 50 years of slang, a Sugar Daddy is an older man who uses his wealth as bait for a younger girlfriend/hookup. It's a stereotype often used to describe old movie producers in relationships with models, or elderly billionaires with 35-year-old third wives — the implication is that the women are only with these men because they're being plied with expensive gifts, cars, jewelry, and cash in exchange for companionship and sex. The sugar daddy is the enabler of that other pervasive sexist stereotype, the gold digger.

But Lifetime is writing about a different aspect of the sugar daddy definition. In the period just after the financial collapse, student loan debt and joblessness started to balloon out of control, so some young women started looking to rich old dudes for a little help paying their bills. There are also dating sites set up exclusively for young women to find older sugar daddies. That's the most nefarious element of this phenomenon — while women should be free to pursue whatever adult relationships they want, dating companies could be profiting off of the vulnerability of young, financially unstable women.

While some women end up regretting it, others wound up marrying their sugar daddies. And with college loans what they are, it's not as bad of an idea as it would be for any other generation. But considering that she lives in the world of a Lifetime movie, for Kara, it will probably be a pretty damn bad idea.

Images: Charles Christopher/Lifetime; Giphy