20 September 2007

Bug Juice

Did you see this show the other night? Kid Nation? Like a supervised Lord of the Flies but hopefully, hopefully, with less disastrous results? Forty children aged 8 to 15 are picked to live in a New Mexico ghost town for forty days. During that time they'll have jobs, they'll have town councils, they'll have fun, and they'll show the world how smart kids are and I guess, how dumb adults are. Or that's what I took from the concept anyway.

During the first town meeting, the kids are asked if they'd like to go home. Nobody takes the host up on his offer until shyly, meekly, one little boy raises his hand and despite protests from the group, makes up his mind to return to mommy and daddy. His reason? "I'm really homesick. I'm not mature enough for this." He was eight. And obviously mature beyond his years.

This show is wrong on so many levels. What kinds of parents let their kids go on national TV to mingle with a bunch of other children? Don't they know that these kids are about to be exploited -- or placed in danger? This is hardly a benign summer camp or a quick sleepover at a trusted neighbor's house. Who knows what will happen behind-the-scenes?

Critics have rounded on parents for signing waivers that stated the program "may expose the minor to conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness, or death, including drowning, falls from heights, encounters with wild or domestic animals, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy."
The worst thing about the show is that every three days, the council gets to pick a team member to reward with a gold star, and along with it, twenty thousand dollars. Pretty soon this thing's about to get cut-throat and nasty. Just like the producers want it. There's no way something dramatic won't happen and these children will suffer irreparable psychological and emotional damage. I'm already setting my Tivo for "Kid Nation: A Decade Later" on VH1.

Currently I'm ready to devote my television time to Beauty and the Geek 4. While the beauties only get dumber and boring-er each season, the geeks are as real as reality television gets. You can't fake being that weird. And the twist is enough to entice me; although I'd hoped for an entire switcheroo with all beautiful guys and geeky girls. Maybe next year.