When the new shows this year premiered one golden nugget stuck out at me. Kid Nation. In case you haven’t seen or heard of the show, its premise is that 40 children between the ages of 8-15 are forced to start a civilization by themselves without any influence from adults. I thought that this show was brilliant, call me crazy but I like the idea of seeing kids cry, it makes me feel good about my own situation. Honestly though I thought that the show would address some of the seminal work of political philosophy that I studied in my undergrad. I was expecting the show to be an illustration of the “vail of ignorance” that Rawl’s wrote about in his theory of Justice. I realize that this is a lot to be asking network television and I suppose that I knew the show wouldn’t live up to this, butI guess worst case I expected the show to be like Lord of The Flies where a few bullies chased after Piggy and broke his spectacles, but it really isn’t even that. The show is more like Survivor, and the influences of the producers are all over every episode. About halfway through the first episode the producers segregate the children into 4 teams and the teams are forced to do battle in non-sensible competition. These segregations are unnatural and while civilization was perhaps unproductive and boring before the teams were made at least the kids get along and the social experiment was natural. After the kids are divided anger starts and the kids seem to associate more as members of their team then as members of the communities.
The teams that win the team oriented competitions are given more money to spend on candies and soda in the town store, and if all the teams finish the competition in a given amount of time they win the choice between two prizes, one which is instantly gratifying (like a Pizza party) and one which will help the town survive longterm (such as outhouses). The problem with this is that the producers are again influencing the development of the society by adding money and class to a society that seemed it would have been fine without. This commerce definately changed the development of the society.
Finally, the best kid each week is given a gold star worth $20,000. This incentive is perhaps the worst part about the show. It stops kids from doing things for the sake of the community and it has them doing things for the sake of the prize, most of the children see “playing a role” on the show as an investment in their own future and so the show has become just a competition rather than the social experiment the audience was promised.
I’m pretty sure that Lord of the Flies didn’t have Pizza Parties and miniature golf it had bullying and monsters. I now realize that was expecting too much and I should learn to stop hoping that television will provide anything more than entertainment. At least I can still enjoy the kids crying when things don’t work out for them.