Abby Sunderland's Parents: Genuine or Reality TV Profiteers?

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

Now that 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland has been rescued from her ailing ship in the Indian Ocean and is safe and sound, the focus now turns to her parents. Besides the obvious "how in the world could they let her sail around the world alone?" questions, issues have arisen about possible profiteering from their daughter's dangerous quest.

According to the web site from a production company called Magnetic Entertainment, the parents and producers are pitching not one, not two, but three different projects involving Abby or her family.

The first one is a reality TV show cleverly titled "Adventures in Sunderland:"

A family oriented Adventure show, based on the Sunderland Family of Thousand Oaks, CA. We follow the family in their day-to-day lives as shipbuilder Laurence Sunderland and mother/teacher Marianne try to balance work and family. Their philosophy on building strong well rounded adults is to mentor their seven home schooled children into setting goals, creating a plan to reach those goals, and implementing them... allowing each of them to pursue their dreams of becoming world class adventurers.

Then there is documentary called "Abby's Journey:"

The story at its core this is about one’s Journey into adulthood, learning what it takes to be on your own, set goals and accomplish them. On the heal of seventeen year-old Zac Sunderland breaking the youngest world circumnavigation record in early 2009, we follow sixteen year-old Abby Sunderland, as she pursues her dream to become the youngest person to accomplish the feat.

And finally, a feature documentary, "Solo Dreams:"

A Feature Documentary Film that will document the history of solo-circumnavigation, up to the current journeys of Abby Sunderland and sixteen year old Australian Jessica Watson.

All of this is just too much for Andy Martin, a self-described "legendary Chicago muckraker" and publisher of ContrarianCommentary.com. He writes that this smells like just another scam:

"The Sunderland family, led by "Octomom" Marianne and her loopy father, appears to be just another reality TV scam. Someone has suggested that Octomom Sunderland, who has four teenage children, is pregnant again. All the better to provide quality time for her commercial brood."

Martin questions how the 16-year-old was able to be on the high seas and not in school. He also says the media shares blame for this alleged charade:

"Why is there no critical analysis from the mainstream media. The 'rescue' of Abby Sunderland is treated as a legitimate news event. It appears to have been a crass commercial exploitation. The Sunderlands even advertised that their daughter was sailing into the 'fearsome rigors of the southern seas.' What kind of parent would expose a child to that kind of danger, alone, for months? Only a deranged parent. Only a sicko."

Abby's parents defended their decision, saying Abby's journey was no more dangerous than other activities that teenagers do and that she proved to them that she was up to the challenge.

"Let's face it, life is dangerous. How many teenagers die in car accident[s]?" Laurence Sunderland said. "This wasn't an easy decision make. It was done very carefully."