Make It or Break It - Careers of Child Celebrities

By Desiree Yang

When word got out that Lionsgate was set to do a remake of the legendary Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie last week, many (presumably kids of the 90s) took to sites like Facebook and Twitter to express their excitement over the news. Needless to say, the beloved cast of the original television series and movie, who became a part of the franchise when they were teenagers, won’t be gracing the big screens in the upcoming remake. Many of them are now well into their 40s and out of the Hollywood limelight (e.g. Austin St. John who played the Red Ranger, is now an EMT paramedic and a firefighter). It raises the question – what exactly ends the careers of many child celebrities in Hollywood?

“Make It” or …

The odds aren’t stacked against every child star in Hollywood and there are many that have carved out successful careers for themselves as adults. Take Natalie Portman for example, her appearance in Heat jump-started her career and helped her land a role as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. However, Portman remained grounded and enrolled in Harvard University in 1999 while still working as an actress, and graduated in 2003 with a degree in Psychology.

“I don’t care if [college] ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star,” Portman quips, speaking about her decision to go to college in an interview with the New York Post.

"Break It"

Lindsay Lohan, on the other hand, is the face of “child star gone wrong”. Her phenomenal performance as both Hallie Parker and Annie James in Disney’s remake of the 1961 film, The Parent Trap, propelled her to stardom. She then went on to star in other movies like Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Mean Girls, which made her an even greater hit than before. However, not long after, her name was plastered on the front page of every tabloid magazine for her stints at rehabilitation centres or court appearances for drug abuse and driving under influence (DUI).

What Went Wrong?

Life in Hollywood might be filled with glitz and glamour, but it is a hard life to lead, especially for a young and impressionable child. And when a child star does “break it”, their parents are often to blame.

Writing for, Mrs Doubtfire and Matilda star Maya Wilson lists parental intervention, or the lack thereof, as one of the foremost reasons for why child stars go bad. All the fame, attention and wealth can be a heady mixture for anyone, let alone a child.

Parents fail to understand that they need to provide their children with a stable family unit where there are boundaries and rules to keep the child grounded, just like any other regular kid. Their child’s success can also prove intoxicating for them, but they need to recognise that this isn’t a chance for them to live vicariously through their child.

Family relations are often strained in the process, and many child stars end up estranged from their parents. For instance, Amanda Bynes and Macaulay Culkin, both who have gone off the rails at one point or another, are not on speaking terms with one or both their parents.

Often, the very things that make a career as a child celebrity attractive are the exact things that lead to the downfall of the child star. The entertainment industry and close scrutiny by the industry and fans are hardly conducive to a child’s development, giving rise to a host of problems in the form of poor impulse control, a false sense of liberty and entitlement, and an inability to cope with challenges that result in self-destructive behaviour such as drug abuse and alcoholism.

One thing that we can all learn from this – no job is perfect. While celebrities rake in the millions, they lose so much more that money can’t buy when they lose control. Balance and moderation are key to successful stardom, two qualities which can be applied to any career!

What are your thoughts on child celebrities? Share with us in the comment box below!

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