Child stars, the public eye, and the scary consequences

Lindsay Lohan, Macaulay Culkin, Britney Spears…what do all of these stars have in common? If your initial thought was ‘troubled’, then you wouldn’t be far from wrong. After rising to fame at a young age, these three are just a few examples of the negative effect of the limelight, especially when exposed to it at a young age.

Is there any way this can be prevented? And is it our job to do the preventing?

We, as the public, are often guilty of just sitting back and watching celebrities go crazy, with little concern for the consequences. In fact, it could be said that we almost revel in it; many of us would be lying if we were to claim we didn’t take pleasure in the visible decline of those we see as more successful than ourselves.

Just look at the multitude of media coverage that surrounded Spears’ hair shaving incident, much of which ridiculed her as an individual, barely showing concern for the serious cry for help that was underlying it. Should we be more responsible for preventing this kind of objectification of celebrities from taking place?

Last week, The Student released an article commenting on the negative reaction that the child actors of the hit TV show, Stranger Things, received from fans as a result of not greeting each and every one of them. As the previous examples attest, it is exactly this sort of public criticism that causes young people to suffer in light of their fame and therefore, it is this that we should be seeking to change.

A simple Google search for ‘child stars who have gone off the rails’ brings up a profusion of results from sources such as The Sun and the Metro newspapers, which goes to show the extent of our invested interest in the failure of others. Is it time to alter this attitude? And what is more, especially with respect to young celebrities, would it be better to look for a way to prevent these drastic downfalls, instead of revelling in them?

What we often forget as mere members of the public is that, fundamentally, celebrities, whether adults or children, are people. When we see a character on the big screen over and over again, it is easy to overlook the fact that they are real people, and is exactly this attitude that we should look to re-address.
Although many may argue that actors choose that life, and therefore should be prepared to deal with the consequences of fame, which in some ways is a fair observation, we still need to be careful not to overlook the fact that celebrities are human.

This is a particularly prevalent issue with respect to young celebrities, as it is during childhood that we are most vulnerable and likely to be affected by abject criticism. As such, instead of dehumanising them and seeing actors as simple objects of our attention, there solely for our entertainment, first and foremost we should try to ensure that we allow celebrities, particularly young ones, to live their lives as normally as possible, as what they fundamentally are: humans, deserving of personal privacy.

This is not to say that we should not continue to support what child stars do. Quite the opposite. We should encourage young people to fulfil their dreams and desires, whatever they may be, acting included. Where our caution needs to be taken is in our treatment of them.

We should attempt to be more considerate in our attitudes towards young celebrities in particular, and instead of black-marking them for not living up to our exacting ideals, we should admire them and their work for what it is. After all, how many of us could deal with the glare of the red carpet whilst simultaneously being bombarded by millions of eager fans, especially at the tender age of 12 or 13?

 

Image: Leileiha via flickr

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