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TAKE MY CHILD, PLEASE: The vilification of Kid Nation, CBS’ big hope for a reality hit this fall, continued with increased intensity this week with the release of the show’s liability waiver on the Smoking Gun website. The 22-page document, which was to be signed by everyone who put their child up for a chance to appear on the show, is a classic piece of legal boilerplate that essentially indemnifies the network and the show’s producers from any liability during the six-week shoot.
“I understand,” reads the document, “that the Program may take place in inherently dangerous travel areas that may expose the Minor and other participants to a variety of unmarked and uncontrolled hazards and conditions that may cause the minor serious bodily injury, illness or death, including, without limitation: general exposure to extremes of heat and cold; crime; water hazards; floods; drowning; treacherous terrain; collision with objects, including those submerged below water surfaces; injuries arising from equipment failure or defect; falls from heights, objects and equipment; falling rocks and objects; crevasses, cliffs and rock avalanches; encounters with wild or domesticated animals; acts of God (e.g. earthquakes); food poisoning; encounters with dangerous flora and fauna; collisions with other participants, spectators and others; loss of orientation (getting lost) in primitive areas; exhaustion, dehydration, fatigue, over-exertion and sun or heat stroke; hypothermia; and risks arising from evacuation and rescue activities in remote or less developed areas. I voluntarily and fully accept and assume these risks on behalf of the Minor and myself and understand and acknowledge that the waivers, releases and indemnities in this Participant Agreement expressly apply to these risks.”
It gets better: “I understand that if the Minor chooses to enter into an intimate relationship of any nature with another participant or any other person, the Minor does to without any influence by the Producers and the Minor and I hereby assume any and all risks that may be associated with any relationship, including, without limitation, emotional distress, illness, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy, if applicable.”
Basically, after between 8 and 15 years of nurturing and raising a child, their parents essentially signed an agreement that anticipated that these children might undergo an experience whose associated risks resemble a tour of duty in a combat zone, right down to the chance that they might come down with the clap – or worse. While I can understand the rhetorical excesses inherent in legalese, I can imagine a parent reading all the way through the CBS contract, then placing it, unsigned, on the desk in front of them and turning to the producers on the other wide and saying, “Thanks, but I think I can get better terms signing little Tiffany up to put out oil well fires in the Gulf.”
Kid Nation creator Tim Forman took exception to the criticism the show has received. “Child abuse is a horrendous thing,” he told the Los Angeles Times, “and it disgusts me that people would take that phrase and throw it around so casually.” He has a point – throwing children around casually isn’t mentioned anywhere in the liability waiver.