A Young Ex-Actress Is In Crisis: Is The Media Capable Of Kindness? Are We?

Yesterday I flagged an independent film, a black satire, that tells the tale of a decent man who is sent into a homicidal rampage when the cruelty of the culture and especially the media overcomes him. I’m not to that point—yet—but the callousness of the national media in response to what it feels is consumer demand is oppressive.

I am going to omit names, graphics or links here, because I do not want to feed the phenomenon I am decrying.

A young woman, once an actress of some success but out of show business for more than four years, is obviously in the throes of some kind of mental illness, and has been for over a year. Today she had two separate episodes that signal serious health problems, and her parents are desperately trying to  locate her and get her into treatment…again. Of course, such things happen every day, many times. If this occurs to a public figure or a current celebrity, it is legitimately news, but this young woman is not a public figure….not any more. She is someone who was famous once, and now is just sick. We should not know about anything that occurred today. I shouldn’t know about it.  At this point in her career and life, she needs to be left alone.

Like most ex-child stars, she is addicted to attention; quite possibly the end of her performing career is related to her current health problems. In her case, this addiction manifests itself in a narcissistic devotion to  prolific Twitter and Instagram use, but this is not, or should not be, an invitation to media intrusions. Her painful, sad, emotional collapses and repeated episodes of uncontrolled mental illness harm her in direct proportion to their exposure to public scrutiny. There is no basis for legitimate interest in her problems other than voyeurism, and the sick fascination with someone else’s catastrophes.

Unlike pop star Britney Spears, who had a similar mental and emotional collapse in the public eye, this ex-performer was never a superstar, nor was she, as Spears was at the time of her crisis, still nominally in show business. Unlike Lindsay Lohan when her tailspin began, she is not an actress considered on the rise, but one whose career had been in sharp decline long before the current problems began. In short, there is no reason that her desperate travails now should be played out on a national stage, except that…

  • The news media thinks that people will be titillated by it, and
  • The news media is probably correct.

The attention, however, is almost certainly harmful to the young woman, her chances of recovery, and her long-term welfare. Shouldn’t that matter more than a TMZ  having cheap news flash to bleat out on a Friday afternoon?  Battling mental illness and trying to find a place in the world following the weird privilege of child stardom must be hard enough, without having to cope as well with ongoing public humiliation. Is the media obligated to do wanton harm like this for such trivial gain? Does the fact that someone was once a celebrity justly lock that that person into the role of being a permanent source of sadistic pleasure, without any right to privacy, or to be shown decency, compassion and kindness from those who once looked up at her, and now can look down?

5 thoughts on “A Young Ex-Actress Is In Crisis: Is The Media Capable Of Kindness? Are We?

  1. After reading this, I sought out some footage from yesterday. I couldn’t focus on the actress, I was too busy watching the “media” — following her and shouting the same questions over and over. It was disgusting. Moreover, I’m pretty sure that I would have gone insane if the media did that to me for 5 minutes — forget about months or years.

    • So right, Beth. This is horrible, and though I know there is no way to stop it, I am perhaps irrationally upset about it. If she were my child, I might just move her out of the country. She was such a talented young performer, and to be brought to this is too tragic for words.

  2. I recall that Paul Petersen has spoken on the subject of “fame withdrawal”. That, apparently, is a key factor in the young adult breakdowns of so many famous child stars. In a single day, all of your childhood in the public eye and the attention from so many during that time can end with a show cancellation. Then comes the slow fade into obscurity when no offers come in. You’re a former child typecast in a child role. Yesterday’s news. In your attempts to remain relevant by staying in the social scene, your Coogan account rapidly dissipates and all you achieve is alcoholism, fuelled by the realization that you’ve become and object of scorn among your one-time colleagues. If you manage to get an occasional role, it’s often a small one in some cheap and vile production that only has you there to milk the remnants of your name recognition and to hold you up to further scorn with those whose mentality delights in seeing downfall, This is particularly true with once beloved child actresses. Some learn to handle it without going this route, but it requires much support from friends and family. Even then, it’s tough.

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