Childhood Acting Phenomenon



Shon Ponder, Editor-in-Chief

The rise to fame while all so happy in the spotlight may be a gleam of darkness in the real aspect of many childhood actors. With the names; Macaulay Culkin, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, Jennette McCurdy, and Shia LeBeouf coming to mind, many are just the start of a branch of childhood stars who were mentally and emotionally affected by their stardom. The phenomenon otherwise known as the child star effect is to explain the status of these childhood actors once they implode. Public outbreaks are most notably seen in the limelight but it all starts with an emotional breakdown that allows the star to feel a sense that they will not live up to the expectations they are held to. This is then followed by substance abuse that will then turn into a lifetime of lifestyle changes that can ruin their credibility. Many of these stars grow up living the life of an adult and it can be a hard life. The shocking stardom of Drew Barrymore can be seen as one that is disheartening, her youth use of substances while partying has been something she has openly admitted and shown how rehab has been able to mend most of the trauma that has been sustained throughout her childhood years. Similar to Drew, Macaulay Culkin has grown from his time in Home Alone, the pressure to actively pursue his acting career as well as be at the top of his game every day brought depression and anxiety beyond measure. His emotions took over and before long he was known as one of Hollywood’s tragedies, substances abuse and emotional outrage in the public took him to a low, before long he was no longer cast in movies and TV Shows for the fear that he would be unable to handle the stress of another role. He has since in the years of his Hollywood departure spent time rehabilitating himself and led him to start his family with Disney Star, Brenda Song, this comeback was great for not only his fame but his own personal health.

Now, thinking beyond just a few stories… Why is this phenomenon occurring? The dream of becoming a star and acting on the big screen is something everyone dreams of, so why is it that when those who get their chance to live out their dream suddenly fall? To look into this further we have to consider not only the job of acting which will consume the majority of the time they have as a child. They lose two major things, education in a normal environment as the general public does and the chance to grow up around peers that are around their age and maturity level. This means one thing, although they get to become a star, they must mature at an accelerated rate to be able to handle the physical demands of being a star. This can have major effects on the human body as a whole. Those who mature at accelerated rates do not biologically grow at a faster rate, but they accept the social responsibilities of an adult within a child’s body. Not only can this lead to heavy emotional trauma but it can affect the hormones released within the body. Overall not only can the mental aspects of childhood fame affect the life of a child but also the social aspects. Many of these child stars are put into situations where drugs and alcohol are openly available to be used at their discretion. This is not healthy and only furthers the deterioration of childhood for these kids. This can be even furthered by showing just how strenuous a job site can be for kids, some movies film for hours at a time during the day, pushing the body beyond its normal limits depending on whether they are doing their own stunts, or whether the site itself requires a level of emotional vulnerability to be displayed on camera for everyone to see.

As it appears, the phenomenon itself of child stars exhibiting a behavior that is far outside of the norm. Is actually quite normal for the livelihood of children under this amount of pressure. To be able to sympathize is something that many of us would not be able to handle. The stress and outlook of an idol is more than what hits the eye, perfection is something that no one will ever be able to handle or even come close to reaching and the more you try to reach it the more you crumble yourself. This is why a more natural outlook on these stars should be taken to ensure they do not have to meet unrealistic expectations. Although it is too late to salvage a childhood for most child actors, we can start a new beginning to give a childhood to new stars. We as a community can do better and create a better environment for everyone alike.