Tasha Reign: Reality TV is Legal Exploitation of Minors

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Tasha Reign writes on www.ocweekly.com – Part of my daily work life is all about playing Big Sister: check people’s IDs, driver’s license, passports–everything and anything to assure my team and I that whomever is on set is who they say they are and are of legal age to be there. It’s important for us, not just because it’s the law, but because I believe you do have to be of a certain age and maturity to join this industry in order to have a good head on you.

Contrast our industry–where we value such things–with the world of reality television.

I enjoy trashy reality television as much as the next 24-year-girl, but the ones that really pain me are those that feast on the misdeeds of five-year-old girls and 15-year-old moms for the sake of entertainment.

With shows like Teen Mom, Honey Boo Boo, and so many more, where do we draw the line as a society on what we can do or not do in legally exploiting people–specifically children–in ways that we know will lead to problems for them in the future?

Take Honey Boo Boo. Yeah, she’s cute and charming–but for most of America, she’s the emblematic laughingstock of American redneck entertainment. www.adultfyi.com/read.php?ID=58514

She’s going to have to carry this legacy around with her forever–and yet she is nowhere close to adulthood to consent to this future. Instead, it’s her parents who are allowing this to happen. Was this really a decision she was able to make as a little kid?

MTV’s Teen Mom is a bit different. The network is pushing this show about teens by teens to teens, and I always hear the argument that this show is promoting the fact that bringing babies into the world at such a young age and without stability is wrong and difficult.

But if you actually watch the show, you’ll quickly find out that message is easily lost. Back in 2007, I remember a 13-year-old relative of mine saw the show and exclaimed, “Well it doesn’t look that bad–it kind of looks like fun!” I was stunned, shocked, and agitated (and imagine what the adults in our family would’ve said).

It’s s difficult to argue that such shows are cautionary tales when Us Weekly and other tabloids put the characters on covers on magazines, the same spots reserved for celebrities like Kim Kardashian.

How is that not glorification of their misdeeds? Bad press, as we say in the business, is still press. Furthermore, the teen moms are celebrated for overcoming hardships–that’s fine, but the problem is that they are not adults, but rather children who engaged in adult activities and now must suffer the consequences. And remember: this show isn’t aimed at you or I, but for teens to watch. Is this really the best way to teach our future adults morals and ideals?

I’ll be the first to admit: I watch these shows. I’m guilty of their exploitation. But at least I admit it, and at least I think about the repercussions to come. I just know that these kids are going to regret these national and extremely public demonstrations of negative, controversial, bad events in their lives and wonder why and how they were allowed to sign up to engage in them. Are parents to blame? Are networks to blame? Or are we, the consumers, to blame? Is attention to minors in the public eye something we should celebrate and condone? Or should we take a step back and realize our responsibilities as adults?

What are the consequences for these children and teens? Clearly, child stars often have tragic endings (Mara Wilson just wrote a fabulous essay about the subject for Cracked.com) but this new form of reality television seems even more traumatic. Did these people have a real choice in their decision making, considering they are not ADULTS!?

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