Kid Nation cast kills two chickens at the suggestion of the manipulative producers

Kid Nation took precisely one episode to take the producers’ relatively subtle guidance into what came off as outright exploitation. On the second episode, which aired last night, the fake “journal” of the fake “settlers,” which is really just a way for the producers to inject artificial drama into kids’ already dramatic lives, suggested that they kill some of their chickens to eat.

On the one hand, nearly all the kids raised their hands during a town meeting when asked by another kid if they ate meat regularly, and introducing them to the reality of their food source isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though most adults probably have never actually watched their dinner get killed.

On the other, the kids appeared to be eating (presumably frozen) hash brown patties at breakfast one morning, so it’s not like the producers aren’t providing them with the food they need to stay healthy. Worse, this came after the kids were given jobs by the producers that included caring for the livestock. Here, kids, fall in love with the animals, and then watch as someone else chops your friend’s head off and serves it to you for dinner.

The show seemed dead-set on illustrating the reality of dinner to its audience–again, maybe that’s good–and while a brief disclaimer showed up on screen, it was still pretty unexpectedly graphic, as the editors included everything except the actual head chop: the dead chickens’ heads sitting on a stump, their headless bodies running and thrashing around, and the plucking of feathers and gutting of guts.

Perhaps the most disturbing moment, though, came at the end, when Emilie–the primary chicken murder objector, who at first threatened to leave and leater locked herself in the chicken coop with two other kids to protect the chickens–told us why she’d decided to stay. “When my mom told me to come here, she said to be a rough-and-tough cowgirl, so I’m going to stay.” In other words, I don’t want to disappoint my mom who forced me into this situation I hate.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.