A few days back, yet another child star entered rehab. Yet another kid who’s spent her life in the limelight has had to receive treatment for hurting herself and brutalizing her young body. Yet another child whose innocence and hope has been traded for a few million dollars and a lot of fame.
So, at what point does child stardom become tantamount to child abuse?
For all intents and purposes, making the decision to turn your child into a child actor is roulette. Maybe you’ll win, but more likely, than not, you’ll lose, and even the winners probably have a lot of loss behind them. Demi Lovato is just the latest; she won’t be the last.
The ones who ended up okay almost all have something in common: they left. People like Thora Birch, Gabby Hoffman and Josh Saviano are all but out of the spotlight. People like Danica McKellar, Jodie Foster, Brooke Shields and Natalie Portman all took the time for a university education. People like Peter Billingsly and Ron Howard all left the front of the camera for the back. People like Jason Bateman and Drew Barrymore are great now, but only after years of struggle.
Neil Patrick Harris is one of the few to work consistently and actually seem to be decent human being with no known history of drug abuse or crime. He’s basically a freak. But the thing he shares with those mentioned above and the other formerly famous kids is the lack of excessive paparazzi. Even today, none of those who are still in the game are constantly in our faces. Do we ever hear about what Natalie Portman is up to outside of the film world? No, because she’s a famous actress, not merely a celebrity, and that is the peril of those who go bad.
Film work dries up, or maybe being famous just seems more appealing than actually working, so these kids who grew up too fast end up with too much time on their hands. Boredom and never hearing “no” never ends well.
Who would have thought that, relatively speaking, Jamie Lynn Spears’s teen pregnancy may have been the best thing that could have happened to her? They can’t pimp her anymore. She finally has a chance to be normal. Her sister didn’t have that chance. I’m one of the few people who believe that drugs and alcohol weren’t Britney’s problem; that poor girl has way bigger demons in her, and that seems to be a common thread in these kids.
Questionable upbringings and parents with undeniable motives, plus some form of psychiatric disease or illness, and these children—who will now always be children, at least mentally, because they completely stopped developing—are lost forever. Britney Spears is an obviously sick girl, but now she has all these people who rely on her for income, so they they take the sick girl, clean her up, throw her out on stage and rake in their millions. There is a special place in hell for those who have done this to her and those like her. Her story is tragic and instead of seeing it, we make jokes about her bad clothes and ratty hair.
For every NPH, there’s twenty Danny Bonaduces and Lindsay Lohans. The stars are to blame, the parents are to blame, Disney is to blame, the studios are to blame, and, like it or not, so are we. And sadly, I don’t know what to do about it. But until someone figures it out, we’ll be watching sweet kids crash and burn by 18 for years to come.