The pressure of being a star during the years of childhood can be too much to handle for some. The life of excess that results has caused many a young star to crash and burn later on. However, some manage to survive very well. In a few remarkable instances, child stars grew up to become successful adult actors or professionals in other industries. No longer simply an American phenomenon, case studies of how child performers handle the spotlight would be interesting material for early childhood education classes.
One might wonder how early childhood education could benefit from studying kids in the limelight. Really, what these cases highlight is the need to have a childhood where the young learn to work with their peers. Teaching them to work in a group and to act their age often times ensures they will be successful later in life. These stars never learned to recognize themselves as part of a group, or to work in a team, and as adults many had trouble adjusting.
In May 2012, the wife of actor Nick Stahl reported the former child star, who appeared as John Connor in 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, missing to police. He resurfaced a few days later after checking into rehab.
Although Stahl played an older version of John Connors, he joins a group of other former young Terminator stars that ran into abuse problems later on in life. Two former John Connors have also experienced public scrutiny: Edward Furlong of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, has dealt with drug addiction while Thomas Dekker of the television show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was recently arrested for DUI, according to the Toronto Star.
“A lot of [adult handlers] just decide that this person’s a celebrity so give them whatever the hell they want or whatever you think they might want,” said Alison Arngrim, a representative from A Minor Consideration. The organization works with child actors to ensure that they’re well cared for. “So child actors are offered drugs, sex, anything in the universe.” Other child stars who have been arrested or have dealt with drug abuse include Danny Bonaduce of The Partridge Family, Todd Bridges of Diff’rent Strokes and Neil Hope of Degrassi.
Child stars must be well-managed in order to survive the pressure of fame. If they’re lucky, some continue on to be successful in later years, even if they’ve experienced past hardships. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who first saw fame as the toddler Michelle Tanner on Full House, recently received accolades for their work in the fashion design industry.
The Washington Post reported that the twins earned the honors of top womenswear designers from the Council of Fashion Designers of America at an awards show in June 2012. The award was based largely on response to the Olsen twins’ latest collection, called The Row. Other winners from the event include accessory designer Reed Krakoff and movie star Johnny Depp, who received a style icon award.
Turning young entertainers into mature adults should be an important concern in entertainment industries all over the world, not just in America. In the Philippines, for example, a television show called Talentado Pinoy places children as young as six in front of industry professionals and thousands of fans to perform music or other talent acts. You can bet that these children are feeling a very similar type of scrutiny to young stars exploited in America or other countries.
We need to learn what makes a child star grow up emotionally and mentally as well as physically. Although much of that rests with the child’s guardians, studying the effects of success on a young mind might lead to some interesting findings on the human psyche.