First off, let me just say this will probably be my last big journal, on any topic, for quite some time. They're receiving fewer views than usual, and even fewer comments. Really, just not worth the effort; and someone just told me that it's possible people don't like my journals (or "me" as they imagine me from my journals), so I'm going to hold off on them.
If you don't know who Mara Wilson is... well, you're deprived. She played Matilda in the movie of the same name, based on a short novel by Roald Dahl, which was basically a story of child empowerment, telling the tale of an intelligent young girl who discovers she has psychokinetic powers and she uses them to get back at her parents and school staff, but not in a crazy, mass-murdering, cow-blood-drenched way. Wilson also had roles in other films, such as Mrs. Doubtfire, though Matilda is likely the first one to spring to people's minds. It's just such a cool movie.
I personally really liked the movie, and Wilson was easily one of my favorite young actors in any movie out there. Matilda was just awesome, and I loved every single aspect of the movie. I was going through - sadly, more real and gritty and traumatizing - a rough time at home with one of my parents and with idiot teachers at school, and I was so gladdened to just see a movie glorifying intellectualism, championing the child (who was near my age!) as the hero, and just generally being on the kid's side when it should've been.
Here's where I point out I don't like her article on Cracked: her final words, her suggestion that in the future it might be better if child actors are phased out, worry me, because if they'd used a CGI girl voiced by an adult in some new version of Matilda, it would have absolutely none of the impact or the believability. In a lot of ways, the entire point of the movie (book?) would be undermined: what's the point of a story about empowering a downtrodden child when by law you can not, or by choice you opt to not, have an actual child in a movie? When, by law, a child couldn't act that character even if he or she wanted to?
A lot of people know that I vehemently defend child actors. I've even chatted with some (well, teens at the time, as I was). I strongly advocate respecting them as individuals, respecting their acting and respecting their role in modern cinema. I don't agree with the assertion that child actors all or mostly go off the rails, for one thing. A huge amount of them, the majority, do not - it's the special cases that do, and the media just delights in thrusting their "downfall" (or rather, growing up) in our faces.
Even the "bad ones" are rarely any worse than the typical adult - who gives a flying fart if a twenty-something year old ex-child actor was caught speeding, or smoking weed? Get over it, you haven't given that dude any respect or acting work in ten years, you barely remember him, but you think we should judge him extra specially harshly just because they used to be a cute face on television? The concept of "child stars going crazy" is so ubiquitous, not to mention a sweet, delicious, exploitable topic for the media, that people try to twist every mistake every child actor ever makes into them becoming fallen angels to be spotlighted and then tutted at. This is hugely unfair! Mel Gibson's going on a drunken, racist rant is far more abhorrent than Justin Bieber trying a joint like, say, a third of all teenagers who have ever lived.
One thing I really believe is that it's important for children to be seen and heard. I think we need them in the cultural eye; they're already "out of sight, out of mind" in many realms of entertainment and society. Can we stop and think for a second what it would be like if we literally never saw one on TV or in a movie - even in roles that specifically called FOR a child actor? Can you imagine if we exchanged "child" in "child actor" for "female" or "black" or "Jewish?" Being plain unfair aside, think what it would do to our social conception of that group. And to what end? It's dropping a nuclear bomb to close up an anthill; there are better ways to fix this than to drop a blanket ban on expressing yourself via acting until you're of a certain age - or at least to make money and gain professional recognition while doing so - there're enough heavy-handed, poorly rationalized age-based bans out there.
If "child actors" are a legal quagmire, then clean that quagmire up. If there are identifiable ways that the profession can damage them, work on that. If we are being too harsh on them, which we are, then we need to stop that.
Now, as I said, I don't believe it's healthy for the youth of western society to be shunted out of sight like that. It's overprotective mollycoddling taken to extremes - we're not happy with legislated curfews and "child labor laws" that make it impossible to get a paper round at age 12, to "protect" them, now we have to ban child-acting, with the same unfortunate side effect: we usher them out of sight, out of the "adult" world, idealize children, render them almost mythological. Preclude understanding. Prevent viewing them as real individuals. How can we, when the children we see on TV, which many people see more often than real kids, don't act like children (because they won't be), don't sound like children, and aren't real individuals to begin with? Given how skewed many people's (even parents) understanding of youths can be already, a move to replace all child actors with adult-voiced CGI similes, or even just to reduce the number of kid actors in film, would only be a hurtful one.
If you're wondering why I focus on that one thing she says at the end, it's simple: it's the only solution Wilson offers, and that made me sad to see. I know of several people, adults now, who were great child actors that didn't "fall from grace" and I loved their movies. Movies that worked so well because they starred competent, intelligent, flesh-and-blood kids for us to relate with. Would 3 Ninjas have rocked us 90s kids so hard if the actors were all shrill-voiced marionettes? The notable actors that did go whacko are usually all super-stars with bad parents.
So, yes, I'll always stand up for child actors, and children in entertainment in general. I'll always role my eyes at the "stereotype" - as they say, stereotypes exist for reasons... but those reasons aren't always good. Michael Jackson and Macaulay Caulkin do not represent every young actor out there. They just got a lot of press, because the press had nothing f*cking better to do.
But the article says a few other things that irked me, and they're kind of important for other reasons. So I want to address them as quickly as possible.
Wilson also claims that child actors need to rebel, but can't. OK, let's get something clear here: children/teens don't "rebel." This isn't just a thing that all kids must do. Many don't do anything like what people think when they hear "rebellious teen." What kids do is try to negotiate independence. They'll fight back if they feel they're being unfairly restricted or condescended to. It isn't a rebellion, it isn't a "power struggle."
Given many of these superstar child actors who go crazy could essentially shoot for early emancipation... who the hell are they rebelling against, and why?! It's not some kind of extension upon this mythical "rebellion" thing that "all kids do." It's that they're in a social group that encourages inappropriate behavior; it's that their parents and studios exploit them; it's many other reasons that Wilson covers, and she would know them perfectly well, way better than I, but I have to ask her and everyone else: do you actually think that teenagers "rebel" for the sake of it? Really? Did you? Did you ever get a stupid haircut just to spite mom? A tattoo just to spite dad? A piercing just to flip the pair of them off? Because if you did, you'd be the literal first kid I've ever heard of to do that.
To quickly illustrate: hey kids, I have one for you. Dye your entire forearms snot green, shave half your hair off, and go to school with bacon earrings. It'll drive your parents CRAZY, though, sure, you WON'T be accepted by your peers, but-! Oh... you don't care about the first part, and the second part is really important to you? Oh, but I was taught that teenagers did everything to spite their parents, not because they want to match an aesthetic they really like, or follow trends to be respected by your peers... but you still hate your parents right? Still do stuff just purely, and only, to spite them, right? These things are trendy in the FIRST place because they annoy parents, ri- Oh, you love your parents and really kinda just wish you and your dad still got along, huh. Oh. Yeah... guess it is kinda stupid that he thinks it's fair to tell you what you can do with your own body by saying you can't get that piercing or wear that t-shirt. Hm, this "rebellion" thing is more complex than I thought.
If you're not saying you would be willing to shave off your eyebrows, and wear an open-front, tartan, dressing gown, a cat-ears headband and "Essence of Putrid Hobo" body-spray to school just to annoy your parents, then I don't want to hear it. We all know this "teen rebellion" thing is nonsense. I tried marijuana due to peer pressure and curiosity, I didn't do it to upset my mother. No excuses.
I do understand the point that, until they're out of the public eye, many kid stars can't really act up. That they could resent their parents and the exploitative industry they're scrutinized by. But we don't "save up" our bad decisions and unleash them all at once.
Well... again, Mel Gibson... yeah, okay. But he was an adult.
The problem with the concept of "rebelling", even in those circumstances, is the assumption that we "need" to do these things anyway - and that's what I'm contesting here in general. That teenagers or kids "need" to aimlessly rebel and do awful things, like it's just something they do. Again, I'm pretty sure Aaron Carter smoked pot because he wanted to get high, not to stick one to his dad; and I'm pretty sure he wanted to get high because someone, possibly just another teenager, or a person in the showbiz industry, got him into this "bad habit", and he had bad guidance from his peers/parents, and the media decided to over-react like all hell. Bring on the "tut-tut-tut" brigade.
To be continued.
Next part is a bit more contentious and I want to think it over before I post it.