Child actors’ popularity can be a double-edged swordBy Nestor U. Torre | Philippine Daily Inquirer
It’s still early days for show biz year 2012, but it looks like this could be the season for series and shows built around the unique appeal of child actors. The stage has been set by concluding or recently-concluded teleseryes like “Ikaw ay Pag-ibig” and “Munting Heredera.”
Unlike other shows in which kids play only supporting roles, the four juvenile leads of “Ikaw ang Pag-ibig” top-billed the series from start to finish. Thus, they “proved” that child talents could attract a lot of viewers. Fact is, the stellar appeal of very young actors really doesn’t need “proving,” because it’s been part of show biz lore for many decades now, as the hits turned in by tots like Tessie Agana, Niño Muhlach, Snooky and Aiza Seguerra have definitively indicated. But, recent successes have “reminded” both producers and viewers alike of the bankability of “child wonders,” hence the renewed popularity of precocious young talents.
Over at GMA-7, the resident pint-sized sensation is Jillian Ward, whose show, “Daldalita,” banks on her perky, chatty appeal. Also popular is ABS-CBN’s weekly “kiddie comedy” show, “Going Bulilit,” as well as the many juvenile talent tilts that aim to discover “tomorrow’s stars” today.
Expect more of such talent searches, as TV-film studios and talent-management outfits beef up their “stables” of young contract talents, in preparation for new juvenile showcases to come.
On the other hand, the renewed popularity and bankability of child talents could also contain the seeds of negative developments that could prove injurious to the kiddie performers themselves. We’re all for the discovery and development of new talents, but the way some child starlets and stars are being manipulated and misused could turn out to be problematic, unless reforms are put in place.
The first problem is the local scene’s wrongheaded view of the essence and value of child performers. The general feeling is that kids are at their most entertaining when they’re pa-cute, porma, chatty, loud, sassy, behave like pint-sized adults, are frenetically “lively,” and can cry at the drop of a box of Kleenex.
Wrong. The real value of a child performer is his innocence and sense of wonder and imagination. Adults have long lost those special qualities, so they really love it when naturally gifted child actors take them back to that special place again.
Alas, much of that can’t be found in local child actors’ performances today. Which is why most of their portrayals fall short, or are way over the top, and fail to genuinely move and inspire viewers. It’s everybody’s loss.
To make things worse, child talents are poorly developed and injudiciously handled. They’re made to work too long, cry too much, perform in a fake and knee-jerk fashion, are thrust into the potentially harmful company of jaded adults, and are exploited even by their own families, some of whom persuade or even force them to be their clans’ breadwinners.
So, while we cheer the fact that child talents will have all sorts of opportunities to shine this season, we worry that they won’t be sufficiently protected from the harmful practices and negative consequences related to their so-called super-stellar success. But, protect them, we must.
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