Right now, my partner is outlining a script that details a dystopian present world where Justin Bieber is assassinated. The murderer is pardoned and it instigates a rash of celebrity murders. “Who would be killed off?” Dan asked me. He’d already written down Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan. What do these three people have in common? They’re all child celebrities. While however unintentional the connection, I wondered if there was a way to unpack this and digress slightly from the idea of film “proper” for this column.
America’s bond with celebrities is a strange one. To begin with, we create them. We, as a society, deem a person more important than another using a specific strata of values. Funnily enough, these values are arguably the most insignifcant: beauty, wealth, novelty, humor, etc. And as we all know, since the classical Hollywood era, sometimes fame is given to people with a distinct lack of talent (from Tippi Hedren to Kim Kardashian). However, with children, the process of attributing such worth to someone for arbitrary reasons is particularly damaging as their world is shaped by this very process. On December 10, 2010 Miley Cyrus (age 18 at the time) was videotaped smoking salvia, a legal drug in most states, out of a bong. That same day, 15 people were killed and many more were injured in a suicide attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. I don’t think I need to tell you what received more media attention or what is still remembered now. What a power trip! It signifies, “I am more important than people dying.” “I am worth the tears of strangers.” “I am a child and other children have chosen me to look up to.” And we wonder where their egos come from.
Then, invariably and inevitably, they turn. The power that their childhood innocence has resisted for so long, grows too strong. The money they’ve never been taught to use, becomes more accessible as they grow older and out of the white-knuckled claws of their oppressive and pushy parents. Without missing a beat, we turn as well. This time: on them. Out of the irrational love in our hearts grows an irrational hate. But it’s weird. We develop amnesia and completely absolve ourselves from this process. I happen to follow Miley Cyrus on instagram and the literal daily deluge of negative comments (from the weepy pleas to revert to her former childhood self to the slut-shaming and name-calling) is nothing short of astounding.
I look at these comments and am overwhelmed with sadness. Sadness that these people are at best case, bored, and at worst, delusional. Sadness that Miley Cyrus has to deal with it everyday. Sadness that we invest so much in, and require so much of, children. Sadness that art and film is hindered by these faces. And especially sadness that Dan’s “dystopia,” doesn’t feel so unreasonable. We will continue to blame children in Hollywood (and various celebrity cultures) who turn into shitty adults because we don’t want to blame ourselves. So it just keeps happening. Frankly, the art that comes out of it is not of a quality worthy of our moral suspension.