Tag Archives: Drew Barrymore

See (All Of) You Real Soon*


When did working for Disney become the gateway to sex, drugs and rock & roll? How did the world’s most wholesome brand start churning out girls gone wild? When did Annette morph into Christina, Britney, Lindsay and Miley; and more importantly, why? The Disney vehicles themselves have hardly changed but the players have. It was in the late 1990s that Christina and Britney began to strip down and gyrate, but it was not the first time we had seen child stars stumble their way into adolescence. In the mid 1980s Drew Barrymore was clubbing and drinking (with her mother’s guidance) well before her 13th birthday. People were scandalized and she received treatment quite early and effectively. There have been many male child stars who have drunk and drugged their way into adulthood. But we’d all be hard pressed to think of one that sexually exploited himself. It is the sexual exploitation, versus the drinking and drugging that is most troubling and novel.

We expect that children working in an adult world and (often) treated like mini-royalty, will develop some bad habits. We expect them to be bratty, socially ill at ease, and unbearably precocious. Adoring and adulating adults often surround them. These children will drink and smoke and use drugs because they can. But why do they then strut around in their bra & panties and writhe around a stage? It can’t simply be to get attention, the whole world is already watching. Could it be that like every child star before them, they want to be taken seriously as an adult? And unlike any time period in the past, sexual objectification is synonymous with womanhood? It’s a troubling thought.

It’s never been easy for any child, in or out of the spotlight, to transition gracefully into adulthood. Surviving puberty while mapping out a grown-up public persona is mind-boggling. In olden times a child star would lobby for an onscreen kiss to signal the end of pigtail days. Many would rush into (very) early marriages to convince bosses and the public that they were grown. There are many child stars that successfully transitioned into real life and left the spotlight. There are those who went to (impressive) colleges and later forged mature acting careers. In other words, it is not written in stone that show business will upend a young life.

Performing and posing as if you’re working a Times Square peep booth, doesn’t necessarily forecast ruin. But it is very sad. These Disney women with varying degrees of talent do not need to use their bodies and cursory knowledge of sexuality to attract attention. They are not Anna Nicole or an unknown future Miss America (now actress) desperate for a break. They are household names with recording contracts and movie deals. Why do they do it? Could it be that the public rewards them for it? Is the fact that unlike decent people who would turn their heads away from such a display, we exalt the exhibitionism with our incessant chatter? Do enough of us explain to our children that we won’t be buying music, movie or concert tickets because to do so would be ghoulish? Do we boycott corporations who reap the benefits of the sexual exploitation of minors? Or do sales of a magazine skyrocket when a mouseketeer shows her breasts?

Clearly the parents of these child stars are involved in some way. Some readers might remember the public outrage over the film Pretty Baby (1978). Teri Shields was vilified for permitting a 12-year old Brooke to appear naked as a prostitute. (The public wasn’t too horrified to not see the movie however.) For years Mother Shields was heralded as the new Madame Rose. Whether it was responsible parenting or not, Brooke was playing a role in a film, not performing as her sexualized self. In fact, later Brooke was quite vocal about her very conservative views on sex. A (very) young woman strutting around television in her under things and simulating anal sex does not mean she’s sexually rampant or irresponsible. It does mean she wants to be seen as sexually available and maybe just a bit freaky. (And not in the Freaky Friday way.) These young women didn’t invent this world in which women are seen as a means to sexually pleasing (heterosexual) men. But they certainly are doing their part to perpetuate it. They are young and are finding their footing and most likely surrounded by adults who tell them they are the greatest star of all. But mostly they are too young to know any better. Becoming comfortable in your own adult skin after being a child star is tough. Doing so after creating a career based upon your sexuality is unimaginable.

*Mickey Mouse Club March (1955) Jimmie Dodd


Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Childhood, Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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One For My Baby

Parents have been arrested for throwing their children a booze infused party.  Perhaps I’m being a bit incendiary with the phrase; “throwing their children a (party)”  However, I suspect that teenagers and their tons of friends did not buy the alcohol themselves, and certainly not with their own money.  The justification that these gated community Queens parents make is the standard: “I’d rather they did it at home.”

Can we just tease that apart a bit?  It’s sounds so wholesome on the surface, doesn’t it?  “Baking: I’d rather they did it at home.”  It suggests supervision and perhaps even an informal tutorial.  Nobody is hosting wine tasting parties for their teens (to my knowledge.)  These kids are drinking to get drunk.  That is the goal.  Drinking as a social behavior takes a level of sophistication and social ease that teenagers rarely possess.  They drink to get drunk, they use prescription drugs to get high or stoned, they use street drugs (and freaking aerosol cans!) for the same reason.  Would these same parents host a few dozen teenagers and pass out methamphetamine?  It happens (usually not in gated communities) and (with any luck) those children go into protective care.

I’m all for parents teaching children how to be fully functioning adults.  If they feel that teaching their child to drink responsibly is part of that, so be it.  But hosting your kid’s friend’s booze bash is not about that.  It’s about wanting to feel cool.  Children from this gated community are going to the hospital for alcohol poisoning (delivered by parents to avoid detection.)  Do you know how much alcohol needs to be ingested to result in poisoning?!  Banish all thoughts of Liesl having her first sip of champagne at the ball.  You’ve got to power drink serious alcohol (or be a toddler) to be poisoned.

They’d rather they did it at home.  What does that mean?  One parent suggested that he’d rather his kid was drinking at home than at the beach.  Why’s that?  Is drowning a concern?  What about the dozens of teenagers getting drunk in your house?  Are they all sleeping it off in your bonus room?  How do you feel about your cherub getting drunk at their friend’s house?  Is that okay?  I’m guessing not.  I’m guessing you want the party at your house.  You know what would make you even cooler in a 16 year old’s eyes?  Invite tattoo artists to the next bash.

Let’s put aside class discrepancies (people of means don’t usually lose custody of their children for indiscretions) and even issues of physical danger for a moment.  Instead let’s focus on what this behavior actually teaches children.  1) The rules don’t apply to you 2) It’s not breaking the law if you don’t get caught 3) Behaving irresponsibly is not only a natural part of adolescence it’s a healthy part of middle-age.

Kids do stupid things.  It’s their job.  It’s only by going too far that they find their own limits and comfort levels.  The best protection you can offer a child is a strong sense of self.  A teenager who feels he/she has worth is less prone to trying to prove it in questionable ways.  The same could be said for parents.


Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Childhood, Well-Being


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