Flat White

Childhood experiments

6 November 2021

4:30 PM

6 November 2021

4:30 PM

Somebody once sang that the children are our future at a baseball match in New York but they never said anything about them being the collateral damage of self-emoting adults with their own mummy and daddy issues, asking themself ‘am I really a bad parent’ while off-loading the expensive brats at childcare just to stick it to Leunig.  

This existential self-indulgence is out in force during the new Nine Network Allison Langdon vehicle, ‘Let’s experiment on the kids’ where a group of parents do cool things with their own children while being filmed with a hidden camera like seeing if they will walk off with a stranger when the stranger has a cute puppy, or whether they would smack their child if the child is throwing a tantrum even if the three-year-old has been warned three times and probably really deserves it.  

Then everybody cries and hugs and ask themselves: ‘am I really a bad parent’, and they go to a commercial break and we all feel better for the experience — except for the kids who may feel slightly duped which a sense of bereft emptiness that can only be filled later in life with a shopping addiction or an influencer career. 

The main conceit of the show is to characterize parenting types. So, we have Tiger Parents that apparently feed their children to tigers despite this not really being environmentally sustainable; the Helicopters who have beehive haircuts, quote Margaret Thatcher and wish Bronwyn Bishop was still prime minister; and, of course, the Cry Baby parents who keep crying every time they fuck things up and hang on to their childhoods by smoking weed as the four-year-old future Greens candidate taps them on the knee and asks if they’re ok or just want to reduce their personal carbon footprint by killing themselves.   

If you’re into this road test the kid’s stuff and really, what decent parent wouldn’t lie about it and say yes, you can get more of it watching The School That Tried To End Racism. It’s an ABC iView critical race theory Twister mat where you take three steps forward or back depending on your entitlement before crushing the white privilege of our nation’s 12-year-olds, one confidence-sapped future anorexia patient at a time.    

Anyone who’s ever been forced by their children during school holidays to watch Robert Redford in the Horse Whisperer or maybe the original Black Beauty with a young Elizabeth Taylor in black face using a whip during the Melbourne Cup knows that breaking a child’s spirit isn’t as easy as it seems. I almost broke my neck trying to follow host Marc Fennell’s directions for a racism free life as I took three steps forwards because of my eyes (Aryan Blue) and two to the right because of my credit card (Proud Boys platinum), plus a couple of push-ups for my Trumpian Melbourne Cup Carnival spray tan (Race 3, number 9).  

Stepping backwards, I tripped over the expensive imported leather couch I bought when I was lockdown bored because I think Mitch and Mark have one on The Block. Which just goes to show how complicated privilege and cross-network promotion really is, given the ABC aren’t supposed to carry advertising and their Australia Talks survey said most of us are bigots that hate foreign people unless they’re international students or in sweatshops making furniture and yet we do like stylish, gay television personalities who can really tie a room together through the use of adjectives.  

But these ‘what can we do to the children now’ television programs are nothing new. Back in the good old 1950s days they did experiments on babies to see whether isolating them from their mothers for extended periods caused them to suffer from a terrible anxiety that lived with them for the rest of their lives or made them support trickle-down Reaganomics in the 1980s.  

(Spoiler Alert) the answer is ‘yes’, which I think is a victory for science and we do need to follow the science these days even if it gives us yet another impeccably raised child prodigy, Greta Thunberg dancing to Rick Astley or was it Megadeath, which I gather was the official slogan at the Glasgow Climate Summit. 

Michael Scammell clicks and collects his children from school. He also writes at https://mdswords.wordpress.com and Tweets at @MichaelScammell. 

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