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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Silence is Not An Option

I am probably not the only one to observe that child actors, seem to be uniquely messed up as a group.  I used to think it was mainly a case of them getting too much too soon.  They are not only fabulously rich but it often upsets the natural order of things in the parent-child relationship.  For instance, how many times have your parents said to you, “as long as you live under my roof, you will do as I say!”  Now imagine you are Mylie Cyrus and in fact you paid for your parents’ house.  It doesn’t work quite as well, now does it?

I even tossed around briefly the idea that we should ban the use of child actors entirely (I mean, outside of school plays and the like).  It wouldn’t even be complicated: all we do is apply the child labor laws to the acting profession.

But that doesn’t really work, because in effect you are destroying freedom of expression.  How can Steven Speilberg, for instance, depict this in Schindler’s List...

...without employing child actors?  Yes, we don’t lose much if they can no longer be in schmaltzy Hallmark dramas, but there is no reasonable way to distinguish between speech we value and speech we don’t, so we have to allow all of it.

But that doesn’t change my misgivings about this sector of Hollywood and there might be an even darker reason why child actors are so often so screwed up.  In a recent article, the authors mention several high-profile cases of child molestation on Hollywood sets and then they write this:

Feldman, 40, himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, unflinchingly warned of the world of pedophiles who are drawn to the entertainment industry last August. "I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia,” Feldman told ABC’s Nightline. “That's the biggest problem for children in this industry... It's the big secret.”

Another child star from an earlier era agrees that Hollywood has long had a problem with pedophilia. “When I watched that interview, a whole series of names and faces from my history went zooming through my head,” Paul Peterson, 66, star of The Donna Reed Show, a sitcom popular in the 1950s and 60s, and president of A Minor Consideration, tells “Some of these people, who I know very well, are still in the game.”

“This has been going on for a very long time,” concurs former “Little House on the Prairie” star Alison Arngrim. “It was the gossip back in the ‘80s. People said, ‘Oh yeah, the Coreys, everyone’s had them.’ People talked about it like it was not a big deal.”

Arngrim, 49, was  referring to Feldman and his co-star in “The Lost Boys,” Corey Haim, who died in March 2010 after years of drug abuse.

“I literally heard that they were ‘passed around,’” Arngrim  said. “The word was that they were given drugs and being used for sex. It was awful – these were kids, they weren’t 18 yet. There were all sorts of stories about everyone from their, quote, ‘set guardians’ on down that these two had been sexually abused and were totally being corrupted in every possible way.”...

Feldman, who claims he was “surrounded” by pedophiles when he was 14, says the sexual abuse by an unnamed “Hollywood mogul” led to the death of his friend Haim at the age of 38. "That person needs to be exposed, but, unfortunately, I can't be the one to do it," Feldman told Nightline.

And really, do read the whole thing.  Is that the dirty little secret here?  Consider how many celebrities came out in protest when they arrested Roman Polanski not too long ago.  Big Hollywood has the complete list of celebrities who actually signed a petition supporting Polanski.  Hey, he just plied a fourteen year old girl with drugs and raped her, what’s the big deal?  Does that mean every person who signed that petition should be investigated?  No, but it does suggest a culture of in appropriate softness toward this kind of conduct.

It made me, oddly, think of a song by Alanis Morissette, called Hands Clean.  The lyrics read as though they were autobiographical, and strongly suggest they were about her being the victim in a pedophilia situation.  Consider these words, written from the perspective of the creepy man:

You're essentially an employee and I like you having to depend on me
You're a kind of my protégé and one day you'll say you learned all you know from me
I know you depend on me like a young thing would to a guardian
I know you sexualize me like a young thing would and I think I like it

And consider the chorus:

Ooh this could get messy
But you don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime

Um, this “supposed” crime?

And then she seems to go into her voice:

We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
I've more than honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this

And that’s what it’s all about.  She honors his request for silence by not even telling you the name of this creep in her song, if it is indeed autobiographical.  And Corey Feldman won’t name the man who sexually abused him and Corey Haim, who drove his friend into the grave.

Well, with all due respect to the both of them, silence isn’t an option.  It isn’t for any of them.  They need to tell us what they know.  Are we to believe that the predators who used them didn’t use anyone else?  They have a responsibility to prevent further children from being victimized.

And the local authorities shouldn’t sit on their hands, either.  They should investigate, at the very least, Feldman’s claims until we have a name.  And then they need to investigate until we know whether that person abused any more children within the statute of limitations.  Even if Feldman won’t testify before a grand jury, why not ask literally everyone else surrounding him?  Someone is bound to talk.

But most ideally these adults who were abused as children should come forward although I get the feeling that the resulting scandal will make the Penn State mess look tame by comparison.


Sidebar: Go back and listen to Morrissette’s song You Oughta Know, in light of this song.  If both are really autobiographical, there is some reason to suspect that both are about the same person.  For instance, at one point in the song she refers to the man’s new lover as “an older version of me.”  Let’s face it, most men sewing their oats tend to find younger versions, not older ones—unless the last version was too young.  And a major complaint in the song is that he promised to marry her, or at least spend the rest of his life with her.  And let’s be blunt.  She’s coming off as mentally unbalanced in the song, although I think she was always aware that she was coming off that way.  Which all makes sense if the relationship she is remembering occurred when she was too emotionally immature, right?


  1. On the identity of the man in You Oughta Know, see this:

  2. Huntsman Has a New Position on Global Warming - Planet Gore, National Review Online.
    I deny that child actors seem to be uniquely messed up as a group.
    We've only seen one example (the Dead Cory) and that was given as hear say testimony by the girl from “Little House on the Prairie”.
    Is this so unique a group? Take a graduating class from any high school, as a group. You are going to find an endless parade of messed up children.
    Hollywood isn't unique. It's just talked about.

  3. Huntsman is pretty easy to laugh at.

    Anyway, maybe you have a point, tiger. Maybe Hollywood just gets more attention from its freaks.