Kids & Viral Videos: Is It Exploitation?

Andrew Dalton
8

charlie bit meWhat is the fate of the child who gets famous on YouTube? Do they end up like so many of the TV and movie child stars of our youth? Strung out, robbing liquor stores, maybe even on the way to an early grave, like the Coreys and Diff'rent Strokers before them?

The warning signs are there. David After Dentist has got to be bound for a serious drug problem. The Kittens Inspired by Kittens girl, one of the great artists of our time, is sooo going to be a crazy cat lady. Unless of course she rebels and resents cats, and becomes a crazy dog show lady, or, given her take on World War II, a nutty, Quaid-like conspiracy theorist. And I hate to think what the future holds for Brazilian dancing baby.

Of course it's way too early to tell with any of these kids. The Charlie Bit My Finger toddlers seem like they'd be in the most danger given their super-young super-stardom.

At least they haven't held up any banks yet. They're looking at 245 million hits (which if you convert it into their British pounds is more like 400 million), and were it not for the somewhat unfair competition from professionals like Bieber and Gaga, it would be the most watched video ever.

As their mom Shirley Davies-Carr told the Sun Newspaper:

Susan Boyle has never had the hits we have had. The video got on to a college networking site in the US and from there it went viral. I think the British accents have helped make it so globally viewed.

And their dad, Howard Davies-Carr, called his boys "now almost legendary." Surprised he didn't use John Lennon's "more popular than Jesus" line.

I smell stage parents, and that's no good. It's a one-way ticket to LiLo land.

Or maybe not. Charlie and Harry, the brother with the bit finger, have had t-shirts and calendars made (by others), and have Facebook fan clubs. Their father has continued making videos and putting them up -- now including a third brother, Jasper, like when little Randy joined the Jackson 5 and totally screwed up the name.

And the parents don't really seem all that shameless. In the same interview, the father said he has "deliberately kept away from the personal bits." Now at first I thought that meant, in his quirky British dialect, that they were avoiding filming the boys naked. 

But no:

You don't see their birthdays, school plays or things like the first time they cycled. All I do is put up one clip every six weeks and an awful lot happens every six weeks ... Many people have said we should do mugs and keyrings ... we have deliberately not commercialised the children. It's just that we don't want it to change the boys' lives.

Of course that's exactly what a money-grubbing stage parent would say. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, I won't be surprised to see those boys in the 2030 reboot of Celebrity Rehab.

 

Image via Flickr/MaggieJumps

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