Whether you’re a fan of Stranger Things or not, you will have seen a child actor on screen at some point. Some are good, some are bad, and some are downright awful, but the fact remains that if they have made it onto the big screen, they will be in the public eye. This can be a life changing event, for better or worse.
An obvious case of a child actor whose life was so drastically changed by TV is that of Miley Cyrus. Spending the majority of her childhood on screen playing the innocent teen idol clearly had its effect on her, resulting in an outburst in the form of drugs, sex and alcohol.
Some have argued that this was a very clear-cut protest against what was ‘expected’ of her; a way of breaking out of her innocent youth and being able to cut loose. Although there have been polarising opinions regarding her actions, it is clear to see that her spotlight in the media has affected her life in a big way. Being in the public eye in this way meant that she had to be very aware of her actions, as she was a potential role model for any child who watched her. Speaking on her pressures as a child actor, Cyrus said to Harper’s Bazaar “I was an adult when I was supposed to be a kid. So now I’m an adult and I’m acting like a kid”.
Of course, Miley Cyrus isn’t the only child who has hit stardom as such a young age. Recently, Millie Bobby Brown, one of the lead actors of Stranger Things, has made her way into the spotlight at the age of 12. At an age where character development is so important, taking on such a role is quite the task. She has already been featured on the front page of So It Goes magazine, dressed in a variety of brand names, and looking significantly more mature than the average 12-year-old girl. Although this could be a great success career-wise for Brown, it highlights how children actors are often pushed into adulthood very early, with the potential for the public to scrutinise their every move.
It can be quite difficult to draw the line on how much independence a child actor should have. Of course, to all intents and purposes they are still a child, and are still in need of a certain amount of guidance, but to what extent should they be given their freedom to control their own career? One of the issues regarding this is that of the child’s income. As a minor, there are laws governing how much financial independence they are allowed, but seeing as it is their efforts that have earned them the money, should the parents really have access to it at all? In the State of California, New York, Louisiana and New Mexico, the Coogan Law states that 15% of all minor’s earnings must be put aside in a trust account commonly known as a Coogan account. However, the laws on this are somewhat more ambiguous in the UK.
Another recent event regarding young celebrities involves Barack Obama’s 18-year-old daughter, Malia Obama. She was seen at Lollapalooza festival smoking what some thought was cannabis, bringing about a bit of a scandal. She soon reacted to this by wearing a T-shirt saying “Smoking Kills” on it, showing her awareness of her role in the public eye, as well as what she has learnt from others in a similar position.
Although having a career in show business from such a young age is arguably an admirable feat, it is important to remember that they are still children, and have a right to act as such. Perhaps we should think carefully before judging them so harshly on their actions simply because they are in the spotlight.