Friday, September 7, 2007

Wall Street Journal Column on Kid Nation

The Wall Street Journal has a column on Kid Nation:
Let's start with the parents who dragged their little darlings into audition rooms in the first place and signed the yard-long contracts on their behalf. These "guardians" are now complaining about everything from too little oversight (resulting in at least one child drinking bleach) to too much oversight (some of the youngsters were reportedly fed scripted lines). Don't be surprised, though, if they hire a lawyer and start shaking down the network for some postcontractual compensation.

The whole controversy has been manna to one group, however--the Screen Actors Guild, which has been looking for an opportunity to clamp down on reality shows, in which nonunion amateurs are said to be stealing from the mouths of Hollywood's professional starving waiters. It's true that the $5,000 stipend paid to each child, which works out to less than $9 an hour, isn't exactly Dakota Fanning cash. But it's more than most 16-year-olds make from their summer jobs.

Reality TV has long been the nemesis of the unions, whose power depended on an entertainment oligopoly that itself is rapidly being blown up by the Internet, YouTube and the like. But if they want to know why shows like "Kid Nation" that at least attempt a family-friendly premise are catching on, here's a clue: A study from the Parents Television Council reported this week that sexual and violent content has climbed to record levels during traditional family programming time, but the most wholesome fare was the reality shows.

Nonetheless, the response to "Kid Nation" is unsurprising in a culture that increasingly tries to protect kids (and not just kids) from everything, including secondhand smoke and sugary bottled juices. The one thing you can't protect kids from is themselves. As the saying goes, kids are people too--with all the mischief included. If that ends up being the lesson of "Kid Nation," it might actually be a useful one.

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