Posted by: brian | September 8, 2007

Darwin Award, Emmy, or both?

While we’re on the subject of ” ‘reality’ ‘programming’ “…..

Every once in a while I hear about a new reality program and think, “Surely, this is the bottom of the barrel.” I am always wrong. I would be this time too, I assume, so I’m not going to say it.

Ben told me about this new show on CBS called Kid Nation. (Apparently it’s been all over the news lately, but I’ve completely missed out on it.)

The premise is simple: 40 kids, aged 8-15, are left to fend for themselves in a “New Mexico ghost town” for a month and a half. You know, so they can “creat[e] and [sustain] a (sic) ‘idealized’ society free from interference by meddling adults. Show creator Tom Forman said the goal is for ‘kids to succeed where adults have failed.'” (I’m curious what Mr. Forman means by “success” and “failure,” but I would be shocked if those terms were ever defined in even the vaguest sense.)

Are these people even remotely capable of anything resembling a thought? The ‘noble savage’ is not a new idea, but these children are hardly ‘pure’ – the real experiment would be to take them from their parents as infants – before they absorb any cultural programming – drop them in the Amazon with a box of Pampers and a paring knife, and see what happens.

Somehow, this experiment “went wrong” – several kids (allegedly) “accidentally” drank bleach (though not enough to kill them – I’ll take “Carefully Placed Household Cleaners and Camera Crews” for $10 million, Alex), a girl was badly burned (allegedly), — gosh, who could have foreseen such a thing!?

The waiver that parents had to sign is available for your perusal. I suppose one could make all manner of assumptions about the type of parent who would sign such a thing. Who leaves their kid in the care of a corporation, and agrees to “[waive] the network’s liability for emotional distress, HIV, pregnancy and death, among others” – all in exchange for $5,000 (the up-front compensation for participants)? Should such a person be considered responsible? With parents like that, who needs pedophiles? If these are the value systems those parents intend to pass on to their children, maybe the kids would be better off as part of an innovative solution to a potato famine.

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