Performativity…in Kid Nation

So I’m minding my own business, watching the debut of Kid Nation last night. Fun premise, I thought, stick 40 kids in a desert town and watch as they tear themselves apart, Lord of the Flies style. Or make a better world. Or whatever.

But boy was I turned off by the way they structure the show. First, they bus in 36 of the kids, and then helicopter in 4 of them, to act as town council. So rule #1 of the new future – embedded hierarchy. It’s kind of funny, I actually expected the kids would reproduce some sort of democracy/hierarchy, but what a problem if they ended up with either a radical democratic or fascist system – there’s a 14-year-old boy who was a candidate for the latter, to be sure.

Second, after forcing these kids to split into 4 arbitrary teams, so that they could compete against one another (go collectivism!), they set up the system of rewards and resource allocation. Let’s go to the tape:

The pioneers gather around the Chapel, where Jonathan rings the bell. Jonathan shows the Kids the Job Board, which will help provide a little order for Bonanza City. The Kids learn that they will be divided into four classes to run the town: Upper Class, Merchants, Cooks and Laborers. Each District will be responsible for chores related to their specific Class and will be paid accordingly in buffalo nickels.

  • The Laborers will clean the outhouse, pick up garbage and haul water for the entire town, for the pay of just two buffalo nickels.
  • The Cooks will be paid twenty-five cents each to cook for the town, do dishes and care for the town livestock.
  • The Merchants will be paid fifty cents each to run a grocery store, dry goods store and a saloon that sells soda for a nickel.
  • The Upper Class gets an entire dollar and can do whatever they choose.

Ok, seriously, what the hell!? This part just steams me – of the limitless ways that authority and resources could be allocated, two of the most important elements for this little experiment, adults impose an unelected council and an unequal class system.

One of two things are going to happen now. Either the kids are going to rise up and decide this is a stupid way to start running a town – or I’m going to lose interest. WTF, CBS.

UPDATE: What the heck, I google ‘inequality United States’ and of the three top hits, one is the Heritage Foundation, one is the US Census, and one is the Becker-Posner blog? Is this for reals?

Comments are disabled for this post