I understand that reality television is now entrenched in American culture, but I don’t watch it. Believe it or not I don’t even watch American Idol. I don’t have to. It’s become so mainstream all I have to do is watch the news or listen to conversations around me to know who was voted off or who did what. Why waste time watching?
Kid Nation is the latest reality show offering to be seen shortly on CBS. I believe with any media craze there are lines of decorum and what is proper. I believe the production of Kid Nation has crossed that line.
There are several instances surrounding this Lord of the Flies redoux that don’t seem to be following best practices.
*I find it disturbing that a group of program creators sat around in a room brainstorming new programing ideas and decided it would be a great idea to take a deserted ghost town in the Santa Fe desert and drop 40 kids there simply to see what would happen. Let me repeat that……to simply see what would happen.
* I find it sad that people employed by various networks cannot come up with any type of creative programming other than shows that often humiliate participants and help to feed voyeur tendencies. Hollywood unions have also begun to charge reality television is merely a greedy ploy by production companies and media outlets to avoid expenses for storylines and scripts. In a recent AP article union officials charge that reality shows do have writers that should be compensated according to union guidelines and that some of the contestants/performers/participants could be covered under collective bargaining agreements. If charges like this is what it will take to finally end garbage television (not that it was that great to begin with) I’m all for it.
*It disturbs me greatly that parents signed away their rights including decisions regarding medical attention for the sum of $5,000. A New York Times article reported parents had agreed to allow their children to “do whatever they were told to do by the show’s producers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or risk expulsion from the show.” Decisions regarding medical attention were left entirely up to CBS and producers. As a parent I find this fact appalling considering four children drank bleach. There had to be a cameraman around…..why didn’t someone stop them?
*I’m also disturbed that in order to film the episodes students had to miss several weeks of school including the month of April. That’s testing time in my neck of the woods, and in my district I believe those six weeks of absences would be unexcused. Oh, but wait. Silly Me! Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Parent----nevermind----- it’s ok because your child is going to be A STAR!
*Screen Actors Guild representatives became involved after complaints from parents, members, and former young performers who were “appalled at the way [the] kids [from the Kid Nation show] were treated.” After taking a look at the contract the Kid Nation parents signed the deputy national executive for SAG said, “it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such egregious provisions for any performer, let alone children.”
This article from September 5th discusses the contract parents signed a bit further. The lanuguage of the contract prevents parents from suing CBS even if their child died during the “inherently dangerous” shoot.
The article continues: The contract said that the show was “inherently dangerous” and could expose the minor children to “uncontrolled hazards and conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness or death.” In the first paragraph it reads, “By signing this Participant Agreement, I represent that I have read, understood and voluntarily agreed to abide by it’s terms and conditions and have explained to the Minor the contents and the meanings of this Participant Agreement to the Minor.”
Just in case Junior didn’t grasp the legal ramifications explained to him, the contract posted at TheSmokingGun.com. goes on to say, “I acknowledge that by signing this Participant Agreement, I will be giving up certain legal rights on behalf of myself and the Minor.” Parents also signed a clause that released liability in case of “emotional distress, illness, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, pregnancy and death.”
*A May article in Variety states: the goal for the children is to build a functional society. They have to pass laws, choose leaders, and build an economy. There are situations where children are given choices between things they need and things they want. The producer, Tom Forman, suggested real-world tasks such as preparing a group breakfast, doing hard physical chores like fetching water, and making group decisions constituted an educational experience in its own right. While many educators simulate economic situations in their classroom to teach the basics of economics, I wonder how many of my colleagues would still be teaching if we allowed even a modicum of the things we see presented in the show's trailer?
*There are no eliminations on the show and children can leave anytime they want, but a five pointed carrot is waved in front of participant’s faces. The ultimate gold star is given away in each episode…….it is worth $20,000. Even my very young students would understand how helpful that would be to family finances. Should this sort of pressure be placed on children twelve and younger? I don’t think so.
If mom and dad want to be reality tv stars and air their dirty laundry so be it, but it is a sad day in America when we allow children to be the focus of a “What if” experiment.
My policy of not watching reality television will continue.