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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Secret Millionaire is a reality series that follows millionaires who move into impoverished neighborhoods and pretend to be poor in order to meet people and determine who's most deserving of monetary aid. It stresses the importance of volunteerism as well as cash donations. While there's some lying involved, the fibbers come clean at the end of the show, and it's all meant well. The show offers a lot of positive messages, but it also includes some potentially upsetting images (like cockroaches crawling all over kitchens) and many sad stories (one boy admits that he lived in a van for over a year). Language is fairly mild ("piss," "hell," etc.); expect some scenes of police arrests and conversations about gang violence, drugs, and shootings. Wine, champagne, and empty liquor bottles are sometimes visible.
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What's the story?
SECRET MILLIONAIRE follows millionaires who agree to give up their posh digs and luxury lifestyles for a week and move to an impoverished and sometimes dangerous community. The goal? Finding someone to whom they will donate at least $100,000 of their own money. During the seven-day relocation, the millionaires must keep their net worth a secret by pretending to be in dire straits and getting by with only the equivalent of one week's worth of welfare money. They must also go out of their way to meet people in the community, learn about what led to their new neighbors' difficult circumstances, and witness their day-to-day struggles. On the last day, the millionaire decides who will learn their true identity and receive much-needed financial help.
Is it any good?
The series offers a compassionate exploration of some of the socioeconomic problems that have ultimately resulted in millions of Americans living in poverty. And by presenting the show as a reality check for the wealthy, it discusses these issues in a way that offsets preconceived notions about the poor. It highlights how very easy it is for good, hardworking people to find themselves living below the poverty line due to things like the lack of adequate (or any) health insurance or becoming the a victim of a natural disaster. Secret Millionaire also identifies many of the reasons why cities and towns die, including the systematic destruction of a community's natural resources, changes in the economy, and the increasing proliferation of drugs and violence.
While the show puts a lot of focus on the reasons that people fall on hard times, it also frequently stresses the importance of giving. The series does emphasize the millionaires' cash donations, but it also demonstrates that you don't have to be wealthy to make a huge difference in the lives of people in need. From volunteering to simply listening, it shows how the smallest things can have a great impact on the others' lives. Ultimately, it teaches the lesson that no matter how much money you have, it's our compassion for people in need and the acts of kindness we offer that truly make us rich.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the assumptions that are often made about the poor and/or homeless. Do you think the media's portrayal of low-income communities and the people who live in them impacts how those with money perceive them? On the other side of the coin, what preconceived notions do some people have about the wealthy?
Families can also discuss the different ways they can help people in need. What can you do to help folks who find themselves in difficult financial situations, even if you don't have any money to give them?
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