Mark Wahlberg not a kid-friendly host for Kids' Choice Awards 

Mark Wahlberg has been selected to host the Kids' Choice Awards – a show aimed at kids ages 2-11 – during the marketing campaign for the latest 'Transformers' film, rated PG-13. Is he the wrong choice as host? 

By , Correspondent

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    Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg set to host Nickelodeon's 27th annual Kids' Choice Awards.
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Mark Wahlberg has been named the host of the 2014 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, leaving parents to deal with the issues of his inappropriate filmography and the expected hype for his upcoming role in the fourth Transformers film.

Seeing the news, I wondered which role landed Mr. Wahlberg the job hosting a show with a demographic of children ages 2 to 11. Was it the bloody action thriller "Lone Survivor" or the one with a teddy bear (in the film "Ted") that spews obscenities while acting like a porn star?

Last year, Nickelodeon was the top cable network with kids ages 2-11 (3.1/1.0 million; +24%) and total viewers (2.0 million; +27%). Nickelodeon’s 2013 Kids’ Choice Awards managed to garner 12 million total viewers, according to the ToonBarn website.

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I like Wahlberg, but wonder what the folks over at Nickelodeon could have been thinking when they selected him to host a show for that age bracket.

Then, I read further into the news stories and found that Wahlberg will star in Michael Bay's "Transformers: Age of Extinction," in theaters June 27. The film is expected to be rated PG-13, like all the others in the franchise.

A recent study published by Common Sense Media about kids ad viewing, which I wrote about just a few days ago, takes a hard look at how advertisers are “exposing kids to product placement in popular TV shows.”

The study, released last week, points to Nielsen data estimating kids ages 2-11 see approximately 24,000 ads per year, which seems enormous even before you realize that it doesn't count all the product placement in shows (i.e. "American Idol" judges drinking Cokes), embedded plugs in scripts of TV and films, or online ads woven into gaming experiences. 

For me, what stands out here is that the age 2-11 demographic mentioned in the study is the exact same viewership age spread as Nickelodeon viewers.

I’m a mom, so I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe everything happens for a reason, and in this case, the reason seems to be to get kids to nag parents to go see the new Transformers film.

According to a video produced by Anna Lappé for the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, when it comes to kids nagging their parents to buy them something – from a new toy to a Happy Meal at McDonald's – research shows, “It takes an average of nine nags for a typical parent to cave-in and buy a product.”

Funny, I always though of nagging as my job.

According to Ms. Lappé, the way companies get kids to make those “nine nags” is to come at them early and often, blitzing them by placing products in television shows, similar to placing a non-kids film star into the role of hosting the large kid-focused awards show on television.

Our kids don’t know Mark Wahlberg today, but by June (when the film releases) I predict they will be nagging us for toys they just suddenly find they can’t live without from a PG-13 movie that it’s unlikely we will even take them to see.

This morning, I asked Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media's parenting editor, about her thoughts on Wahlberg as host. Ms. Knorr responded in e-mail, "There's an age-disconnect. The advice for parents is if your young kids become interested in seeing age-inappropriate movies because they like the actors in them (having been exposed to those actors through age-appropriate means, i.e. the Kids' Choice Awards) your job becomes tougher." 

"You really have to research those movies to see if they are OK for your kids, based on your own values – not what's being marketed to them," she added. "In the end, you may just have to say, ‘no, not yet.’ ”

Common Sense's website has age reviews on films to help parents make better informed choices.

Still, young kids will likely know the film’s “best” lines by heart from TV and online commercials.

I’ve seen this happen with my son Quin, 10, who has not yet seen the new “Lego Movie” but can tell me his favorite line.

I can tell you right now, Quin will not be watching this year’s Kids’ Choice Awards with Wahlberg. That’s partially because of the ad blitz, and because when he doesn’t know something or recognize a celebrity, he Googles them or looks for their work on YouTube.

I have already suffered through the horror of having my 10-year-old look up TED Talks, the brilliant educational series of videos and find clips from the Wahlberg film “Ted” instead.

Oh, for the days when the Kids’ Choice Awards made good choices.

I am sure there was plenty of marketing drive behind the choices of previous hosts such as Will Smith and Jack Black, but at least they were already known for kid-friendly film work.

Will Smith, who hosted in 2012, voiced “Shark Tale” and is the father of “The Karate Kid,” Jaden Smith.

Jack Black is the lovable Po in “Kung Fu Panda” and so ran the show in 2011.

Josh Duhamel, who starred in the Transformers franchise from 2007-11 served as the 2013 host, which may have opened the door for Wahlberg's entrance as host.

I will not be surprised if the Kids’ Choice Awards show is heavily targeted with Transformers promo talk by the host, franchise toy ads, and film trailers on the commercial breaks or even during the show itself.

As a parent it’s my job to stay on top of the tactics used by companies to manipulate my child.

Also, it’s the parent’s job to nag, and no advertising agency bent on selling my child a burger, toy, or film is going to change who’s in charge of that in my house.

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