KidThink: What today’s kids are thinking: Tweens talk about their favorite TV and movie stars

To help us keep up-to-date with what's happening with kids, we've asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids' lives. Since today's kids spend so...
July 1, 1996

To help us keep up-to-date with what’s happening with kids, we’ve asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Since today’s kids spend so much time on-line, Kid Think will be talking to kids via Live Wire, Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 600 on-line families across the United States.

Both Kid Think and Live Wire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or have subjects you’d like to see Kid Think cover, contact Bob Horne at 212-337-6410 or

This month, Live Wire went on-line to talk with ‘tweens’ (that betwixt and between age-not kids and not quite teens) about their favorite TV and movie stars, and why these celebrities are so popular.

What we found:

When it comes to star-searching, tweens are all over the galaxy. They know who they like, but it runs the gamut from Mogli of The Jungle Book to Walter Mathau of The Odd Couple.

For the most part, tweens still hang onto cartoon characters or child stars (the ones no self-respecting teenager would be caught dead mentioning), but are simultaneously enamored of the more teen or adult celebrities as well.

We found a number of influences on their selections. The number one star quality tweens love is humor. At this age, verbal humor is paramount with tweens. They thrive on inside jokes and catch phrases and use them to define themselves-like a badge of identity.

Tweens, particularly boys, love action and adventure stars. Stars in these types of movies or TV series are tough, dirty and daring. They signify winning and being a hero against all odds. The more thrills, the more excitement.

Tweens clearly have a certain ‘star infatuation.’ They aren’t as cynical as teens are, and often rationalize their favorite choices by using the catchall phrase, ‘He/she is a good actor.’ In most cases, it has much to do with the celebrities’ looks, the kind of clothes they wear, the car they drive, the lifestyle portrayed, and the role an actor is depicting in a particular movie. They don’t really separate their favorite actor from the role he/she plays in the movie or show.

When we probed a little deeper with our audience, we found that celebrities that show their human side, their feelings, are very well liked and important to this age group. Consider the fact that tweens are going through a tough physical and mental transition, and this makes perfect sense. Stars that show vulnerability and sensitivity are people they can relate to; they’re more like themselves and appeal to the vulnerable ‘child’ side of the tween.

What they said:

Here’s a quick qualitative look at who these tweens are watching and some thoughts on why they hit the ‘cool quotient.’


Jim Carey: ‘He is hilarious.’

Jonathan Taylor Thomas: ‘He’s so cute and funny!’

Bart Simpson: ‘Because he’s cool. He gets away with a lot.’ ‘I like the way he acts and what he d’es, and I like how he skateboards.’

Tim Allen: ‘He is so funny and like nobody else on TV.’ ‘He may not be as cool as Bart but he is funny. Chip and Dale are tricky and fun to watch, but not as cool or funny as Bart, and Tim.’ ‘I like the way he talks all the time with his kids, joking around. He laughs a lot; most grown-ups don’t do that. His grunting. He finds out his own mistake and talks about it. He is more real.’

Will Smith (Fresh Prince of Bel Air): ‘I think he’s really funny.’ ‘I don’t like him. He’s always chasing girls and is rude. He only cares about money and d’es not think school is important.’

Wyatt and Gary from Weird Science: ‘They are one of a kind people; there’s no one like them on any other shows.’

Vanessa Angel (Weird Science): ‘She is gorgeous and smart and funny.’

Arnold Schwarzenegger: ‘[He] has been in strange roles like a pregnant man and a twin and a teacher-he’s pretty funny.’

The Wayans brothers, Drew Carey, J’ey, Ph’ebe and Chandler on Friends, Leslie Nielsen, Whoopi Goldberg, Walter Mathau, Danny DeVito, Jerry Seinfeld and Jeff Foxworthy are all in the ‘Just Funny-I can’t Explain it’ category.

Action Her’es

Arnold Schwarzenegger: ‘He’s tough, big, and always wins.’

Jean-Claude Van Damme: ‘I like his fighting ability.’

Sly Stallone: ‘Assassins brought him back so much.’

Val Kilmer, Chris O’Donnell and Tom Cruise: ‘[I like ] them because they play more heroic parts and they get all the girls.’

Jason David Frank from the Power Rangers movie: ‘He is very handsome, but I think I like Sean Connery better.’

Sean Connery: ‘Sean is cool and he plays cool characters. He talks really cool and he is handsome. He always is cool when he is on ET and other shows too. He seems like a nice person.’

David Duchovny (The X-Files): ‘He d’es a great job of making me believe in the supernatural. He has a great job.’ ‘I like his sense of humor and he never gives up in finding the truth.’

Patrick Stewart (Star Trek): ‘I like the character he plays.’

The Deanna Troy character on Star Trek: ‘She’s pretty and smart and she likes to help people.’

Adrian Paul (Star Trek): ‘He is handsome and he talks cool, and he is the best Highlander.’

Star Infatuation

Luke Perry, Heather Locklear, Tori Spelling and Christina Applegate received many votes for their ‘good acting.’

Robin Williams: ‘He has [played] different people and is really really good at it, but you always know it’s him.’

Overall, the key point to remember when communicating to this group is that it’s important to be aware that they’re aspiring to those things teens like. But we can’t ignore the child in the tween.

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