Upcoming Kid Nation evoking parental ire already

BlogHer Original Post

This Fall CBS is ready to make television history with the new series Kid Nation, wherein 40 children ages eight to fifteen are plunked down in an abandoned New Mexico town for forty days with "no adults" (in reality there's a skeleton camera crew, of course, but the kids are ostensibly on their own). The reality show is expected to draw huge ratings; it's already generating controversy.

As a parent, I'll confess to wondering if this was a joke, when I first read about it. It isn't, of course -- according to the CBS website you can catch the premiere on September 19th. Not only that, but the network is so sure of the series' anticipated success, they're already casting a second season.

My knee-jerk reaction was such disgust that I couldn't find a single thing about this premise that wasn't completely odoriferous, so I applaud Karoli at odd time signatures for managing to find the redeeming values despite the obvious objections:

There are so many things wrong with this that I barely know where to start, so I guess I’ll start with what’s right about it. I think it’s good that the kids had to wrestle with the idea of forming a government and deal with the natural leadership struggles that arise as part of that process. I’m sure they learned much about the art of leadership and the art of following. I think it’s good that they had an opportunity to learn how to deal with the realities of daily life without the usual comforts. The preview below shows brief vignettes of the environment they were dealing with…hauling water, bringing it up from the well, cooking, cleaning, dividing responsibility…all of that is good. Some have objected to the series on the basis that they missed a month of school. That’s the least of my objections, because I’m sure the life and practical lessons they learned were worth the entire year, much less a month.

I am all the more impressed by this ability to note the positives given that Karoli's disdain for the show touches on issues of child labor and then extends beyond the producers and parents involved:

It would be unfair to bash the parents of these kids without bashing the inevitable hordes of viewers who are likely to make this show a hit, young and old alike. After all, if the show had no viewers there would be no motivation to exploit children in the name of entertainment, however willing they may be. But there will be viewers, and those viewers are open to taking large doses of reality TV, even clamoring for it. The RealityWanted.com website has 12 pages of listings for contestants and casting calls for reality television. It’s a big, huge profitable business. If this show is a success, I predict spinoffs and clones, all grinding those big bucks back to the production companies and networks clamoring for more.

While I agree that the viewers are culpable as well -- at least in terms of tackling this from the perspective of our cultural obsession with all things reality TV -- I still believe the first line of blame goes to the parents. They are, after all, the ones responsible for the well-being of their own children.

Lisa Renee at Liberal Common Sense doesn't put too fine a point on it:

What kind of money hungry attention starving ditzy parent would allow their child to live under those kinds of conditions and what hare brained people at CBS actually thought up this one?

These are not exactly almost adults - the children are aged 8 to 15. This should be considered child abuse and I plan to contact every single advertiser for this junk that it's not appropriate to use kids in this way. No, I won't be watching, seeing the preview was more than enough for me to see that even in the reality tv world which is at times of questionable taste, this one takes the cake.

I do wonder how CBS came up with the allowed age span. Needless to say, I have very different feelings about allowing a 15-year-old to spend a month+ on her own than I do about allowing an 8-year-old to do the same.

And just in case this all doesn't disturb you enough, Angry Working Mom is predicting even greater repercussions than might immediately occur to you at first blush:

Kids without supervision? Okay, obvious Lord of the Flies comparisons aside, I just know this nonsense is going to be blamed on working mothers. We will be dragged into this somehow, just wait. Or maybe we’ll just drag ourselves in by stating that this is not what we had in mind when we asked for affordable childcare.

Sheesh. As I contemplate parents willing to let go of their young children for 40 days just for their shot at the "big time" and maybe a little bit of money, suddenly pageant moms seem almost tame by comparison. Now that is scary.

Contributing Editor Mir also blogs about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and Cornered Office, as well as sharing the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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