I don’t watch telly any more, but if I did, I wouldn’t watch I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. First, because it is poor television and secondly because it is disingenuous – being bereft of any true celebrities. But, after last week’s developments on the show (which I read about in a newspaper) I would add a third reason: it is cruel.
Now, normally I couldn’t care less if the infamous ‘bush tucker’ trials were cruel to the contestants: they are adults. Last week however the show dipped to an almighty low. In one of the trials, designed to give contestants the chance to win luxuries, Charlie Brooks (of EastEnders fame and the eventual winner) was asked to choose a from a number of coloured doors. Behind one of these doors was a prize. What she didn’t know was that “the prize” was her daughter. Her daughter knew her mum was on the other side, and having not seen her for weeks, was clearly desperate to. But, her mum chose the wrong door and the little girl was led away distraught.
Someone, presumably her mother, must have given permission for the child to participate in this charade of television. That doesn’t surprise me: her mother is prepared to eat bugs, swim through fish guts and have spiders crawl all over herself in a desperate attempt to revive a flagging career. But, bringing children into it is too much.
It’s not uncommon though for TV programmes to play with the emotions of children in the name of entertainment. Programmes such as Supernanny, which parachuted in a “childcare expert”, to sort out “problem children”, do so too. It was billed as helping parents deal with tantruming kids, what it really did was deal with inadequate parents; inadequate parents who allowed a TV camera into their home to film their children upset, damaged, without boundaries and often without proper care and love and therefore, understandably, lashing out.
It’s a sad reflection on society that we find this entertaining; a sad reflection on parents that they allow their children to be involved; but what about the impact on the children?
Charlie Brooks’ daughter was understandably upset that she didn’t get to see her mum, but probably will be more so when she realises that her mum could have said “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here” and been instantly reunited with her child. She didn’t. And how many children might have been ostracised at school after peers saw their hideous behaviour on Supernanny?
These children might be under the guardianship of incompetent, self-seeking parents now but they will be grown-ups one day. Grown-ups who might object to the way they were portrayed or used in the past. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the production companies responsible for these programmes will face legal action in the future. Or perhaps the kids will just sue their parents. Whatever they do, given the sort of voyeuristic TV viewing habits we seem to have developed, it will make “great” telly.