Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Kid Nation: Will It Ever Air?

Kid Nation has fascinated me from the start; will it be all Lord of the Flies? Or a kinder version of The Girl Who Owned a City, with everything perfect because kids are perfect? (I say that last bit with a "no I don't believe that kids are inherently perfect and wonderful" look on my face, having spent a week with my much loved, but extremely real, niece and nephew.)

I also wondered at the parents -- and the more I read about the contracts that adults signed on behalf of minors, the more I think that the parents should be investigated, as well as CBS.

Seriously, these parents waived any rights on behalf of their children not just for the standard injury, dismemberment, and hurt feelings but also for STDs and pregnancy (link to New York Times article.). I'm so not kidding. Plus, agreed to not have any contact with their children for the 40 days of filming. Anything to be on TV, right?

Newsweek speaks to the culture of "anything to be famous" . While I dislike kids being exploited (and feel that is the source of two thirds of Britney Spears' current problems), I disagree with their point that the responsibility for these children and these shows is not just with CBS / the entertainment issue and "not just the parents whose kids are on the show, but all parents who fuel an industry that has no respect for what it means to be a kid." (emphasis added). When I watch a show that uses children, whether movie or TV series, I watch with the assumption that the laws are being followed and the kids are not being mistreated.

Kids have been acting, since, well, forever. And some parents are responsible about it, and some not so much.

I watch reality TV; the good (The Amazing Race) and the I - can't - believe - I'm - admitting - it (Flavor of Love); the "we are adults so we are turning the genre around" (the Two Coreys.)

It's not unusual to have grown up participants of reality shows cry foul and "it's not me, it's how I'm edited" (along with other accusations of plotted stories, deceptive editing, spoon fed dialogue, and on set psychologists who feed information to producers at the expense of the participants). I tell myself: these people are grown ups. Their choice. They knew what they were getting themselves into; and sometimes, even turn the tables on the show.

These kids... not so much. Seriously, can a kid truly comprehend that they are about to live the rest of their life with the label "bully," with footage of them shown over and over forever? I have this image of a 10 year old kid, forever marked as "the crier" or "the whiner" because, hello, it's reality TV by a network who wants ratings.

They want conflict; and the conflict will come from the kids. And now this kid -- when they are old enough to realize what they were involved in -- has to live with the consequences. With no recourse. Because of the waiver. At least child actors who play unpopular people can say, "acting!" These kids? "It's how they really are!" Or, at least, as a network interested only in ratings defines "real."

As more and more information comes to light about the filming of this show (kids working for 40 days, on call 24/7, for, um, free) I wonder: will this spell the end of cheap reality shows?

It's one thing for adults to say, hey, I know what I'm getting into, it's not work, etc. To say, it's just cameras following me as I live my life (The Real World) or, like The Amazing Race or Survivor, I agreed to play a game and now it's being televised. Heck, there have been game shows just with kids before.

But this... this is something different.

Because, these kids aren't living their regular life; they have been put into a very scripted arena. It's similar to Frontier House, I guess; but still, it seems like there is a big difference between something involving parents and something where the kids are following what the production company says to do. For example, in Frontier House, one of the families basically let their kids off the hook in terms of working the homestead. The family didn't let the show dictate how they would parent or what their kids would, or would not, do.

Here, the parents were not involved. Instead, it was only kids, and kids whose parents said, bye bye for 40 days.

I wonder, what if the courts or powers that be rule that these children ARE working; how will that impact other reality shows?

And you know the worst part?

If this makes it to TV... I think I will watch.

I know.

I'll watch to see if my fears are founded... or unfounded. And I'll feel like taking a shower afterwards.



  • At 11:39 AM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    The entire concept of this show is so revolting to me that there is no way I will watch. What parent goes 40 days without having any contact with their child? I'll admit to feeling a certain sick fascination with the show, but should it air, I will resolutely not be watching.

  • At 6:25 PM, Blogger Christine said…

    I don't especially have a problem with this show, but I've always wondered about the kids on Nanny 911 and Supernanny.... I mean, some of those kids are quite old. The other kids at school are certainly going to see them on TV. Eight year old Johnny pitching a fit because he can't stay up past his bedtime, and then crying into Nanny's shoulder? Yeah, the other kids will have a field day with that.

  • At 10:49 PM, Blogger The Unattractive Houseguest said…

    I so love the Flavor of Love.... as a librarian and as a pop culture addict....

  • At 5:29 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Sophie, I bothered both by what the kids were put thru (more below) and what the kids will have to live with (the way what they were put thru is portrayed.)

    Christine, now I have to analyze why this bothers me more than Supernanny or Frontier House; maybe because the parents are also exposing themselves in those shows?

    Of course, I'm also bothered by the contract, and the parents being absent for so long.

    I'm also bothered by the setup; I've watched reality tv that creats have and havenots (Survival, Edwardian Manor House), and the haves always come across very poorly.


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