Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kid Nation = Summercamp

Whoever the critics were who thought Kid Nation was some sort of brutal attack on kids by CBS... Well, a big part of me now believes those stories being circulated were a weird campaign to drum up interest in a show that had to be in the can before they could even market it...

The conceit of Kid Nation is that its some sort of Lord of the Flies scenario with kids living like savages in a ghost town. Only, not so much. When one ponders the camera, sound, PA's, producers and directors who had to have been omnipresent on the set, these kids were probably under the greatest supervision of their young lives. This isn't to mention the extra bodies and kid wranglers who were mostly likely around at the bidding of the insurance companies and lawyers (I mean, "Kid Dead on CBS Game Show" doesn't look real good as a headline).

Because the show is also given an artificial structure of kids being assigned different roles, earning money, and being surprisingly organized instead of just screwing around and throwing rocks at snakes or something, you don't get the feeling that the kids are necessarily out of their element. In a way, I found this hugely disappointing, but it also explained how CBS ever got the show approved.

The kids play a bit to the camera, but only in the sort of awkward way that any kid tries to act grown up when they're interviewed on the news, etc... and some events seemed edited for dramatic effect.

Will we ever see a show where kids are actually dumped in the desert and fend for themselves? No. Because kids are kind of dumb and they'd all be dead in a week. I mean, the kids are given a choice between TV and porta-potties, and its an honest debate among them, and you cheer for the kids when they choose not to walk around in their own filth. Good choice kids!

Wait... why was that a question? Who was the miserable troll who thought TV was more important than sanitary disposal of his poop?

What one cannot do when watching the show is nod in self-assured certainty that YOU would have made a better choice or performed better, because, honestly, when we were 10, we were all kind of stupid and incompetent. So, really, these kids (coached by adults or not) come off like geniuses in comparison when I think how I probably would have fallen down a mine shaft or something in the first two days.

Because its kids, nobody is kicked off the island. Instead, kids can volunteer to throw in the towel. Amazingly, only one kid walks: An 8 year old who declares he's leaving on day one, and does just that.

The reaction of the other kids is crazy support group positive for Quitty McQuitterson. Nobody tells him he washed out. Nobody grumbles. Instead, they all applaud the kid and then go about their business. Which seriously makes me wonder what these kids were coached to do before the cameras began rolling.

Now... how does one incentivize kids to work and do chores?

Its revealed that a council of 4 will annoint one kid per "Town Meeting" with a Gold Star worth $20K and a phone call to their folks. A surprisingly mature 14 year old girl (the line where one is still a kid is a bit odd on the show, mixing 8 year olds with kids up to 15), who brought up issues like "we need to wash the dishes" is given the gold star.

Anyhoo... now with gold stars in their eyes, the rest of the kids will be less likely to throw in the towel. Especially if they are in the designated "labor" class, which is an unrewarding class to be in, indeed.

Yes, they broke up the kids into "Labor", "Kitchen", "Merchant" (the town has stores that sell stuff like root beer), and "Upper Class" (ie: you can hang about like a bump).

I suspect that each week they will give kids a Survivorish type challenge to determine who is in what class.

Anyhow, its NOT the Lord of the Flies show I've been waiting for since Survivor first appeared. It's also sort of twee and syrupy. I'm also curious how/ why two kids reportedly drank bleach while on the show as reported online a few weeks back, but the show is far more conatined than I'd expected.

Seriously. Peabo and I did a week at "Ranch Camp" in middle school. These little ingrates have it pretty good.


There was a column in Time about Kid Nation which is a quick read.

I guess I'm a bit stunned to hear people addressing kids having to cook for themselves and act somewhat responsible for themselves as "abuse". It's inaccurate, and generally diminishes the actual meaning of child abuse (asking a kid to use a porta-potty is not the same as hitting them). Even on their worst day of having to make corn bread from mix, these kids have it far, far better than kids in most of the rest of the world. Not only are the conditions better, but these kids are given an option to leave.

Exploiting kids is nothing new to TV. Hell, shows as far back as "Dennis the Menace" knew how to ruin some kid's life (poor Jay North).

But I guess I'm suprised that rather than seeing actual challenges placed before kids that don't involve extra-curricular activities and teach basic responsibility and survival skills (like how to cook pasta) some critics, this columnist included, seemed to recoil in some horror. I don't want to pass judgment on the "helicopter" parents that the columnist describes and admits to being, as I have no children.

But, man... take some pride in your kid's ability to fend for themselves and live in a world without your arbitration of every challenge. Sheesh.


Anonymous said...

Have you seen that Japanese movie Battle Royale? It's a movie about a bunch of kids dumped on a desert island and fight for survival.

J.S. said...

I saw the book of Battle Royal and cosidered buying it. Didn't know it was a movie. By the way, can Quitty McQuitterson be my stage name for The Surrender Monkeys?

Anonymous said...

I think Steanso and The League would make excellent participants in a real life version of Battle Royale.

The League said...

I'm familiar with the manga of Battle Royale. This features significantly more hugs than Battle Royale.

And, yes, Steanso. I think Quitty McQuiiterson is an excellent stage name.

Michael Corley said...

I recall doing similar activites at 10.

We generally called it "Cub Scouts".

Later, it was revised to be known as "Boy Scouts".

The League said...

Having had quit scouting prior to any camping adventures, I had not made that connection. But, yes, these are as good or better conditions than I generally hear about most boy scouts putting up with, if only for a longer duration.

If you catch the show, I'd be curious to hear your opinion.