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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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The amazing disgrace
By DEBORAH HARDIN WAGNER
Published July 29, 2004
I'm no reality-TV prude. I was there when Richard showed his backside (and everything else) on the first Survivor and when Fantasia strutted her stuff on the last American Idol. I'll deny it if asked, but I've even opted for The Bachelor knowing that The West Wing was playing in the next room.
Still, the latest idea from the producers of Big Brother has even this closet fan asking herself: Has the industry no shame?
My husband and I were in London last week when the happy news broke. Seems that a British subsidiary of the reality-TV giant Endemol is planning a new show, Make Me a Mum, in which 1,000 men will compete for the chance to donate their sperm and father a baby. The first lucky bloke will be picked by the childless woman, based mostly on his sex appeal. The second will be chosen on the genetic quality of his sperm. High-tech cameras will show us which man's sperm reaches the finish line - the woman's egg - first.
The Brits are calling it "the great sperm race." "Great sperm disgrace" would be more like it.
Make Me a Mum may be the inevitable bastard of shows such as Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire (even I couldn't stomach that one), but this one has got to be the worst by far. It's one thing to mock marriage, but it's quite another to turn parenthood into a game - and a newborn into the gag.
Sure, plenty of people, including singles and gay couples, use donated sperm as a means to fulfill their dreams of having children. Most of the time, they do so after solemn reflection, with expectations and responsibilities delineated upfront. Even when the donor is anonymous, at least one of the parties is there with the primary goal of providing a good home, not just a good laugh.
So what happens once our reality-TV sperm victor is crowned? Will "mom" and "dad" partner to become real parents? And how will the child feel about being the punch line in a joke shared by millions of viewers?
I was wrong. Labeling the show a "race" may be apt after all. Reality television has rushed headlong into the gutter.
- Deborah Hardin Wagner is a Times editorial writer.