Justin Bieber and the Sad History of American Child Stars

justin bieber
In the past year, Justin Bieber has gotten a lot of bad press. From the egging of a sumptuous house in his neighborhood to rumors of him getting a girl pregnant, his clean, wholesome image as a boy who got famous on YouTube for raw singing talent has changed into a clueless, moody, and malevolent teenager. The media in the past year has labeled him a criminal, a vagrant, a racist, and an idiot. In many ways, Bieber exemplifies the sad history of American child stars. He grew up in the public eye and has been given riches and fame from a very young age. Now, his mistakes as a teenager are being broadcast for everyone in the United States to see. Sherrie Campbell, a psychiatrist, commented on the subject of his recent arrest, “These kids don’t have their identities set and no says ‘no.'” Bieber is the most current example of a slew of child stars who “rebel” and stray away from their wholesome images to become defamed by the American media.

Justin Bieber is treated like a piece of technology that has gone out of date. Once an up and coming example of child talent and excellence, now a rich and callous, criminally minded teenager who excessively parties to no end. These two public images are like night and day, but it is nothing new when it comes to the “fall” of the latest American child star. Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Macauley Culkin, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, these are just a few of the child stars that have rebelled from their public images and become defamed by the press. A child does not have the same fully developed mental capacities as an adult, and therefore it seems hard to believe that they can entirely consent to growing up in the public eye. Most child stars sadly struggle with mental illness and drug addiction. It is possible for a child star to recover and “re-vamp” his or her image. Drew Barrymore first got exposure for playing a little girl in the movie E.T. By the age of 15, she was addicted to a slew of different drugs. Now, she has managed to conquer her addiction and continue her life as a successful adult star. However, this radical of a recovery seems to be rare.

One of the first examples of the sad history of American child stars is Judy Garland. Judy Garland played the part of Dorothy Gale in the 1939 Wizard of OZ. She was discovered because of her “piano act,” in which she would sit on top of a piano concealed by a blanket. Her voice was deep and sonorous, like an adult woman. Therefore, the “act” consisted of her singing while concealed by the blanket, and then revealing herself as a child, to the surprise and amusement of the audience. While she worked on the Wizard of Oz at 16 years old, movie executives instructed her to bind her breasts to appear more girlish. This gave her pain, so she was prescribed multiple pain medications to continue to film. It is unclear whether this influenced her later drug use, but Garland’s adult life was tempered with long-standing alcohol and drug addictions, causing her to die early at the age of 47.

Garland is an early example, but sadly not one of the first or the last individuals that have displayed the historical after-effects of being an American child star. Justin Bieber seems to be following in the footsteps of child stars who are veering out of control. This only appears to fuel the bad press about him even more. He is now under heavy scrutiny and criticism, where as a child star he was given access to fame, riches, and an enormous amount of power. Psychologically, this could be very damaging for a young boy struggling with his identity and development into an adult.

Opinion By Louise Webster

NY Times

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