Just as most adults put children in the same category as communism; a good idea in theory but a nightmarish catastrophe on any sort of practical level, it’s reassuring to know the only other group who hate kids even more are other children themselves. If you want to make a child laugh, really chuckle; just point to something bad happening to one of their friends.
There is however a special level of hatred, pungent, rattling hatred, children store in boxes under their bed reserved for that most particularly loathsome group; child stars. Yes, all of them; younger siblings in soaps, shrill show offs gurning in commercials, the little girl in movies who wander to their mother’s door and simpers “Will we ever see daddy again?”, anyone who exposed your star turn at the school nativity as the pointless waste of time it was. Like overachieving cousins your granny openly prefers, most children propel themselves through their formative years fuelled by sugar, biscuits and jealously of them.
So it has always been; your mother was probably delighted that Tallulah from Bugsy Malone ended up as a child prostitute in Taxi Driver, your granny hoped Elizabeth Taylor would get thrown from her stupid bloody horse in National Velvet, just as her mother set fire to pictures of Shirley frigging Temple thinking I’d be breaking down racial taboos by dancing with Bo bloody Jangles too if I didn’t have TB to contend with.
Luckily if you grew up in the eighties the chances were your over achieving celebrity siblings, rather than eventually showing you up at family reunions, would fall into a world of drug addiction, soft porn and episodes of Hollywood True Stories with sad music. Thankfully for every Natalie Portman there are twenty dodgy videos of Screech from Saved by the Bell.
It’s only fair, yes they sold their childhood to satisfy their parents’ frustrated dreams, their adult lives a confused quagmire of festered potential spotted with random appearances at cruelly ironic university gigs but equally they did get to grow up in one of those houses on the TV with pastel colour schemes and swingy doors.
This is a business America does very well. Forget Ian Beale’s creepy kids, Ashley and Mary Kate Olson first appeared in family sitcom “Full House” at six months and were CEO’s of their own billion dollar company before they were teenagers. Now they dress like eccentric bag ladies and wander around New York parties like Cabbage Patch Kids the perscription drug years.
Some fans take their personal involvement in their childhood superstars lives a step further, a “Different Strokes” fan recently put up bail for its star Gary Colman after he was arrested for assault and unable to pay the tariff. I’m glad, him we owe. Most of my generation learnt their entire moral and emotional vocabulary from Arnold Jackson and his wry step dad Mr. Drummond. In fact in Ireland, my generation learnt absolutely everything about the world from American seventies sitcoms so we grew up a confused bunch still traumatised by Watergate, and hoping Reagan would get us through, well into the early nineties.
They also have the two dons of doomed youth; the Coreys- Haim and Fieldman, whose CV reads like an exercise class in wasted potential; so lets’ start with the cult teen movie, good, how does that feel? Now we’re bending into a dodgy friendship with Michael Jackson and now up through a brief pop career and we’re into heroin addiction, excellent, shake that out! Britain’s nearest equivalent is Ant and Dec. Why does everyone assume their lifelong friendship is proof of their genuineness? It could just as easily be the result of a solemn pact made after a drunken night in South Shields that ended with a dead stripper during their Ready to Rumble years. Maybe they’re both paranoid if they leave each other’s side for one moment, the other one will run to the police.
Papers have reported the weird fact that now, not only do they always stand on the same side of each other, but have recently bought identical houses, on the same road ,in the same order as they appear on TV. As a sign of fame burn out it’s hardly thrilling; Marcia from the Brady Bunch became a coke whore. The affects of their early fame is almost as rubbish as that early fame itself.
And there in hangs the tale- maybe the happiness of child stars is linked directly to how many children were jealous of them at the time. Imagine millions of bitter tots collectively shaking their clenched little fists at their television screen, wishing them ill and malevolently thinking- I could do that. All that collective bad karma must end up somewhere. “Why Don’t You?” and “Biker Grove”? Happy career in light entertainment. Disney star before you left primary school- Lindsay Lohan. QED.