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Teen Choice Awards: Choices Not For Teens



The annual Teen Choice Awards air next Monday, August 10th at 8:00 p.m. ET on the Fox broadcast network. Perennially popular with teenagers and many younger children, the Teen Choice Awards give youngsters a chance to recognize their favorite singers, actors, movies and other entertainment products. This year, the Awards program will feature appearances by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and the cast of Twilight…as well as the stars of the CW’s teen-targeted sex soap Gossip Girl, Chace Crawford and Leighton Meester, and the cast of Fox’s new satirical take on High School Musical, Glee.

But while the recipients of Teen Choice Awards are chosen by teens 13-19 who vote online, nowhere does Fox state who selects the nominees; nor is the nomination process explained; nor do the voters have any say in the award categories – including such awards as “Choice Liplock,” (for the “hottest” kiss), “Choice Rumble,” (for the best fight scene), and “Choice Male/Female Hottie.” 

Viewing a list of the nominees, it becomes clear that the so-called Teen Choice Awards are less about teenagers and children genuinely having the opportunity to reward their favorite stars, and much more about marketing the products the entertainment industry wants to push at youngsters. For example: as of the broadcast of the Teen Choice Awards next Monday, Fox will have aired precisely one episode of Glee. Under such circumstances, how are teens – or anyone else – supposed to judge whether that program is a “favorite”? But by including the show in the Awards, Fox guarantees that it will receive attention from teenagers and the media.  

An examination of the other nominees also reveals a disturbing, if recurrent, trend in the Teen Choice Awards: many of the individuals and products nominated are wholly inappropriate for teenagers. In the “Choice Bromantic Comedy” category, all but one of the nominees were rated R: I Love You, Man, Pineapple Express, Role Models and Tropic Thunder. Similarly, the “Choice Movie Comedy” category nominees are split between the R-rated (and definitely adult-themed) The Hangover, and such teen-appropriate fare as Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. The “Choice Horror/Thriller” category also includes the R-rated films Friday the 13th and Quarantine; while nominees for “Choice Movie Actress: Action-Adventure” include Malin Akerman from Watchmen – an R-rated movie which featured graphic dismemberment, rape scenes, and full-frontal nudity by Akerman. Most often, Teen Choice movie nominees are an uneasy mixture of genuine teen favorites like Hannah Montana’s Miley Cyrus or High School Musical’s Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale, and such adult-oriented stars as Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen and Angeline Jolie. 

But it is the nominees for favorite television programming that truly give the Teen Choice Awards away for the empty marketing sham they are. The nominees for “Choice TV Drama” are CW’s 90210 and Gossip Girl; Fox’s House; and the Disney-owned ABC network’s Grey’s Anatomy and ABC Family network’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. How adult programming like Grey’s Anatomy and House are considered appropriate for teens is a question possibly worth asking; but considering the amount of sex-and-drug-fueled “drama” on the other three shows which actually feature teenage characters, perhaps not. What is obvious is the extent to which sex, drugs, more sex, profanity and still more sex have become the keystones of Hollywood’s idea of “entertainment” appropriate for teens.

The schizophrenia apparent in the Teen Choice Awards nominating process is further revealed in the “Choice TV Comedy” and “Choice TV Animated Show” categories. In “Comedy,” programs genuinely popular with (and appropriate for) teens, like Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana and Nickelodeon’s iCarly, sit uncomfortably side-by-side with the supposedly family-friendly sexual hijinks of Ugly Betty and the adult humor of  The Office and How I Met Your Mother. And as might be expected from an industry that considers the vomit-, excrement- and flatulence-laden Family Guy an “Outstanding Comedy Series,” the raunchy, profane program – along with similarly sophomoric and adult-themed programs American Dad and South Park – is placed in the same category as the family-friendly The Simpsons and the delightful SpongeBob Squarepants!

 And so it continues: the “Choice TV Actor: Comedy” category offers a choice between the Jonas Brothers and iCarly‘s Jerry Trainor – and Charlie Sheen of the sex-soaked sitcom Two and a Half Men; “Breakout Star Female” offers Disney Channel stars Demi Lovato and Chelsea Staub from JONAS – and 90210‘s  AnnaLynne McCord and Anna Torv from Fox’s gory sci-fi thriller Fringe (also in the category is Lea Michele from Glee – a program which is also nominated for “Breakout Show.” Gee, Fox isn’t trying to drive teenagers to watch Glee‘s season premiere, is it?); and “Choice Female Reality/Variety Star” offers teens a choice between the genuinely talented Shawn Johnson from Dancing with the Stars, and the vapid Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, both of whom are primarily famous for leaked sex tapes.  

 But the Teen Choice Award nominations reach their nadir with the nominations of Kathy Griffin (for both “Choice Comedian” and “Choice TV: Reality”) and Chelsea Handler (for “Choice TV: Late Night Show”). Griffin is notorious for her unbelievably raunchy stand-up comedy. It is difficult to imagine a Griffin acceptance speech directed at an audience of children and young adults. Equally difficult to imagine is the incredibly vulgar Handler – whose “comedy” has included catty remarks about Miley Cyrus’ sex life and sneering references to the Jonas Brothers’ purity rings -- being “honored” before the same audience which looks up to and admires these Disney Kids.

 The Teen Choice Awards in their totality are perfectly symbolized by the “choices” the entertainment industry offers teens in the Video Game category. Along with Guitar Hero and Madden NFL is the violent, sexually explicit Grand Theft Auto IV. Any contest which asked teens to name their favorite beverage, and offered as choices Coke, Pepsi, gin, whiskey and vodka would be considered wildly irresponsible; but when the entertainment industry offers similar “choices” to teens, it’s simply business as usual.   


TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff.


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