Teen Choice Awards 2015: An Adult's Diary of the Teen Madness

5 Seconds of Summer
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Calum Hood from 5 Seconds of Summer performs during the Teen Choice Awards 2015 at the USC Galen Center on August 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. 

5 Seconds of Summer, Vine stars and interested parents were all present at this year's #teen jamboree.

There’s a prevalent interest on the Internet, one that both plagues and inspires those of us who work in media: the glorification of all things teen. Social media is a young person’s game; so is really, truly understanding how to get the most out of going online. For those who care about communication, there’s a lot to learn from adolescence.

It’s why I decided to go to the puberty olympics, the end all be all for those under the age of 20: the 2015 Teen Choice Awards.

The show is now in its 16th year, well established as the only award show of its kind for this very specific demographic. While adult events of this caliber pride themselves on glamour and luxury, the Teen Choice Awards are all about casual cool. If the Oscars are a decaf latte with light foam, the Teen Choice Awards are a blended frapp with extra whipped cream.

Rita Ora's Teen Choice Awards Photo Diary: See Exclusive Pics

It was fairly easy to spot the TCAs, and even easier to hear it. Upon entry on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 16), hundreds of girls lined every side of the Galen Center in Los Angeles, hoping to get a peek of their favorite celebrities. Some managed to camp out between the cracks in the wall of the red (actually blue) carpet, shrieking with all their might at the very glimpse of a member of Little Mix’s hair. I was given the opportunity to interview 5 Seconds of Summer, which made me close to God in teen world. It evoked loud shrieks from kids in all directions, but possibly not as loud as when the evening’s Vine stars —Nash Grier and Jack and Jack — walked in together. As an adult, looking at these famous teens who are quite literally famous for being cute and good at the Internet, I felt death approaching.

Entering the arena sans earplugs felt masochistic, but the show must go on. When it started, it started with the cast of Straight Outta Compton inviting us all into the magical world of madness that is the TCAs. It felt like a weird fit: though the film is massively popular and a point of pride for our Los Angeles location, it’s hard to imagine the majority of the population being familiar with N.W.A album… although, again, the ever-present accessibility of information makes it easier for these teens to school themselves. Hell, they were born long after Kurt Cobain’s death and Nirvana shirts littered the place.

One Direction, Britney Spears, Wiz Khalifa Clean Up at 2015 Teen Choice Awards

5 Seconds of Summer (possibly the real reason for the grunge revival) ripped through their My Chemical Romance-channeling hit, “She’s Kinda Hot.” It felt a bit early for the boys, but the song’s 12-bar blues leitmotif clearly struck a chord with the moms in the audience.  We cut to commercial and I cut to the bar, the only place there weren’t lines; getting food or using the rest room is a battle.

The cast of Empire take it to another level when accepting the title of Choice TV: Breakout Show. “You are the future,” they exclaim, “Whoever you are, change the future.” It was enough to warm the heart of even the most jaded cynic (this adult).

There are nearly 80 awards to be given out, but the two-hour show did its best to cover as much as possible in the time allotted. In television world, it means only really drawing attention to the people who are present in the room. (We’ll excuse One Direction’s absence because of their tour, but the lads took home eight awards. That’s a lot of surfboards.)

Fifth Harmony are entering that type of stardom, due in large to the popularity of their mature, R&B-leaning hit, “Worth it.” The ladies of The X Factor were given the honor of introducing Britney Spears, and we were given the pleasure of watching a sideshow of the teen pop icon’s history with the Teen Choice Awards. She was at the very first, in 1999…it’s almost as if she birthed the demographic. She thanked her kids, like many of the older celebs did.

John Stamos joked alongside host Josh Peck, the latter rocking a Full House Uncle Jesse wig. Peck landed a joke with Joey Gladstone’s signature “Cut it out!” There were some chuckles, but when Stamos flipped the script and landed his commentary with “I ain’t callin’ you a truther,” from Peck’s Drake and Josh, the arena erupted. A generation gap has never been wider.

Some things are universal, and that became evident when Furious 7 won Choice Movie: Action/Adventure. Vin Diesel took a while to stand up, as if completely surprised and motivated by the award. When he spoke, he spoke slowly and calculatedly. “Paul Walker is here in spirit with us.” A lot of the audience sobbed. It was the only point where the mom behind me scolded her daughter for talking—she wanted to hear this.

The next performance was Rachel Platton with “Fight Song.” Outside, she was walking with crutches and a limp; inside, she powered through. Kids in the crowd voluntarily lit up their phones, because why would they have lighters? Near the song’s end, she brings up a handful of young ladies, all of whom are dedicated to very specific causes: ending sex trafficking, body positivity, LGBT acceptance, etc. She told us to cheer for “these teens who are really changing the world.” She was not wrong.

It’s moments like those that make the Teen Choice Awards just as, if not more important than, other award shows—here, handing a statue (or a surfboard) to a celebrity is more than just celebrating their greatness, but an illustration of just what can happen when kids truly believe in themselves, when they fight to maintain the enthusiasm that comes with childhood and is lost somewhere heading into adulthood. I cried, but I still don’t really get the appeal of Cameron Dallas. I guess there’s a bit of teen in all of us.


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