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Gwen's Spot

16 July 2005

ABC's Brat Camp: In Which Gwen Takes On A Major Corporation, And Loses

ABC has a new reality TV show called Brat Camp. This show, which is apparently "entertainment" subjects teenagers, some with learning disabilities or developmental disorders, to Turn-Around Ranch, a ranch where the teenagers are not permitted to have free time, must wear their hair in a pony tail if female, must keep their beards or mustaches non-existent if male, follow other ridiculously unnecessary rules, do forced, unpaid labor against their will, and follow their strangely level-up, cult-like program, completely against their will, supposedly for the purpose of "counseling" and getting them back on track in life.
One teenager has dyslexia. One teenager has Attention Deficit Disorder. All of them could benefit from true, confidential counseling and therapy. Instead, their parents have decided to send them to be enslaved (yes, that's what I call forced, unpaid labor without due process of law, viz. Thirteenth Amendment), have their rights to freedom of expression curtailed, and denied any free time (which, I note, could not be good for anyone's mental health, let alone of those whose mental health is supposedly so precarious to begin with). Commercials for this program depict teenagers battling their way uphill with snow-laden wind whipping them in the face and a girl who has, predictably, broken into tears at her treatment.
The idea that any place which considers its patients "brats" and vilifies them constantly could be in any way considered helpful to mental well-being is quite frankly ridiculous. The idea that forcing these teenagers to suffer in this way before millions of people against their will could help them in their future life- can you imagine trying to get a job when you have been humiliated in front of possible future employers like this?- is delusional. The idea that ABC could consider this popular entertainment, or that anyone could watch this show in good conscience, is unbelievably disgusting. At least SOME of the gladiators in the Colisseum chose to have their suffering entertain their fellow countrymen. The idea that these parents could subject their children to such a place, and condone promotion of the forced behavior modification industry (in which dozens of children have died of abuse or neglect) is abhorrent.
Walt Disney, I'm sure, would have been wonderfully pleased to hear that his company, which owns ABC, would allow this kind of disgusting show to air. I cannot believe that Disney, who supposedly has a mission of making children happy, not tortured, would stoop so low as to create this program simply to line its pockets, especially when ABC has very high-rating-ed shows such as Desperate Housewives to line its pockets in a much more ethical manner.
If you think that this show is great, comment. If you think that it is horrible, comment, then write a letter to ABC letting them know your opinion. I know I will.

3 Meepage:

Anonymous Kathy Smith meeped...

So now that we actually sat down and watched this show together, what are your thoughts?
I think the overall concept is actually a good one and see where they will be helping to instill a sense of self-respect and pride in these kids.
I know that a lot of these "camps" are very abusive and negative, so am hoping that these kids have a very positive experience in this one by the time it's over. I already saw, in just one episode, the strides these kids were taking due to their accomplishments that they otherwise wouldn't have even attempted.
I do agree that the name is really awful and that it could have been a lot more tactful.
I'm eager to read your views.

29 July, 2005  
Blogger Gwen meeped...

I do think that some of the activities that the kids were doing were helpful, especially since they weren't made to do them if they didn't want to. On the other hand, calling it "Brat Camp," bringing them there blindfolded and told that it would only be week-long when it wouldn't be, and labelling them things like "compulsive liar," "angry punk" (!), "tried to stab twin" when they are trying to move past these things is horrible. Also, videotaping the counselling sessions is a violation of patient-counsellor confidentiality, making it harder for the kids.

29 July, 2005  
Blogger Moejoe meeped...

Broadcasting these kids turmoil -- and minimizing their serious issues by calling it Brat Camp -- is the real abuse in my mind. The concept of wilderness is good. I understand that the families expenses to Sagewalk were paid by the production company to entice their participation. Yuck.

But, the science of dealing with many of these problems is pretty clear (ADHD kid aside) -- in order to change behavior, a person has to be "contemplative;" i.e., willing to consider that his behavior is destructive and he needs to change his life. Talking therapy, meds, outpatient, groups, cognitive work, etc., all fail if the kid is not ready to start the work. So, these programs are chancy depending on the kid and time in his life. But, alternatives like juvenile institutions, Scared Straight, inpatient mental health facilities, outpatient drug therapy for kids who are still using, etc., are ALL worse and typically cause more problems.

All due respect, an appropriately licensed and certified program which monitors appropriately and ensures their safety will many of them ready for the harder next step -- long term therapy.

03 August, 2005  

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