What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this thought-provoking reality series was created by Morgan Spurlock, the director of Super Size Me, and follows in the documentary's footsteps by dissecting issues that face Americans every day. The show tackles some very controversial topics, including illegal immigration, job outsourcing, abortion, poverty, religion, and sexuality. As a result, most episodes feature plenty of confrontational exchanges as participants are forced to re-examine their personal beliefs and behaviors; some of the spirited "discussion" may make sensitive kids uncomfortable. But teens could learn a lot by watching -- particularly the importance of taking a close, objective look at your own values and world view.
What's the story?
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) tackles societal issues like poverty, alcoholism, sexuality, religion, illegal immigration, job outsourcing, crime, over-consumption, and abortion for his reality series 30 DAYS. In each episode, Spurlock follows a mostly average American who agrees to take part in a social experiment: Live outside your comfort zone for a month and see what happens. Hence, a conservative straight man from the Midwest moves in with a gay man in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood, an atheist bunks with a Christian, a pro-choice believer lives at a pro-life maternity home, two materialistic Manhattanites roll up their sleeves at a sustainable eco-village, and so on. Spurlock even signs himself up for duty, living on minimum wage and behind bars for a month at a time.
Is it any good?
Unlike many reality shows, which place people in uncomfortable situations just to incite petty drama and bickering, 30 Days' lifestyle upheaval has a purpose: By putting real-life human faces on controversial topics, the show aims to open participants' minds to all sides of an issue, hopefully bringing them closer to an understanding of how "the other side" lives. Obviously, by its very nature, the show encourages controversy and debate, and many episodes feature shouting matches and angry confrontations. That, combined with the edginess and complexity of the issues themselves, makes the show a better fit for teens -- who will find it eye-opening, no matter what side of a given topic they sympathize with -- than for younger viewers.
The series definitely leans to the left, and not all episodes are as worthwhile as the others -- for example, the ones that dealt with binge drinking and extreme anti-aging procedures came off as fluffy and, especially in the latter case, vain -- but overall 30 Days is mature, thought-provoking television.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the issues covered in each episode (there's certainly no lack of discussion fodder in this series, given the topics it takes on). How did the participants' beliefs change over the course of the episode? Was either side completely right or wrong?
What did the participants learn from each other? What did you learn by watching them interact?
Can teens think of a situation that would take them as completely outside of their own comfort zone as the people on the show? How do they think they'd react?
Do you think shows like this can change society on a broad scale, or just one individual at a time? Is 30 days enough time to really make a difference in someone's core beliefs?