Film and TV

Kid Nation Has Got to be Kidding Me

Kid Nation, the new CBS reality series, premiered last week. And if you somehow missed all the hubbub over the summer about whether or not this series was appropriate or not, then let the matter be settled with a quote from the end of the first episode.

“I’m only eight. I’m a third-grader. I think I’m too young to be doing this.”

Couldn’t have said it better, Jimmy. (That’s not supposed to be read in a Peter Graves/Captain Oveur, Airplane! voice, by the way.) Jimmy was too young, as he maintained steadfast in the face of peer and host pressure. And he voluntarily left the show in the first episode, thereby proving himself to be the wisest of all forty kids there (plus the producers, handlers, and host). He was 8 freaking years old. What were you doing at 8? The only society I was building at 8 had to do with Star Wars action figures and the sandbox in my backyard—and even that ended because it was snack-time. And I’m sorry, but who are these parents who think that this is a good idea?

To be fair, not all the kids on the show are 8 years old. Most seem to average around 11-12, with some older kids (15 seems to be the oldest) thrown in. Which is another problem, as another scene from the first episode proved; it featured a bullying older boy getting into a confrontation with his 11-year-old leader Mike. Like no one would have seen that coming. Hey, you, surly fifteen-year-old punk with the headsock and the attitude? How about you agree to get bossed around by this 11-year-old boy scout for a month and a half on national television? Awesome. We trust you to work together to build a new society, and not just run around fucking with people because it’s fun. That’s the deal, all right? (Wink, wink.) Cool.

And with boys and girls—especially fourteen- and fifteen-year-old boys and girls—mixed in together, are we not expecting some irresponsible romances to pop up? Or if that’s all part of the show, is that not unethical? What about sexual experimentation? The supervision on-set wasn’t good enough to stop a few of these kids from drinking bleach while they were there—so what’s to keep some of the older kids from messing around? I understand that things happen—summer camp is, after all, nothing but a hormonal petrie dish with some marshmallows and boating tossed in—but still. This is TV. Is there even a question that this is exploitation? That this carries with it all sorts of stupid risks, especially with the age ranges of kids in this show?

There is a reason why middle school and high school are most commonly not housed in the same building. Adolescent boys are that reason.

People were aghast at this idea when it was first announced because of their Lord of the Flies fears. And that’s obviously not going to happen. No one’s getting their skull beat on with a rock (at least not until sweeps week). But just wait until one of the fourteen year old girls ends up pregnant. That will end this experiment in social design right quick.

But then again, it’ll have great crossover potential with Jerry Springer. -- Teague Bohlen

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Sean Cronin