Hey 3.5 readers.
BQB here. As you know, I am involved in a number of noble causes, ranging from the Oscars So Pretty Movement (we will not rest until Steve Buscemi brings home the gold) to finding a cure for Lightning Infused Toaster Pastry Toilet Death (we will find a cure).
I’m also going to throw my hat into a new ring. Let’s do what little we can to help child actors.
I mean, there’s very little I can do as I am not a Hollywood mogul or anything. But perhaps I can at least raise awareness amongst my 3.5 readers.
TMZ reports that at the time of her passing, Erin Moran, who played Joanie on Happy Days, was living in an Indiana trailer park.
That sucks. And I’m not going to speculate about how she got there. I have no idea about the journey that took her from child star to living in a trailer park.
What I have seen, in general, as a lifelong watcher of TV and observer of pop culture, is that all too often, child stars grow up thinking they’ve got it made, that America loves them as kids and pretty soon, they’ll be adults and they’ll crossover into being the lead in big time films, making lots of money and earning praise and adoration from legions of fans.
Sometimes, in the case of say, Leonardo DiCaprio, it works out that way.
More often, in the case of say, Macauley Culkin, it doesn’t work out that way.
This could be for a variety of reasons but I believe the number one reason is this: that a kid was adorable as a kid doesn’t mean they are going to grow up to become a good looking adult.
Most kids are cute. And some, just like those scrunchy faced pug dogs, are so ugly they’re cute…when they’re little. Macauley Culkin nailed his role in Home Alone as a little boy who is wise beyond his years and manages to outfox two bumbling burglars.
But, adult Macauley Culkin as a leading man in a Hollywood film? Maybe if the right film were to come along but otherwise…not so much.
Child stars becoming adult stars happens, but not often enough, and sadly, it all depends on looks. Scarlett Johansson started out as a child star, appearing as a kid in films like Just Cause and The Horse Whisperer. When she grew up, she turned into a hot babe and thus her career as an actress skyrocketed.
Meanwhile, who can even tell me the name of that little kid with the glasses in Jerry Maguire?
Sadly, Hollywood is a looks based industry. That you were once a cute little kid doesn’t mean you’ll end up as a hot adult. And sure, there might be some niche parts you might find but overall, many child actors have a tough time when they reach adulthood.
Some play it smart. Some find a way to work in some kind of behind the scenes role in the entertainment industry. The kid who played Chunk in the Goonies, for example, grew up to be a respectable entertainment lawyer. Jason Hervey, who played Kevin’s older brother on The Wonder Years, became a producer.
Sure, child actors ought to try to see if their youthful stardom can translate into adult success. But after awhile, if they’ve put their bait out in the Hollywood sea and no one’s biting, they need to be content that they had a good run and then search for a more practical way to make a living.
I know that’s easier said than done. I can only imagine what a tremendous disappointment it must be to be on top of the world as a kid only to have no one return your calls as an adult. You thought you had it made in the shade and now everyone is throwing you shade. I’m sure that’s a depressing situation that can lead to epic sadness, humiliation, drugs, drinking, and so on.
I assume part of the issue is money. Some of these kids have parents who manage their money well. Others, not so much. Perhaps there should be greater oversight as to what happens to the money of child actors. Then again, it’s not like the government can worry about that what with all the other problems it has.
Perhaps some studio representative should sit the kids down when they are in their teens and say, “Hey, just because this works out today, doesn’t mean it’s going to keep working tomorrow.” Get them working on an exit plan and on the path to supporting themselves in the event studios don’t want to give them the time of day after their 18th birthday.
There is one thing we can do as a society and that is, don’t bust on child stars who don’t continue with adult stardom. Child stars who grow up, can’t find acting work, can’t find a behind the scenes job in entertainment, have every right to support themselves, so they should be encouraged to find any kind of ordinary, humdrum job that will support them without feeling embarrassment or shame.
In other words, if one day you enter your local burger joint and find your favorite child star all grown up and flipping burgers, just accept the burger and walk away. No need to point or gawk or stare or write a snarky post about how that child star became a loser. Maybe they aren’t a loser. Maybe they are brave for getting up and carrying on everyday, supporting themselves in a regular way and learning to cope with disappointment and feelings of “what could have been.”
I have a feeling that public ridicule, i.e., “That child star just flipped my burger ha ha ha” is a big reason why child stars who can’t catch a break in Hollywood when they grow up don’t pursue traditional jobs to support themselves. We normals can’t do anything to help adult ex-child stars get Hollywood jobs, but we can control ourselves and not be dicks when those ex-child stars seek traditional employment.
Anyway, that’s my 3.5 cents, 3.5 readers.