Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An ominous plague has been incubating in America's moist spots over the past ten years. It's not contagious and it probably won't kill you, but it will add a certain obnoxious je ne sais quoi to your daily routine. What is this plague? Why it's the boogerspawn of all the laissez faire parents of the 1990s! These parents eschewed the standard guidelines of reinforcement and punishment, out of fear of being labelled an abusive parent, choosing instead to maximize their childrens' empowerment, creativity and joie de vivre. The end result is an enfant terrible who expects to get what they want, with little understanding of how their actions affect the world around them, incapable of realizing that they aren't necessarily the center of the universe (see also, sorority girl).

I looked up "crying brat" on Google Images to illustrate this update, but this was the best they had. The image can be deceiving because it could be mistaken for a harmless youngster telling a knock-knock joke to someone's hard-of-hearing crotch, rather than a true specimen of boogerspawn. To make up for this subpar illustration, I have included four common French phrases in the previous paragraph. You will now be one day ahead when you begin conversational French classes. Je vous en prie.

I am not advocating violence against children (unless you find yourself in Gatlin, Nebraska surrounded by prepubescent cultists and all the other adults are dead, in which case I wholeheartedly recommend that you get the tire iron out of your trunk and start swinging like you've never swung before. Kick their asses and carry some moonbeams home in a jar). I am, however, saying that children need to understand the concepts of limits. In my generation, which is only a few years older than spawn de boogers, we ran the gamut from polite to rebellious, but we always knew how to treat with other people and where the lines were drawn. It's not even a matter of corporal punishment -- we just learned that there was only so much we could get away with before the parental wrath. I sometimes feel like people in our generation (except the stupid ones) should have lots of kids and raise them right, if only to rectify the karmic imbalance caused in the 90s.

If you would like to see a sample of these types of kids but do not live near a school (or you live in South Florida), all you have to do is turn on the horrible reality show, Brat Camp on ABC. Take the repugnant mini-kids from Nanny 911 and turn them into surly, combatative, lying, cheating, angstful, muttering teenagers with nothing to recommend them. Glass bottles in Hawaii and Michigan have more redeeming features than these kids, and one of them looks eerily like that dog molester who was in the news.

The parents of these mumbly pigs throw their hands up in the air because they just have no clue how their angelic kids turned into poster children for compulsory elimination. To cover their mistake, they send the kids off to a wilderness camp where the kids have to shape up or they don't eat. In charge of this cadre of parental neglect are two or three drill-sergeant characters who are incredibly mild-mannered, and have new age names like Fire Shaper! or Exploding Venus! [exclamation points added by ed.] and this is where the show breaks down. Because everything is documented for primetime TV, there is no sense of threat or urgency, and Sergeant Does Limbo In Nude! cannot do much more than mouth empty threats and take away Gold Stars. Threats are virtually nonexistant anyhow, since the drill sergeants choose to empathize with the kids (though it's pretty clear that this approach is not working).

So what you're left with is a show about a bunch of teenagers being little bitches and being put in Time Out behind the cactus stand. They wander shiftlessly around the camp with their furry caps pulled down as far as possible (because it's COOL to have no peripheral vision!) The sad thing is that however reprehensible these kids are (and I would be very tempted to send them to the glue factory if they were my kids and also horses), it's really the fault of the environment they grew up in. There's even a token kid whose crime is having ADHD -- when was that an excuse for parents to send you away to wilderness camp? The very least they could have done to make this show entertaining would be to have a Simon Cowell-esque character constantly degrading the teens, their clueless parents, and everyone foolish enough to give the show positive Nielsen ratings.

The worst part of this show is the feeling of impending doom it leaves you with when you find that ABC has already added a "Season Chooser" combo box to the website, as if there is no doubt in their minds that there will be more seasons to come. When Arnold Schwarzenegger finally gets the rules changed so he can run for President, I will take that position and create a national test which all prospective parents must pass before they are allowed to breed. I will be the sole grader of said test. There will not be a test for television producers, because shows like this give me something to write about.

Disclaimer: I saw about 20 minutes of one episode. I'm sure the last episode will have all the teenagers bonding by holding hands and working together to give mouth-to-mouth to dying deer with asthma, but there was no way in hell I was going to stick around until then.

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