Wow… This just goes to show how much things still need to change.
In a New York Times opinion piece published Tuesday, Mara Wilson, a former child actor best known for her roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, opened up about her experience growing up in the public eye. And amid all the talk surrounding the outlet’s docuseries, Framing Britney Spears, it sounds like she can really relate to the tumultuous and scrutinized past of said superstar!
Simply put, the 33-year-old, who has never shied away from calling out the media for its harmful ways, wrote in The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls:
“Britney Spears and I learned the same lesson growing up: When you’re young and famous, there is no such thing as control.”
Detailing her 13th birthday spent in a hotel room doing press for Thomas and the Magic Railroad all day, the actress explained how her “inevitable downfall” began. Having spent her life highly critical of every move she made so she would not “get a reputation as a complainer” (such as declining a soda from her press coordinators that day), Mara decided to be honest to one journalist. A decision that turned into a front page article all about how the teen was a “spoiled brat.” Wilson considered this “The Narrative,” something all child stars face. She confessed:
“[The article] described the dark paths child stars like me often went down. It embraced what I now refer to as ‘The Narrative,’ the idea that anyone who grew up in the public eye will meet some tragic end.”
The very “end” her parents had worked so hard for the creative to avoid. Gaining fame at the age of five, the Miracle on 34th Street lead noted:
“I’d been trained to seem, to be, as normal as possible — whatever it took to avoid my inevitable downfall. I shared a bedroom with my little sister. I went to public school. I was a Girl Scout. When someone called me a ‘star’ I was to insist that I was an actor, that the only stars were in the sky.”
So, how does her story connect with the Toxic singer’s? Looking back on the hate-filled article, Mara noticed the writer had asked her about Spears, to which the teen stated she “hated” the mega famous pop star who had already been pegged as a “Bad Girl.” As for why she claimed to dislike the performer, the director now thinks:
“Some of it was pure jealousy, that she was beautiful and cool in a way I’d never be. I think mostly, I had already absorbed the version of The Narrative surrounding her.”
After watching countless females be celebrated just for society to “destroy them,” the California native decided she would never flaunt her sexuality “as a right of passage” like so many celebs had begun to do by “appearing on covers of lad mags or in provocative music videos.” Yet even those intentional efforts to avoid being “sexualized” failed. The Big Hero 6: The Series vocalist explained:
“I never appeared in anything more revealing than a knee-length sundress. This was all intentional: My parents thought I would be safer that way. But it didn’t work. People had been asking me, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ in interviews since I was 6. Reporters asked me who I thought the sexiest actor was and about Hugh Grant’s arrest for soliciting a prostitute.”
She also received fan mail from grown men! SO not okay!!
“It was cute when 10-year-olds sent me letters saying they were in love with me. It was not when 50-year-old men did.”
Like Britney, Mara became a sensation, her image a product of its own. She added:
“Many moments of Ms. Spears’s life were familiar to me. We both had dolls made of us, had close friends and boyfriends sharing our secrets and had grown men commenting on our bodies.”
But what helped Wilson “end up ok”??
“My life was easier not only because I was never tabloid-level famous, but because unlike Ms. Spears, I always had my family’s support. I knew that I had money put away for me, and it was mine. If I needed to escape the public eye, I vanished — safe at home or school.”
It’s also important to recognize that while the actress is thankful for the important conversations and work that has been made following the #MeToo Movement, none of her harassment occurred on a film set, but rather “came at the hands of media and the public.” So clearly, there is a lot that needs to be fixed to make sure future young celebrities never have to face the same criticism, sexualization, and ridicule that Mara and others have experienced.
Like the TV writer so eloquently put, the negative consequences of fame are often more a reflection of adults than the child star themselves. Thoughts, Perezcious readers?