Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Children of the Corn Nation -- Eve

Let me preface by saying that in my previous life I was a child welfare social worker and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (Guardian Ad Litem for children), so I tend to get quite soap-boxy when discussing protecting the world’s children. So, if boxes of soap bug you, I urge you, please, cease reading right now!

I’ll admit it. I caved into the hype and watched Kid Nation. You know, the new Survivor-esque reality show, that’s a lot like the other reality shows in that contestants are deprived of food, sleep, contact with loved ones, and made to endure harsh conditions, strangely difficult reward challenges, and verbal abuse from other contestants. Oh, right, except that this particular show features **gulp** 40 unsupervised children.

Okay, okay, I know it’s already been slammed in the media because parents are suing after their children were malnourished, burned, and lord knows what else. Um, yeah. What part of “unsupervised children” did you not understand when you signed the waiver, people? Does anybody, anybody, think we’ve taken this reality thing too far? Aside from the fact that they’re plopped into a freezing ghost town with nothing but a few cans of peaches and a couple chickens, and forced to feed, clothe and govern themselves, it’s harmless, right? Why is it that if I leave my kids home alone or in a hotel room, I’m blasted as a bad parent, or even arrested for endangering children, but if I leave them alone to fend for themselves in a dusty old town, with cute little bandanas and cowboy hats on, all in the name of entertainment, it’s fine?

Yes, the Lord of the Flies feel of the show is intriguing (in a sick and twisted kind of way). I mean, I watched it. Mortified, yes. But I still added to the ratings. My main concern isn’t necessarily that the kids will be harmed in the making of the show. After all, they’ve got that creepy little host guy with the Kermit the Frog voice who pops out from behind old water pumps and whisky barrels every day or so. I’m sure his main concern is their safety. No, it’s the PTSD and countless hours of psychotherapy they’ll have to endure when they get home and can’t get the chopping up live chickens flashbacks out of their damaged little heads.

Now, I’m all about teaching children to be independent and self-sufficient. But there are limits to what we should put them through, no? We don’t live in the 1800’s. We live in the world of Starbucks on every street corner and 24-hour supermarkets. 8-year-olds should not have to choose between cutting off heads of cute animals or starving.

The most impressive part of KN, though, is how sweet and rational most of the kids are. There are a few, though, who warrant concern. When the 14-year-old bad boy fails to receive the gold star (a real gold star worth $20K) awarded to the most awesome-ist kid of the day, he seems to go a little ape-sh#%, glaring into the camera with Malachai-like evilness, threatening to “do something” about being overlooked.

My advice to the producers of Kid Nation: Save this stuff for fiction. Go write an edgy YA book. Or a slasher flick. Don’t put real kids through unnecessary trauma. Unless you want them to start crawling out of the cornfields with machetes. Does “He Who Walks Behind The Rows” mean nothing to you fools? Save the children!

- Eve


Former Nielsen viewer said...

You didn't add to the ratings unless you actually have a Nielsen meter. Don't worry about it.

Katie said...

Okay Eve - I am laughing because when this show first came out, my mother - of all people, told me to watch it! (She LOVES survivor) Anyway, I never had the time I guess.... but now I think I may have to tune into it for a few minutes (but only a few!) to see the crazyness!!! And the "kermit" man......ha!

So, I promise not to watch it for more than a few- and I don't have a Nielson meter, but you have peaked my curiousity. However, I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU! We live in crazy times.

Katie said...

UPDATE: I called mom and told her to read your post and that she might want to reconsider the show. And she said, "well....I did get a little worried about it last night when the kids stayed up 'til 4 a.m. in the saloon getting literally sugary drunk and weird doing rootbeer shots!"

This show gets freakier and freakier....I can't wait to see it!!

gail said...

I'm with you. Save the children! How DID this ever get on the air. I refuse to watch it. I even find the commercials disturbing. I know it's been compared to "Lord of the Flies".
But there is a difference. One is fiction the other is reality. (Or maybe it isn't reality and they've conned us all.)

Disco Mermaids said...

Yeah, Gail, that's the point that my mom brought can't be "reality" because that would be, well, illegal. She said the kids are probably hooked up with their parents in some swanky hotel rooms, lounging in the pool until "action" time where they head to the set and shoot the scenes.

Katie, I also love Survivor. And now, sick as it is, I'm hooked on KN! I'm a total freak. Mainly I'm watching to see if anything they're pulling is truly illegal. They say they're completely unsupervised, but the camera crew is always around, and the Kermit-man (He doesn't look like KTF, he just has that cheesy-Kermit-y pageant show host voice...can't describe it, you just have to hear it.) is always around as well. So, maybe it's not reality after all.

Still, it's weird.

Didn't James Frey get persecuted for calling his fiction "reality"?? Hmm...

(P.S. Um, yeah. The 4am rootbeer shot contest...who lets their kids do that?? Oiy Vey!)

Jen said...

What Gail and Eve said.

I don't have TV, but I caught a bit of this on a recent trip to town and I thought it looked like summer camp until some kid won $20K. Talk about pressure. Holy kangaroos!

Linda D. (sbk) said...

Um ... it's my son's favourite show (he's 11) and he wants to be on it if they ever do it again.

So far, I haven't seen anything shocking enough for me to dislike the show. The kids didn't have to watch the chicken murders and they don't have to stay.

Do I think 8 is a bit young? yeah, I do, but wow, most of those kids just keep impressing me.

Anonymous said...

Why try out for a "reality" tv show to win money when you can send your kid to do it instead? And, Eve, why shouldn't the kids know exactly where their chicken mcnuggets come from? Aside from the unreality/irony of having camera crews around all the time, plus Kermit-guy, maybe this show will help people realize that kids don't need to be over-programmed and over-stimulated with staged activities and computer games, etc. You know, back to simpler times and all. I'm just sayin'. Lamy

Disco Mermaids said...

You make good points, Jen, Linda, and Lamy. Except for the McNugget comment. That's just wrong! (I can say that to her, she's my sister.)

Okay, I watched again this week, and although there is nothing completely "shocking" going on, I guess it's the whole Corn-Children/LOTF feel that creeps me out. (Remember, I'm a teacher, I know how scary unattended children can be.)

Now, that said, I'm pretty impressed with the degree of maturity, resourcefulness, and compassion some of the kids show. Also, it is cool that, in general, when you leave kids alone (without TV, video games, DVD's, etc) they find plenty to do.

One last thing...I'm all about giving kids as much responsibility and age-appropriate independence as they can handle. They tend to be able to solve their own problems and work things out with others on their own without parents/teachers hovering.

However, I guess it was Jimmy (from Episode 1) who said it best, while sobbing uncontrollably with his dirty, snotty nose running..."I'm 8-years-old, only in 3rd grade. I don't think I'm supposed to be doing this stuff!"

Last week on VH1's "Best Week Ever" (BEST show ever, BTW) some comedian said, "Nothing warms my heart more than a broken spirit!"


Liz B said...

I'm a bit embarrased to say I've watched all 3 episodes.

Did these parents never watch the 7 up series? And see how it impacted the participants? And that's some documentary few people watch. I seriously wonder at the impact on these kids' lives, particularly those who are portrayed in such a negative manner.

Plus, the structure imposed by adults negates any "kid" nation element of the show.

Yet, still I watch.