Space Ramblings

with Kid Nation, Reality Exploitation Hits Bottom

Everyone knows lawyers and Reality TV executives are evil but the contracts released on Smoking Gun that parents of Kid Nation contestants had to sign make the Twilight Zone movie production seem like a model of ethics and good judgment. You have to struggle to figure out who here is worse, the network that actually had these contracts, the soulless lawyers that drew them up or the parents who signed over their kids to this for 5 grand. The Chicago Tribune says it much better than I could.

Though CBS denies any wrongdoing and has said that the making of the show did not violate any laws, some “Kid Nation” participants — all of whom were between the ages of 8 and 15 — were injured during the course of the filming, according to news reports. A few young participants accidentally drank bleach, one kid sprained an arm and one child sustained a burn from hot grease.

The kicker? The parents of these kids had to sign a contract saying they would not sue over anything that might happen to their kids — up to and including death.

According to the document posted on, the parents were told, via the contract they signed, that the show was “inherently dangerous” and could expose their children to “uncontrolled hazards and conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness or death.” The parents had to relinquish all legal claims on CBS if anything did happen to their children. Oh, and unless the families stick to the terms of a confidentiality agreement that the network is still enforcing, they could be liable for a $5 million penalty.

All for a $5,000 “stipend,” which is what most kids got for participating in the show. (Some kids got an additional $20,000 if they won competitions within the show.) By my calculation, many of the kids who participated in the show — if they did work 14-hour days for 40 days — got less than $9 an hour.

Drinking bleach is potentially fatal and using child labor that endangers children was supposed to go out with the days of sweatshops and FDR. Instead CBS has managed to revive them. Using 8 year olds in dangerous situations for public entertainment is a degree of evil that combined with these contracts makes you wonder if Wolfram and Hart didn’t put these together on the weekend.

Before I wrote that this may well be Reality TV’s Torture Porn moment, except instead of Torture Porn it’s Reality Exploitation.

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