They grow up so fast, don’t they?
As quick as they came, before we even learned all of their names (thanks, CBS!), the pioneers of Kid Nation were gone. But not, blessed be the Lord, before giving us one of the most emotional and controversial episodes yet — beginning with the total destruction of society as we came to know it.
It all started with Mike’s daybreak ramble, when he (totally unsuspiciously alone at such an hour) noticed that the job board was all sparkly and aflame. The cry went out, the Nation builders came, and they watched in awe like the little budding pyromaniacs they all have the potential to be, if they work hard enough. But this was no act of God, this burning of the Arbiter of Social Order. It was arson. Can’t say I was sorry that the producer-imposed caste system (and that infernal journal) got torched. But did the kids’ minds have to go too?
Quick — what’s the template for the chain of events when society collapses?
1. There’s a run on the banks. Or, in kid currency, the candy store.
2. Looting breaks out. It might’ve been a trick of the mind, but I’m almost certain I saw somebody carting off TVs. (Wow, they are making them lighter and flatter!)
3. Moral institutions (read: DK and Zach) call for order.
4. Regret sets in, and society elects to re-establish itself, only better and more equitable than (i.e., exactly the same as) before.
So it was with Bonanza City. But before anybody had time to really reflect on how far they’d regressed, there was money to be given away. (Lesson: Anarchy pays?) At least this was for a good cause, because our budding statesman Zach finally got his first campaign contribution. Whee! Karma kinda works! Kinda. Because while we were still savoring that warm fuzzy, wrongness happened.
Sometimes we forget that the most feral species in the animalkingdom is the adolescent girl — and they roam in packs. Last night’sprey was Emily, who’d foolishly strayed too close to theyellow-district Heathers, wanting to (silly Rabbit!) hang out withthem. It was Kelsey who pounced: “You know you’re awesome, right Em?Because you are totally awesome. And so pretty! I wanna, like,grow up to be a stylist, just so I can give every woman in America yourhair color. No, f’real. It’s like spun effing gold. And did I tell youhow spesh you are? I lovelovelove you to bits and bits. You’re likewalking, talking cotton candy. But just for right now — and theforeseeable future — I don’t wanna be within three feet of you.” Atleast that’s the way I remember it. Then there was the back-and-forthof Emily giving as good as she got, then stripping herself of dignityby still wanting to befriend them. It was all so very ugly and shove-y,until Migle stopped it by sorta letting the Heathers win. Yes, Emily,that’s high school. Every day. For four years. Enjoy.
Again, before we had time to, say, reflect on anything incidental like feelings, there was a party to throw. Picnic tables were assembled, garbage was dumped, and “food” was prepared. Then came the parents.
We’ve been together awhile now, PopWatchers. You know I’m a cynicaltermagant with a soul, but no heart. Even I got misty when I saw thosemiddle-aged breeders risk coronaries trying to run to their babies.Then Zach’s dad told him the greatest thing in the history ofFatherdom: “I said this was going to be a test of your self-relianceand independence. I was wrong. It was a test of ourself-reliance and independence.” Awwwwww. If you didn’t weep at that,you’re inhuman (or you have some sort of tear-duct disorder, and Itotally apologize).
We snorted as the ‘rents discovered the third-world conditionsthey’d sent their children to live in. We giggled, realizing how shortthe distance was from the apples to the trees. We searched desperatelyfor Pageant Princess Taylor’s parents (and maybe caught a glimpse ofher mom? No? Damn.). We were ready to leave Bonanza City content.
Then they had to give more stupid money away. Look, we both knowthose last three gold stars — the fifty thou cash payouts — were a badidea. Yes, it was cool that the all-male Council rewarded three femalePioneers for their contributions. Yes, it’s nice that such a pile couldpay for a whole semester of private education. But the truthis, the last-minute rewards forced the Council to pick too hastily, andif we’re honest with ourselves, not every star was fully merited.
Plus, we viewers didn’t need it. Once again, Kid Nation tookthe sad position that the kids weren’t interesting enough bythemselves, without burning job boards, party-planning challenges, andcash prizes. For me, and I suspect for most of you, the joy waswatching Laurel and Sophia lead, Greg and Blaine mature, and Taylor do…whatever the hell she does. Just knowing that in this world, there’s aZach, an Anjay, an Alex, a Morgan, and a Michael — that’s enough togive me hope. Because like it or not, in the very near future, thequestion of whether these kids can build a better society will be more than theoretical. And there will be no cameras.
Thanks for hanging with me PopWatchers. See you next year!