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Let’s help unhappy child stars

By Nestor Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:55:00 05/15/2011

Filed Under: Children, Entertainment (general), Celebrities, Television

VIEWERS? current concern about the abuse or exploitation of children on television comes right in the nick of time and not a moment too soon, because kiddie talents are coming on really strongly on TV these days, with new teleseryes top-billing child actors in key roles.

On ?Captain Barbel,? Jillian Ward plays the superhero character?s sassy little sideckick. On the fantasy-reality series, ?100 Days,? Xyriel Manabat costars with Coney Reyes as the mature actress? ?mini me.? ?Magic Palayok? has a number of juvenile lead players. The new GMA-7 draws, ?Munting Heredera,? is all about a rich waif who end up in an impoverished home.

Fantasy format

The plot thickens even more when you factor in the shows opening later this month, with Jillian costarring in a second series, ?Andres de Saya,? with Cesar Montano and Iza Calzado.

Why have children become so popular on TV? A contributing factor is the fact that many television series these days are of the fantasy variety, or about family relationships?formats that need child characters to make them appealing and empathetic.

The appeal to local viewers is understandable, but the need for more child talents has to be more closely supervised and controlled, because it encourages some troubling tendencies, like ?stage parents? living off their cute children and overworking them to make hay while the showbiz sun shines.

Other negative consequences include kids growing up too fast, acquiring excessively ?porma? and ?trendy? traits, precociously ?adult? values from their more mature co-workers, and learning to fake it at an age when they should be childlike, genuine and honest.

Concerted PR move

Another insidious development: Right after the ?macho-dancing boy? scandal, the viewing public?s concern was high, but due to our all too predictable ningas-cogon mentality, the uproar has noticeably abated, so wrongdoers are starting to misbehave once more.

Worse, there appears to be a concerted PR move to downplay the ?child abuse? angle, with some commentators pooh-poohing the very idea that anything significantly reprehensible happened at all!

It?s clear, therefore, that the fight to protect child talents is far from over, so viewers should continue to be concerned and outraged. Show biz insiders can vouch for the existence of child abuse and exploitation, despite rules meant to guard against it, and the presence of so-called ?supervisors??who could be complicit by ?cooperatively? looking the other way when infractions are committed.

Our own motivation for doing our bit to protect child talent comes from our sad experience involving a child actress we once worked with.

She was already an adolescent but her parents still tried to pass her off as a little girl, so she could continue earning money for her fat and lazy family.

Miserable, trapped

When she had her first period, her parents kept it a big secret and told her that she had to act as ?kiddie? as ever so she would continue getting roles in the movies and on TV. The poor girl wailed, ?I?m already 13 years old, I?m not a child anymore?but I?m forced to work as my family?s breadwinner, and I feel miserable and trapped!?

Let?s all do what we can to help other child talents who are unhappy, overworked or otherwise exploited to escape from that psychological trap?and ?loving? bondage.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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