On ''Kid Nation,'' the producers almost set off a religious war by suggesting that the campers hold a non-denominational service; plus, the town council survives another insurrection

By Alynda Wheat
October 11, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Monty Brinton
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”Kid Nation”: Religious wars

Producer 1: ”Is this Bonanza City or Dullsville? Why aren’t these kids doing anything?”

Producer 2: ”Right? I had $20 on them tossing that bossy one off the town council by now. Or throwing a few punches, starting a jail?something. Maybe we should grease the wheels. Make them hold elections.”

Producer: 1: ”Nah. You don’t wanna go to that well too soon. Maybe we matchmake a few showmances. Y’know, tell Greg that Morgan’s crushing on him. Something like that.”

Producer 2: ”Nobody wants to see these kids swappin’ spit. No, I got a better idea: We haven’t had the Book bring up religion yet, right? We could totally throw Jesus into the mix, sic ’em on each other?”

Producer 1: ”?and boo-yah! TV gold! Dude, you’re a genius! You think they’ll go for the bait, though?”

Producer 2: ”I’m tellin’ ya. It’ll be easy like Sunday morning.”

Or at least that’s how I imagine we found ourselves — in an otherwise pointless episode — watching the pioneers splinter into Christian soldiers and the ”Jew Crew.” After last week’s jaw-dropping display of it’s-five-o’clock-somewhere, the kids decided to be kids — and be boring. No swirling fake brewskis and dragging each other into the streets this time. So what happened? The Book, that god-awful engine of meddling and manipulation, stepped in to create drama. Damn near everyone rose to the bait — but two rose to the occasion.

Turns out, some of the kids are so religiously intolerant they won’t deign to do others the favor of joining them in non-denominational worship. I won’t name names. They’re too young to fully comprehend the ugliness of their bigotry, and too old not to know at least a little better. But they know who they are. So while Jared recalled incidents of anti-Semitism too painful to recount, other kids decided that ”Christian is better.” Voices amped up, a middle finger popped up, and an otherwise seemingly innocuous idea like an all-for-one service went by the wayside.

Until, that is, two kids wouldn’t let it die. Wee, wise-beyond-his-years Alex tried to get people on the same page by at least taking an interest in their myriad faiths, while Morgan — bless that child — cut through the bull and organized an impromptu praise party. ”It was another great accomplishment for Bonanza,” she declared, magnanimously. No, Morgan. It was another great accomplishment for you. Gold star well deserved, I say.

NEXT: God or golf?

Still?admit it, TV watchers: You’d have picked the mini-golf course. I’d have picked the mini-golf course. Most kids who don’t have TV cameras on them and the sure knowledge that their parents are going to see them would’ve picked the friggin’ mini-golf course. No disrespect to spiritual people (I am one myself, so don’t holler), but choosing the blessed articles of faith was about as disingenuous as smiling over a hideous purse your aunt buys for your birthday, because you’re hoping there’s at least a check in the pocket. Then again, the little holy warriors did seem to have a newfound respect for other religions after that challenge (witness one of the Christian soldiers joining Anjay in his prayer), and they even took a genuine interest in those hard-won religious texts — for about 30 seconds.

But now, it is my crushing, dispirited duty to remind you of what didn’t happen: another week, another golden (missed) opportunity for a much-needed coup de tyke. And it was so close! Zach had Pageant Princess Taylor on the ropes. He calmly and clearly articulated her failings as a leader, only for her to threaten him with menial labor for daring to open his yap. (Down, peasant!) But does Il Duce lose her seat? No! Not even with wassisname goading the kids toward insurrection. Taylor yet lives!

But look at the previews for next week: elections. Not that the kids asked for them — clearly they’re on a long, slooooow build toward protest marches and viva la revolución! — no, this is the bright idea of Producer 1 and Producer 2. And look at that:

Once again we’re back to the same question: What do you let the kids figure out on their own, and what do you force them to confront?

It comes to this: Should the adults behind KN force the participants of KN to confront things like religion and politics, even if their messages (fascism is bad, accepting other religions is good) are ultimately harmless? Because the problem is, if you don’t let the kids think for themselves — if you have a hand in, let’s say, guiding their decisions — then it looks like you have an agenda. And ultimately, you can’t actually answer the question: Can the kids build a better society? You’ve already socially engineered it for them.

And yeah, I say this as a fan. What say you?

  • TV Show
  • 09/19/07
  • In Season
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