What is ABC's problem
with kids these days? Once upon a time they had hours of child friendly programming. Now it seems like someone in the top brass of the network is
having problems with their kids, and we have to suffer because of it.
Things were bad enough with the so-called "Super Nanny" but what
is up with Brat Camp? Forget what these kids ever did to
deserve this. What did I do to deserve this?
The opening narrative is
the best summary of this series: "Nine troubled
teens from across the nation are sent by their tormented parents to Sage
Walk, a therapeutic wilderness camp deep in the Oregon desert. They will
remain here for at least 40 days until their therapists say they can go
home." So in a nutshell we have kids with a troubled past, that
most often involves drugs and confrontational personalities. There seems to be a lot
of "gray" area between the kids who were sent here for
threatening a family member with a knife, and those who were sent here because they can't deal with
mom getting remarried so soon after dad died. They apparently all have a
drug related past though, so we're led to believe they at least had to go
to a drug rehabilitation clinic of some sort. This camp hopes to help.
What sort of camp are we
talking about...? Not club med; that's for sure. These kids live in a
in the middle of the desert. They are eating only enough to survive with mild exceptions (on Thanksgiving they are given
some turkey). They can do nothing aside from what the camp leaders allow.
They are not even given a decent private rest room area, at risk of the
camp leaders losing sight of them (I'm sorry, but being forced to dig a
brand new hole every time you go to the potty is a little too
"roughing it" for me). As soon as they get used
to all this, they must hike for miles, all the way to a separate camp, if
only to exhaust the kids so they aren't doing anything violent. Somewhere along the
way it is hoped that the kids will break down and change their troubled ways.
the concept sounds slightly like a detention camp and less like a therapy
session. However, at least this is a camp run by professionals, or so we
are told. I say "we
are told" because they have decided not to use their real
names, and only use cutesy nicknames, like "Little Big Bear,"
"Fire Shaper," and
"Iceman." Regardless of the surnames, however, they seem good at
what they do. When actually sitting down and talking with the kids, it's clear
they are good listeners. They clearly know a lot about therapy and
philosophy. They just know little about the human condition.
Here's the problem: whomsoever you threw in this camp, you'd get the same response,
so how effective is this camp...really? Let me tell you something: I've never taken drugs, threatened a
teacher, or slammed a door in mom's face. But let me be quite plain. If my parents ever sent me to a "brat
camp" for the holidays, only to share my time with some dude with an ambiguous
surname like "Little Big Bear"...yes, I would be very confrontational.
Then I would be told after 40 days of exhaustion that the camp had
"worked" for me and I could now go home having "learned
something." Sure, dudes. Keep believing that.
doesn't help my view of this camp when some of these kids do not
deserve to be there. It's bad enough that the young and gangly Derek
must share a camp with 17 year olds twice his size. Lexie, 17, was
molested when just a little girl. Look; I don't care what this poor girl
did prior to this "brat camp" to cope with child
molestation. A child molestation victim needs many
things, and being forced to hike through a blizzard isn't one of them.
Every time this poor girl was treated with the same rough hand as
potentially violent youths, I really wanted to send ABC a letter with
three big yet powerful words: Shame on you. This is how to treat
molestation? You must not have any daughters.
It's in Lexie where the
problems with this "camp" are most clear. There is no balance of punishment verses reward.
the instructors tells Lexie that he too was molested as
a child, and back in the day, his therapist gave him a rock. She gets to keep the rock. While this is a sweet gesture of
sorts, it still doesn't explain why a child abuse victim must hike miles
in the freezing snow like a common juvenile delinquent. One wonders if she
was sent here because the alternative --like an actual child therapist?-- cost
more money than a network-sponsored "brat camp." Sorry, but
every time I saw Lexie hiking in the snow as "punishment" for
being a "brat," I found this series rather disturbing.
Sure the series had its
moments. Combative Frank sees the diminutive Derek fall after an intense
hike, only to help him up in a surprising "big-brother" moment.
The series wants us to believe that this sign of compassion in Frank
is a sign the course is working, but I don't buy it. If anything it proves
that there's some good in all people. It still doesn't explain why these
kids --and the audience-- ever had to endure all this.
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