These days there seems to be a lot of pushback against nostalgia culture. Anyone who talks about how great the entertainment was back when they were kids can expect quite a few people telling them just how lousy their childhood shows and music were. However right either group may be, while looking at today’s pop culture geared toward kids, try to imagine having to explain some of it to future generations. Seems like it will be almost impossible, doesn’t it? In the meantime, prepare to feel either embarrassed by how lame and non-lucrative your childhood was compared with some of these people, many of whom achieved stardom before most of us got our first paycheck, or extremely old because you really don’t understand how anyone could find this sort of content bearable, let alone something to watch obsessively.
Kids these days, right?
10. Angelina Jordan
When many people first saw Angelina Jordan performing, their first thought was “Amy Winehouse.” That’s because, as Snopes reported, one of her first videos went viral because many people shared it with a title claiming that it was Amy Winehouse, performing “What a Difference a Day Makes” at age 10. In truth, the video was Jordan performing for Norwegian television in 2014, when she was only eight.
Since then, Jordan has completely stepped out from behind her early viral legacy as the girl everyone thought was Winehouse. Her website claims that videos of her performing have over one hundred million views on YouTube. Considering her hit videos, like her performance of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”, or her appearances on shows like The View, that seems a pretty believable claim. She has released a kid’s book (pretty much had to be, since she was only six when she wrote it) in Norwegian about two girls who “share a magical moment,” which her website claims is entitled “Between to Hearts” (presumably she meant “Two”). Hopefully all the pressure brought on by her success doesn’t mean she has anything like the tragic end that Winehouse did.
9. Madison Ziegler
Thirteen is a pretty young age to not only be one of the stars of a long-running television show, but to have your music videos be considered good enough in the music industry to be featured at the Grammy Awards, particularly for someone from Pittsburgh, of all places. That’s what Madison Ziegler has been able to achieve with the Lifetime television show Dance Moms, under the guidance of her mother Melissa Giosini. As of February 2016 she left the show and began work starring in a feature film directed by Sai, the same artist who directed her in the aforementioned music videos.
Although there have been polls which show that even the biggest film and television stars have to compete with YouTube celebrities for a decent online following, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Ziegler. The social media platform Instagram alone has provided her with six million followers. Seeing how many adults have just gotten the hang of using Facebook and Twitter, you can bet that it’s mostly teens and kids following her on there.
8. Robby Novak
Portraying the character “Kid President” for the YouTube channel Soulpancake (best known for being cofounded by The Office star Rainn Wilson) has been a pretty wild gig for 12-year-old actor Robby Novak. His first video as the character alone has more than 38 million views. He’s played opposite people ranging from Craig Robinson to President Barack Obama himself in his videos in the past three years. The content of his videos tends to be largely pep talk material, such as advising that parents hug their kids more often and yell at them less, or trying to promote feminism in the video “Awesome Girls.”
He achieved all this while suffering from a genetic weakness in his skeletal structure that leaves him with extremely brittle bones, which have been fractured dozens of times, and in February 2016 he underwent surgery to have a rod placed in his femur bone. So kid secret service will have to be on the lookout about that.
7. Harper Beckham
Can you imagine hearing that your kids want a specific item of clothing because they saw a picture of the daughter of an athlete? Many parents out there don’t have to bother using their imaginations for that. All that has to happen is another picture of this four year-old be posted to Instagram (seemingly, mostly by her mother Victoria, someone who really goes crazy with the keyword tags) and a major fashion line will get a boost. You know who was just below her in this regard? Prince George.
At present there don’t seem to be any signs that the Beckhams are making any overt attempts to cash in on this. Even though Harper Beckham is already pretty demonstrably an effective model without trying in the slightest, there’s no talk of a Beckham fashion line, or anything like that. On one hand, it’s good that the Beckham’s aren’t exploiting their children in quite this way. On the other, with 25% of mothers admitting in a survey that they ended up buying some article of clothing after seeing Harper or her siblings wearing it, it can’t help but seem like something of a waste.
6. DC Toys Collector
This celebrity is actually something of an enigmatic figure, and some media analysts theorize that the fact she’s so hard to identify is what makes her so appealing to such a large quantity of children. After all, she’s a complete mystery but still has over seven million subscribers. All we ever see of this person, who makes millions of dollars a year from all the ad revenue opening toy packaging, is her hands, which were noted for being “well-manicured.” All the audience can make out about her is that she has a fairly pleasant voice (albeit a little on the high-pitched side) and that she’s fine with doing voices for all her toy characters instead of just dryly reviewing them. A single video of her talking about making clay dresses for Disney princess dolls has over four hundred million views, which would be respectable for a music video from a chart-topping talent. Despite this success, she felt the need to change her channel’s name to “FunToyzCollector.”
That said, parents should be advised that this is not suitable viewing for children. Not because she says anything obscene or has any joke videos where she reviews adult toys. But if a picture of Harper Beckham’s child can make kids want a piece of clothing enough to convince many of their parents to buy them, just imagine how insistent for new toys they’ll be after watching these videos!
These days it seems like playing the highly successful indie game Minecraft is much less popular among kids than watching someone else play it. One 25-year-old from the UK named Joseph Garrett has enjoyed truly bewildering success with that craze by way of his cat character known both as Stampy Long Nose and Stampy Longhead. The character seems basically the exact opposite of the popular comic strip character Garfield, in that he doesn’t have the least bit of attitude or edge to him. If that sounds a touch banal, by and large kids certainly don’t seem to think so, given that this channel of a blocky but kid-friendly character has garnered more than seven million subscribers.
Despite how crazy lucrative his career as a cubical cat has been (some rumors estimate it’s good for about 200,000 pounds a year), Garrett has not been the most aggressive chaser of personal fame or the most social of butterflies. He claims that he mostly hangs out with other vloggers, and it’s reportedly somewhat difficult to get him to agree to do an interview. Hard to tell if that’s just a matter of personal taste or if he wants to seem kid-friendly behind the scenes, too.
4. Jared and Evan
YouTube isn’t just good for making money off of the eager eyeballs of children: it’s also good for kids themselves to make money in some cases. EvantubeHD shows that kids can also make bank on YouTube with just a bit of guidance from their parents. Jared (last name withheld to protect his family’s privacy) is the father of now 10-year-old Evan, the main face of this toy, costume, candy, etc. reviewing channel. While at 2.9 million subscribers the channel doesn’t yet provide serious competition for the Stampys and DC Toy Collectors of YouTube, it still pulls in an estimated $1.3 million a year (that figure being an estimate by Evan, though, and possibly not reliable). Pretty good for a channel riding on a 10-year-old. Even if that amount is accurate, it apparently wasn’t enough for this family, and they spun off a second channel for videotaping daily events and reviewing video games.
Despite the spinoff channel, it should be noted that the family is not really greedy. They make sure to donate the toys they review to charity and do the same with a substantial portion of their income. Whatever you may think of a channel where one of the most successful attractions is watching a kid eat a huge gummy worm, there’s definitely a lot of good that came of it.
3. David Walliams
Even though this list is dominated by YouTube and Instagram celebrities, traditional media is alive and well. Representing it for our purposes is one of the most followed authors on Twitter (1.6 million followers strong), which is no surprise since he’s one of the most famous authors of children’s books today, David Walliams. A UK survey found that his book Demon Dentist was more popular among primary school students than JK Rowling’s books that need not be named, which is just amazing. Part of his fame, admittedly, is due to his controversial, debatably homophobic presence on Britain’s Got Talent, but that’s still major reach with child audiences.
As the title Demon Dentist implies, Walliams basically tries to inject the edge into his books that Joseph Garrett actively avoids for Stampy. He also has to his name books like Gangsta Granny, Awful Auntie, and Ratburger. Might not be the most sophisticated things for children to read but still, it gets their noses out of YouTube for awhile.
2. Dane Boedigheimer
For many of the entertainers featured in this list, it’s hard for an adult to understand the appeal. In this case, kids seem to like it just to spite adults that have to listen to it in the background. Dane Boedigheimer is known, beloved, and obsessively viewed by millions of children all over the world as the eyes, mouth, and voice of Annoying Orange. Basically the character’s routine was that he would pester a nearby animated food item until something came along and killed its companion. His channel reached a billion views even back in 2012 thanks to its core audience of 8-to-13 year-olds.
As a result, Boedignheimer got a show for two seasons on Cartoon Network. But really the only place kids were willing to watch the kid-friendly – and only kid-friendly – character was on YouTube, and among general audiences it was such a bomb that IMDb users on average gave it only 2.7 out of 10. Not that something that popular could be killed off that easily. Boedignheimer just returned his focus to the YouTube channel, which now has more than five million subscribers.
In the past six years, the videos of 26-year-old Swede Felix Kjellberg screaming at video games have made him the most popular entertainer on YouTube, with tens of millions of subscribers that have provided more than eight billion views. His loud, often gibberish-laden “Let’s Play” commentary seem to really connect with young audiences, but it’s also gotten him in a bit of trouble for not being what the mainstream media traditionally thinks of as suitable for a young audience (though his view counts imply it’s actually exactly what kids want). He has repeatedly apologized for the language in his videos and mainstream critics like Variety have repeatedly bashed his videos for their “aggressive stupidity.”
But on the more positive side, he has, like Evan’s family, backed numerous charity projects such as Charity Water and Save the Children. These efforts have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, well beyond expectations. Still, it’s not an accident that TopTenz did not list his as one of the top ten gaming channels.
Dustin Koski is the author of the fairy fantasy adventure Forust: A Tale of Magic Gone Wrong.