Space Ramblings

Lord of the Flies as Reality TV

Who knew that trying to restage Lord of the Flies as a Reality TV show would produce so much controversy for CBS? Well you know the CBS executives might have thought about it.

Certainly billing Kid Nation as a kind of reality TV Lord of the Flies with kids in a ghost town devoid of adults and footage of a kid crying on TV unsurprisingly resonated badly. As thrilled as people are to mock aspiring teenage and twenty something contestants on American Idol or watch constants on Survivor eating rats, there’s a certain line that gets crossed when it comes to kids. It’s one thing to videotape them falling down on America’s Funniest Home Videos and laugh but this sort of thing seemed to cross a line.

Most oddly Kid Nation wasn’t the work of FOX but of CBS, a network with an older viewership with usually tamer programming. And Kid Nation may yet be emerging as the wildest and most controversial entry of a CBS season that includes vampires and gangster musicals.

Now CBS is backing off the whole “No Adults” bit and telling us what everyone already knows, which is that everything is managed and controlled behind the camera, as on Kid Nation as on every other reality TV show out there. It may just be a little too little too late though. CBS courted controversy and now they’ve got it. The whole issue of using kids opens the door to child labor law issues CBS never seems to have thought about.

Chris Ender, a spokesman for CBS, said on Friday that the “no adults” line promoting “Kid Nation” referred “to what viewers will see on camera” and not to the idea that no adults were present. He also repeated a previous CBS statement that the program was “a voluntary television experience” for the children that was “filmed responsibly and within all applicable laws in the state of New Mexico.”

Uh huh. Voluntary television experience. Is that like a shoe factory is a voluntary shoemaking experience? I mean all work is voluntary since you choose to take it. And it’s an experience. So what does euphemism really mean? Did the kids get paid?

While CBS asserted that the children were not employed, the New Mexico law also states that the frequent presence during school hours of a child under 16 “at a place where workers are at work more or less habitually shall be prima facie evidence” that the child is “unlawfully engaged in labor.”

That on the other hand is a wacky position since if a kid hangs around a construction site, is that evidence he’s engaged in labor? Only evidence he’s engaged in labor can be considered evidence he’s engaged in labor.

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