Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Cruelty to Children
Television takes increasingly weird twists and as we get progressively further towards Rape An Ape becoming reality. This morning I sat transfixed in front of the CBBC Channel while Who Wants To Be A Superhero unfolded before my baffled eyes. This may be the moment where children's programming on the BBC -the channel that gave us Doctor Who, Dark Season, Trev and Simon and Blue Peter- finally nukes the fridge. The show takes the Project Runway/America's Next Top Model formula and applies it to kids who want to be super heroes. Thirteen oldish kids (the youngest is nine, the eldest just inside their teens) have designed themselves Super Hero personas and must compete in daily tasks -Set by Stan Lee himself, no-less- to see who has the most comic book potential, the winner getting an american Holiday and a Stan Lee designed comic with them as the star.
It's not the format that's odd though, because it's the same one used by countless poorly executed reality comps around the world, it's seeing it applied to children. At the end of todays show three of them were picked to be possibly "powered down" (eg sent home) and had to stand under spotlights while hapless Dick-and-Dom-Lite Pop Idol rejects Sam and Mark picked which of the blubbing pre-teens wearing ridiculous spandex outfits got sent packing from the kids paradise they'd been enjoying, into the waiting of arms of their jeering friends, who'll probably have already got the "I am a batty man, kick me" stickers ready to attach to the back of their coats for the rest of their lives. There is no way any 12 year old is going to live this down through secondary school.
Today's challenge saw the kids first have to argue over who gets the camp bed and who gets the plush bunks ("I have to have a bed because I get sore back when I sleep, and anyway I'm not moving." said 'Mega Mighty Man' sprawling over his bunk while his fellow hero in waiting -the one with a genuine disability no less- found himself sleeping on floor level due to being a bit slow) before heading out for a running race where they were cleverly tricked one at a time into having to help an old lady or finish the race quickly. Obviously because most children are selfish fuckers, they ignored the old dear and tried to win the race while we the viewer watch on in horror at the youth of today.
It's already obvious who the Beeb are favouring. One of the children is not only black and has glasses, but has sort of gnarled and mangled hands. Ethnic and disabled? That's reality TV gold! And he stopped to help the old lady.
The whole thing feels creepy and exploitative. Of course children are cunts, that's no reason to show us their darker side on a supposedly frothy feel good show. And I certainly don't enjoy seeing them being forced into a stressful vote-off finale in humiliating outfits.
At what point did Knightmare, Fun House and Run The Risk stop being acceptable formats for childrens game shows?
The world still has some goodness left though. I went to see the brilliant new production of A Little Night Music last night in the West End. It's a pearl, go and see it.