Created By: Pea on September 13, 2011 Last Edited By: pokedude10 on December 27, 2014
Nuked

Kids' Show Audience Age Disparity

The protagonists of a children\'s show are slightly older than the target audience.

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Trope
Maybe growing up doesn't suck. Instead, kids look forward to newfound freedoms of being older. A ten-year-old can't wait to be old enough to drive, while a high-schooler wants the self-control found in college. Media creators capitalize on this trend by making characters that are older than the kids watching it. This has the effect of kids rarely being the same age as characters they like.

Examples:

Anime & Manga

Live-Action TV

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 55
  • September 13, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come to mind. (The mane cast of the former are not explicitly stated to be teenage, but have jobs; so, either the characters are at least teenaged, or Equestria has an odd stance on child labour.)
  • September 13, 2011
    CrownClown
  • September 13, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    This also applies to toy advertising.
  • September 14, 2011
    Lavalyte
    Nicely done in Pokemon. The hero is a little older than the target audience, but the bad guys are singificantly older... teenagers.
  • September 14, 2011
    acrobox
    You should mention that this often makes the work invoke the Competence Zone as in the ^ above example.

    Technically it also works in that shows directed towards teenagers usually feature college aged kids. And shows directed towards college aged kids typically feature young professionals in the work force. Around this time the line starts to blur and the characters typically become 'adults' ranging from mid twenties to mid thirties.
  • September 14, 2011
    No9
    Power Rangers, Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. Highschool teens and a few adults, usually around 8-9 years older than the target audience.

    Would shows with adults like GI Joe count?

  • September 14, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Dan Savage was on This American Life talking about his son, who didn't just watch The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody, he studied it for clues of how to behave when he got older.
  • September 14, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    @Hidden Faced Matt I see what you did there.

    Basically every Nickelodeon programme that isn't animated invokes this.
  • September 14, 2011
    PDL
    I think the trope arises from the way children normally play pretend. They often don't pretend that they're different kids (unless it's house or school and then at least someone is playing as mommy, daddy or teacher), they often pretend that they're adults. Often they're playing as what they want to become. They imagine themselves as something that's far removed from their real lives effectively. Basically, everything that older people are capable of doing is seen as something strange and mystical to a younger person. This includes high school, college, work etc.
  • September 14, 2011
    Andygal
    the protagonists of The Babysiitters Club are mostly 13, although later a couple of 11 year olds get involved, the books are geared towards tweens.
  • September 16, 2011
    StupidSexyFlanderization
    Does Lazytown qualify? I think I recall the main protagonists being slightly older than the target audience, Sportacus not included.
  • June 10, 2012
    Noah1
    Most of the human friends of the Transformers are teenage, eight-year-old Sari Samdac of Transformers Animated being a major exception.
  • June 10, 2012
    captainsandwich
  • June 10, 2012
    Dacilriel
    Barney And Friends had (has? I don't know if it's still on the air) elementary school-aged kids, despite the target audience being preschool-age.

    Compare College Is High School Part 2 which has college students portrayed like high-schoolers.
  • June 10, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    Since American teenagers have tons of disposable income and few obligations to spend it on, advertisers and media target them heavily. Since much of American entertainment is funded by advertising, this means that a lot of shows get outright designed and produced in order to appeal to certain demographics. This means that a sizable chunk of American culture is aimed exclusively at the interests and attitudes of teenagers. This much is pretty indisputable.

    This next part is where it gets hazy. Either as a result of this, concurrent with it or proceeding from it, the media image of America (and likewise some facets of American life) revolve around the high school years. Kids want to be teenagers, adults want to be teenagers, and teenagers themselves are often led to believe that they are experiencing the best years of their lives. Whether this is the ultimate goal of most marketers is hard to say, but it definitely serves their purposes.

    As a result, you see a lot of shows essentially treat the characters like teenagers, even if the characters (let alone the actors) are a decade or more out of that age range. Kids on TV have the freedoms that teenagers would have, as well as the attendant responsibilities (such as overcomplicated school assignments.) This can give children an expectation of their teenage years that quite simply will never be met.

    As far as info for the actual trope goes (and not me just rambling like seventy year old):

    Much of this has to do with the constant headache that is using very young child actors (when that's even an option.) It's almost always cheaper and easier to get an adult or at least a teenager to act in your children's show than it is to cast preschoolers, even if you could get them to learn and deliver their lines correctly.
  • July 16, 2012
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Unless you want to broaden this to any "age disparity" relating to "kids' shows" I suggest we switch the title to Teenage Characters Younger Viewers.
  • August 9, 2012
    Noah1
  • August 9, 2012
    animeg3282
    Let's add context to our examples. BTW in Sailor Moon the target audience was young elementary school girls. The heroes start at age 14.
  • August 10, 2012
    Dacilriel
    ^The target audience for Sailor Moon was young elementary school in the English dub (They simplified a lot of the dialogue and edited out sexual and adult references). I believe the original target audience of the Japanese manga was closer to the age of the characters.
  • August 10, 2012
    acrobox
    Name something like Audience Age Disparity and broaden it

    you notice that similarly shows targeted to highschool kids are about older highschoolers or college age people.

    Shows targeted to college age audiences are typically about young professionals. its only after that point that the age remains fixed.

    however family shows, like sitcoms (featuring young or middle aged married couples ) are typically aimed at their peers or slightly younger married couples, who as they get older may have less interest in the dramas and action shows directed at 20 somethings.

    Basically no one wants to watch a show about characters younger than they are.
  • August 12, 2012
    HiddenFacedMatt
    How about "Audience-Character Age Disparity"?
  • September 1, 2012
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Bump...
  • September 1, 2012
    sigh824
    Possibly Subverted: One could argue Regular Show is this(the characters are implied to be at least college-aged) but alot of the jokes are Parental Bonuses and 80's references.
  • September 10, 2012
    Susiemary
    High School Musical.

    No actual high schooler would have admitted to liking this.
  • September 10, 2012
    Susiemary
    Inverted with Rugrats and South Park
  • September 11, 2012
    Damr1990
    Contrast Dawson Casting, where characters who are supposed to be the same age as the target audience are interpreted by actors who obviously are older
  • October 3, 2012
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^ Which reminds me, should we be focusing specifically on characters older than the target audience and treating those examples as inversions, or just broaden this to age disparities in general with a note in the description about how the "older than the audience" variety is more common?
  • October 3, 2012
    owlwarrorforaslan5
    Noahl said that Sari of Transfomers Animated was an exception to this trope. That is true, but only for the first two seasons, and then she was revealed to be part robot and got upgraded into a teenager.
  • October 3, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    We're going to need a section devoted to Disney Channel series where the characters are a couple years older than their target audience.
  • October 10, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Back in the day, there were the Hardy Boys novels--the eponymous characters were high-schoolers, but boys read these books as pre-teens mainly. The Nancy Drew novels, aimed at girls, had a similar age disparity.
  • October 11, 2012
    PsiPaula4
  • October 11, 2012
    HyperTurbina
  • October 11, 2012
    saintdane05
    Blues Clues has Steve/Joe, who were around College age when they started.
  • October 11, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    I wish I could find it, but Roger Ebert had a graph on his review of The Sorcerers Apprentice that perfectly illustrated this. Or maybe I'm just imagining it. Still, he discussed this to some degree.

    "The purpose of this sequence is crystal clear: It's to establish the protagonist as a kid, before he grows for 10 years and becomes the movie's hero. That way grade-schoolers will identify with 20-year-old Dave... Imagine a graph with one line indicating the consumer's age and the other line representing his degree of enjoyment. These lines would intersect at about the age of young Dave."
  • October 11, 2012
    McKathlin
    The kids on Barney And Friends are elemetary school children, a few years older than the show's preschooler target audience.
  • October 11, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    ^In that case, Dora The Explorer. I think she's like 7 and the target audience is preschoolers.
  • October 12, 2012
    mew4ever23
    Imagination Movers, most of Treehouse TV, come to think of it.
  • March 2, 2013
    Noah1
  • December 19, 2014
    pokedude10
    Alright it's been more than a year since this was active, so it's assumed to be up for grabs. I see a few problems that need to be addressed. I'm surprised it already has 4 hats.

    I understand the basic principle behind the trope, but I see two trope theses mashed into one.

    • The main characters in a children's show are older than the target audience.
    And
    • Children/youth/teens look forward to the freedom/perks of being older.

    The laconic seems to describe the draft as the first, yet the description says that the first is a practical response by media to the second. Now this could mean the second is a supertrope to the first. So a split may be needed. But for now, I'll go with the laconic and assume this draft is exclusively for the first.

    Going with that, I see another problem. Using the main definition, the draft seems iffy as a trope. Is it supposed to be universal? If so, is it significant when it is subverted or averted by having the ages match? Is it just an meta-observation?

    I'll admit, there is a pattern between the age of protagonists and the target audience. I see in an earlier comment that Roger Ebert kinda analyzed this pattern. My main question: Is that pattern tropeworthy? Personally, I don't think so.

    Also, to me the second definition does seem like a good in-universe trope. Do We Have This? Seems like it could be some sister/inversion trope to Growing Up Sucks, but I can't find it.
  • December 19, 2014
    PistolsAtDawn
    I say use the first definition, the second one is an in-universe idea and doesnt seem to be what this trope is actually about. This seems like a trope-worthy pattern to me.
  • December 21, 2014
    Patachou
    This is also true of many advertisements. The children are often a bit older than the actual demographic, because people of younger age look up to people of older age. Thus if they have the product then it must be cool.
  • December 21, 2014
    DAN004
    We had a ykttw called Kids Show Adult Characters.
  • December 21, 2014
    pokedude10
    ^Oh? What happened to it? I couldn't seem to find it.

    Ok, so let's assume this pattern holds true for most children's media. If this is true for 95% of media marketed towards children, Is it meaningful when it's averted? Otherwise we'd just be listing 95% of children's media. I'm thinking this might work better as a Universal Trope.
  • December 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I don't think it's either Universal or Omnipresent Trope. It is common, but only to a specific demographic and type of show.

    Children's Show, Adult Characters
  • December 21, 2014
    acrobox
    I dunno, it might be a universal pattern.

    The target demo is always younger than the core cast (5 and under watch shows about kids, 6-11 watch shows about teens, 12-17 watch shows about young adults) until you get to 18-35 where the story becomes paramount, but characters 25+ are generally taken more seriously.
  • December 21, 2014
    acrobox
  • December 21, 2014
    pokedude10
    Threw up a rough rewrite of the description as well as formatted the examples section. I commented out the old description for reference purposes.

    It's not Omnipresent, that's for sure. It might be universal because it applies to (most?) works aimed for kids. The problem is proving it. We would need a lot of straight examples, and have meaningful aversions. When it comes to kids, trying to place the exact target market can be slippery. The three age ranges Acrobox came up with are good. I don't want this to split hairs though.

    Also, that other draft is incredibly similar to this. The only real distinguishing characteristic is that it focuses on adult characters instead of just older kids. Hmm...
  • December 22, 2014
    PsiPaula4
    Why in the world does this have five hats? I removed one, because there are hardly any examples on there, let alone that Pokemon isn't even listed under the right genre.
  • December 22, 2014
    acrobox
    but those are the official demos behind the scenes.

    I've seen 12-17 split into 12-14 and 15-17 sometimes for tweens and older teens. But 5 and under, and 6-11 are definitely official demographics for kid shows in Hollywood. And 18-35 is the general adult demo.

    Shows can sometimes skew one year up or down from the ranges so there's a little overlap. 6-11 can be 5-10, 5-12, 7-10, 7-12, but its called 6-11 in pitch meetings and stuff.
  • December 22, 2014
    SeptimusHeap
    De-hatting this one, because all current examples are Zero Context Examples.
  • December 22, 2014
    pokedude10
    ^ and ^^^ Yeah. I already removed a hat myself. I have no idea why this had 5 hats.

    ^^ Oh. I didn't know that.

    This is why I still don't think it's tropeworthy. I don't see how any straight examples will be much more than a Zero Context Example. If we take Pokemon for instance, an entry with very simple context would look like this.

    • In Pokemon, Ash Ketchum started his journey on his tenth birthday. Not like he ever had another one. This show is marketed mainly towards kids aged 6-11(?).

    I don't think that is really saying much other than stating ages and target markets. Could I write a thicker example, sure, but it would be a stretch for it to still be relevant to the trope.
  • December 26, 2014
    Pichu-kun
    So is this about protagonists who are older than the demographic or just milsly older? What's the limit? 6 years?
  • December 27, 2014
    pokedude10
    ^Yeah... Thanks for pointing that out. I'm not sure how to define that. @Acro Box gave the age ranges for target audiences. Should we say this applies if the characters are in a higher age range than the audience?
  • December 27, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    The title looks like "adults watching kids shows".
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