The answer to that question is … maybe, according to an investigation published in the Los Angeles Times yesterday.
At issue is how shows ranging from The Real Housewives of New Jersey to Kate Plus 8 should be classified. Children appearing in movies and traditional scripted television series’ enjoy much protection and oversight, from state laws regulating child labor to union rules setting the working conditions for actors under the age of 18. However, producers of reality shows such as the Real Housewives series routinely argue that the programs are documentaries and, therefore, the underage children they are filming do not need to be considered or treated as employees. (That also, for those of you who are interested in such things, covers the subject of pay.)
Many reality show producers tell the Los Angeles Times that they believe the parents of the children being filmed – who are often the true subjects of the programming – are the ones best suited to determine just what is right for their own kids. They further add that they do not ever force reluctant children to participate in camera shots, but just how that translates when the subject — like, say, Teresa Giudice’s infant – cannot say the word “camera” or define what that piece equipment does, is a really interesting concept that no one attempts to explain.
Calls by the Los Angeles Times to various state labor and film departments revealed a mess of confusion that is no doubt being exploited by the producers of such cinema verite as The Real Housewives to avoid oversight. For example, The New Jersey film and television commission said to the Los Angeles Times that they believed reality show producers needed to apply for and receive child labor permits before filming anyone underage. But the New Jersey state labor department did not agree, saying they needed to investigate the issue.
Time for some common sense, fellow Babblers. Who out there believes these shows are truly unscripted? It is, after all, well known that producers on many of these programs manipulate the men and women featured, doing everything from staging confrontations and feeding their subjects information about others on the programs, to actually depriving them of food while supplying alcohol, all in an effort to amp up drama.
Moreover, the claim that parents are the best judge of their own children’s welfare in these situations also has a hard time standing up to any real scrutiny. Note to the producers of reality shows: Many of the laws governing child actors in states such as California and New York became laws precisely because of stage moms and dads who stole the money their children earned, abused them on sets and otherwise did not put their children’s long-term emotional and financial interests ahead of their own personal wants and needs.
Does anyone really think that such reality show stars as the financially-challenged Danielle Staub (who claims to be so broke she cannot pay for her children’s school supplies) or the now-on-her-own Kate Gosselin are allowing their children to be filmed because they believe it’s great for their kids? Please. Even without financial woes, these people give the word “exhibitionist” new meanings. Their children are the Greek chorus to the drama that is their life. If these folks had any true interest in their children’s future or welfare, they never would have allowed them to appear on a television screen in the first place.
What do you think?