In Their Best Interests

I was having a conversation about the movie Cuties today and it was pointed out that the child actors are being subjected to hypersexualization by performing those acting roles and maybe that’s why people were objecting? Like it’s hypocrisy to put the child actors in that situation even though they were playing roles in a movie, I can see that perspective, but they weren’t on their own, they had adults supervising them, looking after them and how else can such movies be made without subjecting child actors to possible harm or future regrets when they grow into adulthood?

There are many movies with child actors where there is a portrayal of violence, sexual situations, trauma, abuse, etc. I guess they could make those movies requiring children into animated movies to avoid subjecting child actors to possibly harming situations, but it may not translate as effectively.

Where to draw the line with child performers? Should children be performers? How do we really know if the children are okay with what they are doing? Do they have the capacity to express their true wants and needs in those situations, or are they pressured by their parents, managers, directors, and society to perform? Do they really have a full say in what they are agreeing to? Could there be coercion and exploitation of children involved? I think that’s highly probable.

What about parents who pressure their kids into activities like sports, dance, playing instruments, etc. Or what if initially, the child goes along, it seems fun, they want to please their parents, but what if it’s not what they really want? How do we know? Once a child is hooked into performing, even when the parents ask if they still enjoy it or if they want to quit, the child may not feel comfortable being truthful even if they really want out, they don’t want to disappoint anyone, so they keep performing, trying to please everyone.

Children are not able to maintain healthy boundaries yet, so it will be confusing for them. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility to be a performer where you have to devote a lot of your life to your art. It takes hours upon hours of practice. Some kids may be fine with it and truly thrive and love it, while others may like it to an extent but may also just be going along with what they think the authority figures in their lives want from them. And with so much discipline involved, the kids may lose and sacrifice a lot of their carefree childhood years to something they really weren’t equipped to say no to. I know I missed out on a lot by devoting so much of my childhood/adolescence to music and performing.

That’s where the adults have to be fully in tune with the kids and be able to suss out the truth, to be keen and observant, advocating for what’s objectively best for the kids. Children need to be related to according to their developmental level with the understanding that they don’t have the capacity to fully understand so they can’t fully know the ramifications of what they’re consenting to, so the adults have to protect them by maintaining healthy boundaries with them and for them.

So we don’t know how the child performers are impacted until later when they’re adults and they can tell us from that perspective and in hindsight, we can learn how they fared. From what I’ve come across regarding child actors, it can be rough for them.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/being-a-child-actor-has-always-been-tough-social-media-makes-it-so-much-worse/2018/01/10/b8b8894a-f225-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-trenches/201106/the-child-performer

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/29/child-actors-protections-laws-pew/2734035/

Yes it’s fun to perform and get positive attention, but it’s also a lot to cope with too. So as with most everything in life, it depends on a multitude of factors, but most of all it depends on the adults being advocates for the best interests of the kids.

Michelle Miyagi
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