7:00AM Western Time – Los Angeles, California. You’re 18. Your alarm wakes you up to start the day. You get out of bed and close your shades to ensure that nobody peers in your room while you’re getting ready. You can’t go outside without a hat and a pair of sunglasses, so after you grab those items, you prepare yourself for the walk to your car.
You can hear the clicking of the cameras in the bushes but you keep walking. You quickly crawl into your car and shut the door, hoping that there will be no reporters hiding in your trunk today. It has become second nature to lock your doors. There’s a black Sedan clearly following you on your drive to work. You just want to be left alone.
But you suck it up. This is the price you pay for being famous.
Could you handle this lifestyle? I know I couldn’t. Yet as children, fame is all that many kids want. Growing up, we watched actors and actresses grace our screens with the assumption that they had it made. We thought that life looked so easy for them; why can’t it be that way for us?
What the media hid from us as children, however, is the reality of fame. Just like any other job, acting, music, athletics, or anything else in the public eye, comes with stress; now imagining experiencing all the stress of your job while also being constantly watched by the public eye. If you mess up, the whole world will know. And in many cases, that stress leads people to mess up even more.
From Michael Jackson to Britney Spears, we’ve seen celebrities let fame get the best of them. And when explained, it’s very clear why. A contributor to this article explains reality of fame in a multitude of understandable ways:”lonely; not secure; you have a bubble over you; family space is violated; a sense of being watched; living in a fishbowl; like a locked room; and, familiarity that breeds inappropriate closeness.” How glamorous does fame seem now?
Now imagine having to deal with “living in a fishbowl” before you’re old enough to make your own decisions; before you know what fame fully entails, you have to experience it full force. This is what child stars have to deal with and it’s likely the reason why we see so many of them fall.
The article linked above talks about the psychology behind growing up famous and besides the standard obstacles that celebrities deal with, there are multiple other problems that child stars must overcome.
They’re growing up on screen. I’ll use Lindsay Lohan as an example. She began acting before she turned 13. She started her career before she started puberty and from that moment on, the whole world was watching her grow up. Every excruciating painful memory we have of adolescence is what stars like Lohan had to experience in front of the whole world.
So yes, Lindsay Lohan has made mistakes and still isn’t perfect. But can you blame her? In many instances, she is just being a normal young woman growing up and finding herself in this world. Just recently, she was scrutinized for supposedly editing a photo of herself. Would a 20-something year old of little or no fame get so intensely criticized for such a seemingly insignificant act? Probably not. But because she’s under the public eye, any little thing she has done or will continue to do will be meticulously dissected. We all make mistakes; yet it’s believed that just because celebrities are perfect on screen means they have to be perfect in real life. And that unrealistic expectation can seriously damage somebody.
While there are celebrities that have been able to rise above the doom of fame, they have to make an immense effort just to stay normal. Think about it: the child stars who have maintained a positive reputation are being praised for doing what the rest of us normal folk do every day: maintain a sense of normalcy.
The pressure of being famous is clearly extremely difficult to handle and in many cases, is an unrealistic expectation. In some cases, for example Matthew Perry, talks about how acting is what’s kept him healthy. Although it was likely the pressures of fame that led to his notorious drug problems, he has learned how to deal with fame and his acting career is now what keeps him healthy.
It’s okay to strive to be famous. There are a lot of positive aspects of fame. And it’s possible to maintain happiness as a celebrity. But it’s difficult. There are a lot of negative aspects of fame. Fame comes at a cost.
Who did you look up to as a kid? Sure, my mom taught me endless valuable lessons; my babysitter taught me how to be a kid as well as how to grow up. But if we’re being honest, when I was younger, the people I wanted to be like were the females I saw on my television screen. And if you’re anything like me, it’s likely that you were the same way.
The actresses and singers I grew up listening to and watching were the figures I wanted to be like. They were successful, beautiful and had stand out qualities that I tried to mimic. Amanda Bynes had a stand out sense of humor and always managed to keep her image as “America’s Sweetheart” no matter how out there her jokes were. Lizzie McGuire was the epitome of clumsy yet boys like Ethan Craft and Aaron Carter still managed to like her.
Not only did I relate to these women, I looked up to them. They were girls like me that found a way to become something; and I admired that.
But should we be looking up to fictional characters? To people we’ve never met?
I can’t answer this question with a simple yes or no. Because there are pros and cons to idolizing a celebrity. Let’s look at the examples above that I provided. When I was growing up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Amanda Bynes was untouchable. She was funny, charming, adorable and relatable. Even portraying some of the most hideous characters, such as Courtney, Bynes managed to keep a positive image.
This was the Amanda I looked up to (well, maybe not this exact image), and I only grew from my admiration of her. Because of her, I was able to come out of my shell and let my sense of humor show.
Now, we all know Amanda Bynes has changed a lot as she’s grown up. And I’m not here to judge Amanda’s life journey; that’s not what the purpose of this post is; but it’s clear that she is a very different Amanda Bynes than the one that starred on “The Amanda Show” or “She’s the Man.” Her transformation goes to show that while it’s okay to emulate a celebrity, it’s important to find separation between yourself and them. Although I was bummed out when I saw Bynes begin her downward spiral, it didn’t personally affect me. Because although I incorporated parts of her image into who I represented myself as, I didn’t rely on her image to define who I was. Another lesson this taught me is the unreliability of emulating real life celebrities; they are, in fact, real people just like us.
To juxtapose this point, I want to look that the difference when emulating a fictional character; in this instance, Lizzie McGuire.
Lizzie McGuire, and a handful of other fictional characters for that matter, were created in order to give viewers, mainly young girls, a character to look up to. Lizzie McGuire was relatable yet admirable; this is because she wasn’t real. She was created by writers and actress Hilary Duff, who had the ability to create this character in any way they pleased. The goal was to pour a positive influence into the lives of little girls, which is exactly what Lizzie McGuire achieved. Heck, she even had a cartoon self conscious; what young girl doesn’t want that?!
I think many girls my age agree that Lizzie McGuire set a great example for how we should be when we go through our adolescent years. She went through many trials and tribulations, from boy problems to buying her first bra, yet at the end of the day, she over came each obstacle.
Looking back, yes, I think it’s okay to look up to a character that doesn’t exist; that’s why she was made in the first place! But it’s important to make the distinction between fiction and reality. When I encountered a specific problem, I couldn’t just ask, “why didn’t Lizzie have to deal with this?” because she isn’t real; she technically didn’t have to deal with anything.
I don’t regret looking up to Amanda Bynes and Lizzie McGuire growing up, nor should you regret who you emulated. It is important, however, to find a sense of identity and independence in the quest of growing up and finding out who you are.
In West Philidelphia I was born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days.
Hopefully you: 1. Knew I wasn’t talking about myself but “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” 2. Read that line in Will Smith’s raspy voice and 3. Have temporarily been brought back to the innocence of your childhood.
Yes, television shows we grew up with are significant due to their characters, gentle comedy and story lines with a clear moral to take away. But a stand out factor of any successful, nostalgic television show is it’s theme song. And the theme song of a television show is where we harbor a lot of the memories of our past. The best way for me to elaborate on this is to use stand out examples:
“I don’t sweat, I glisten.” Unless you’re a die hard fan, you probably wouldn’t know where this quote comes from. But if I played the first two seconds of this video, you would instantly know it as the theme song from “Boy Meets World.” I won’t deny image of love came from the epic love story that is Cory and Topanga, and that Mr. Feeny taught me the most valuable lessons throughout my youth. But it’s upon hearing each of the “Boy Meets World” theme songs thatinstantly trigger our recollection of the timeless show.
Although the theme song for this show changed multiple times, each one is just as nostalgic. And the transformation in theme song represents the transformation in characters. We watched Cory, Topanga, Eric and Shawn grow up on screen and as we watched them mature year after year, we heard the theme song follow their maturation as well.
The ability to see into the future? Psh, that can’t be possible. At least that’s what I thought until “That’s so Raven” came to Disney Channel in 2003. Every episode, we followed Raven through vision after vision and laughed at her multiple attempts to prevent her visions from coming true. Now, the comedy of this show went a step above most Disney Channel or Nickelodeon shows of the time. But looking back, what I remember most about this show is the theme song. Unlike “Boy Meets World,” the aspect of this theme song that stands out to me is the lyrics and the visuals. The lyrics of “That’s so Raven” accurately described her situation and gave a synopsis of the show all while providing us, the viewers, with a chance for a few laughs with the video clips that accompanied the song.
Raven never got out of an episode without being punished in some sort. And as kids her age or younger than her, we related to her inevitable punishment. The lyrics hit home: “I try to save a situation then I end up misbehaving.” All kids struggle with trying to do the right thing and ultimately getting in trouble for it which is what Raven experienced in every episode. It was easy to relate to her struggles and every time that song is played, you can’t help but develop a soft spot for this teenager who’s just trying to do the right thing.
Whenever I hear the “Boy Meets World” theme song, I can’t help but smile and bob my head; I can still recite every word of “That’s so Raven”s theme song ten years later. There’s a sense of timelessness in every theme song that become an essential part of our childhood. So don’t let go of those memories that you experienced by watching some of your favorite television shows. They’re significant and hold a place in shaping who you are today.
When I was a kid, April Fools Day was my Christmas. Every year I woke up and let the gears in my menacing brain turn, thinking of original pranks to play on my family and friends.
Well, in my third grade class with Mr. Keane, I took Aprils Fools Day too far.
I read in a Highlight’s magazine of a certain prank a girl from Missouri played on her class: she replaced the Oreo filling in a pack of Oreo’s with toothpaste and gave them to her class. This trick was right up my alley, so I knew I had to give it a go.
So on April 1st, I came into class with a pack of Oreo’s; the faces of my classmates lit up when they saw what I had in my hand and when Mr. Keane said I could give them out at snack time, I couldn’t wait to pull this trick off.
10:15 came around and after reading us a chapter of “Skinnybones” by Barbara Park, the perfect April Fool’s book, we all rushed back to our seats for snack time. I handed the Oreo’s to Mr. Keane and he put them at the front table.
“Everybody can take one Oreo,” he said as the anticipation in me grew higher and higher. I held my breath as the 18 other students in my class grabbed a cookie and looked around to see who would take the first bite: it was my close friend Sam Mastrangelo. She paused for a second before staring at the cookie and spitting the contents out into a napkin. “Ew! This cookie has toothpaste in it!”
As everybody smelled the minty cookie, I couldn’t help the smile the spread across my face. Mission accomplished. That was, until Mr. Keane took wind of the prank I had pulled. I don’t remember the words he said to me in his 30 second lecture; all I remember is the instant red my face became while being yelled at and those dreaded five words: “Go to the Principals Office!”
That 2003 April Fool’s Day sealed my fate; I would never play a prank in school again.
April Fools! This story is as false as saying “it takes 3 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.”
Plus, I’ve never been to the Principal’s Office.
The first of 5-10 pairs I owned.
Is it because I got bored of the flashing lights and pink sparkles? Is it because I didn’t want shoes with hearts and stars on them anymore?
It’s because as a child, nothing is permanent. Nothing is constant.
Like the light up velcro sneakers that flash with each energetic step we took, our childhood speeds by us before we have a chance to notice it’s changing.
One day my mom bought me a pair of shoes and two months later, she needs to get a pair that actually fits.
Because while the world around us stays still, we are always changing. We are always growing. We are never stagnant.
We are ephemeral.
Check out my new blog over here! It’s a co-authored blog with two of my friends Paul and Zach (click on their names to check out they’re respective, awesome blogs). As three college kids with a passion for writing and figuring the world out, this blog is a compilation of our poetry and different interpretations of a variety of pictures, lyrics and topics. Coming this week, Paul will be analyzing one of his favorite song lyrics and building original writing off of them. We’re excited to write it and we hope you’re excited to read it!