“Beyond Scared Straight” is Trash

I had occasion, today, to watch a few minutes of this show. First, the kid’s family informs us that he can’t be helped because he won’t listen. Then his brother, who’s been through the program before, teases him and asks if he’s going to cry. Then four cops bully him relentlessly, let inmates bully him relentlessly, make him cry, scare the shit out of him, and just generally traumatize him.

How the fuck is this supposed to help?

First of all, this kid has probably been abused his whole life. I mean, this is a family that thinks abusing him further is a good plan to get what they want out of him, so that seems like a safe bet. And it doesn’t really matter if they’ve ever laid a hand on him or not. There are other, much more insidious types of abuse.

Then they broadcast his abuse on television for all to see. TV producers don’t care about helping kids. They care about getting people to watch their show. What kind of person enjoys watching kids get abused?

Then, at the end, they make him say a bunch of things about how glad he is that he went through this because he’s not getting in trouble anymore. He has to say that because viewers need a narrative. They need to be able to fool themselves into believing they’re not really monsters who enjoy watching abuse victims get further traumatized for entertainment.

No one is getting helped by the shit. Unless you count the producers. They’re probably getting a nice fat paycheck.

Traumatizing abuse victims and mental illness sufferers makes them more likely to use drugs and commit violent crimes. You tell someone they’re shit long enough, it turns out they start to believe it. You tell someone they’re good for nothing, they stop trying to be good. You tell someone they’ll never be anything more than a thief and a liar, and they’ll decide it’s not worth proving you wrong.

You can’t scare kids straight. You can only scare them. And like a beaten dog, you can only keep them scared for so long before they lash out again. They need help, not abuse.

God, what is wrong with people?

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