Kid Actors and WSTOFC?

“Won’t Someone Think of the Children?” is the acronym.

I considered CS for this thread, but … it seems to be an issue that’s not precisely The Arts. Anyway, if the mods choose to move it, I won’t cry.

Anyway, the debate:

In HBO’s Weeds, 12-year-old character Shane Botwin gets a handjob from a Asian massage parlor, paid for by his uncle; the dialog on this point is explicit enough that there’s no mistaking what is supposed to have happened. 12-year-old character Isabelle Hodes has already decided she’s a lesbian and shares a kiss with another similarly-aged girl, which actually does happen – that is, it’s shown on screen. Later in the series, these two characters get stoned and discuss his touching of her breast.

In Houndog, 12-year-old actress Dakota Fanning appears in a rape scene.

Now, there’s no underage nudity to speak of in any of these presentations, but the subject matter is fairly described as ‘mature’.

In contrast, Patty Duke relates in her autobiography that one of her roles as a preteen was to portray a youngster who inadvertantly blurts out on a TV quiz show that her parents had premarital relations. She writes that she was taken aside and told that “premartial relations” were something grownups did, and huge care was taken with her not to expose the subject matter in any more detail.

Things have obviously changed.

On balance, I guess I don’t have a problem with the handjob storyline. But where’s the age cutoff? At what point should kid actors be expected to participate in mature themes? Should there be any government control of the issue at all? Should it be up to the parents alone, who could be motivated by things other than the child’s welfare?

Or is it simply not harmful to give a kid lines to speak, as long as it’s not followed up by doing? And even then – the preteen girl-on-girl kiss? For that matter, a pre-teen boy-on-girl kiss? The simulated sexual abuse? Those ARE actions, not just lines.

I’m uncomfortable with the whole issue, but don’t really have a clear plan to fix it.

Lindsey Lohan
Brittany Spears
The entire kid cast of " Different Strokes"
Cory [sup]squared[/sup] [that’s cory haim and cory feldman]
Danny Bonniducci (sp?)
Macaulay Culkin

Need I say more?

Some kids simply can’t handle that amount of attention, money, fame…it goes right up their noses.

To answer your question I think parents should keep a closer eye on their children when they are on screen, off screen etc…etc… I think it’s the parents responsibility up to a point…then the kid needs to have some personal responsibility.

Having worked in elementary and junior high schools and being privvy to confiscated notes and overheard conversations (and having been a 12-year-old myself), I’m pretty sure most 12-year-olds have already had their first kiss, have had some sexual education class, know what rape is, and have heard of handjobs. So I think the actor aspect is largely irrelevant. The real question is whether kids in general are encountering this stuff at too young an age.

IMHO, no. We need to have sex ed at that age because sex is happening at that age. We should be deliriously happy if our 12-year-olds are only kissing.

How far does that go? That’s a tougher question. I think there’s a reason you don’t see it much with actors under that age. 11 or 12 seems like a pretty reasonable cutoff to me. That’s the age at which puberty starts to happen and kids are finding out about this stuff anyway. But kids (and adults, I guess) have remarkably divergent levels of maturity. While you note that parents might not always have best interests in mind, they do usually have the best sense of their child’s maturity. I think leaving it to them is the least bad option.

I’ve read comments from several performers who said some variation of, “My first kiss was on-screen.”

For some reason I cannot articulate, that strikes me as wrong.

And does it embarrass a preteen actor to play out a scene in which his character gets a handjob from an Oriental massage girl? Should it?

The current crop of adults that were former child stars can lend some insight, perhaps… but as my Patty Duke story suggests, things were much more innocent even ten years ago.

From here.

I was disappointed that I was unable to figure out the acronym in the title. But then I was pleased to see that it’s because of the ‘F’ which must have inadvertently replaced the expected ‘T’ in there.

Oops. My bad.

As an only slightly more substantial contribution, I actually see something kind of sweet in having a first kiss be on screen, though I, too, cannot quite put my finger on why. As far as the twelve year-old actor pretending to get a handjob, sure, some would be embarrassed by that, but some adult actors would be as well; I can just as easily see a twelve year-old boy who finds the role amusing or interesting or such as I can picture an adult doing so (though I don’t actually know the specifics of what occurred in your example). And I’m kind of put off by the idea that a lesbian kiss may somehow be more inappropriate for twelve year-olds than a straight kiss.

Really, out of all the examples you give, the only one presenting me with any significant special possibility of room for pause is the rape one. (Where I would say only that the adults involved should take special care to make sure the young actress is able to handle the role, which I’m sure did indeed satisfactorily happen with Dakota Fanning). Certainly, I would find any substantive involvement of government with the issue to be ridiculously overbearing. There’s no pressing need for that kind of regulation.

I share that feeling. But it strikes me as a very minor wrong, on the order of never being able to go to a Drive-In movie. The kid is being deprived of a revered, but relatively inconsequential human experience: a natural first kiss. I don’t think it rises to the level of interfering with parental decision-making. And for the other stuff (gaining knowledge of handjobs, rape, etc.), I stand by my assertion that the vast majority of kids have heard about that stuff by that age.

As a tangent, your cite indicates only 22% have had their first kiss by that age, whereas I would have put the number quite a bit higher. I think the rate of actual “consensual”* sex by age 13 is over 10%, so I’m surprised the kiss number is so low.

  • As consensual as sex with other similar-aged kids can be at that age.

I would think it would be pretty embarrassing. Do we know that the kind of talk you described taking place with Patty Duke doesn’t still occur?

OK, I’m going to risk accusations of homophobia here and offer the following observations:

  • Lesbians are a minority
  • A girl who might be embarrassed at a first kiss on screen would potentially be even more embarrassed at her first kiss being with a girl, if for no other reason than at that age, concerns about sexuality and image are rampant
  • It’s a minor (no pun intended) point, since I’m not all that sanguine about the frst boy-girl kiss being on-screen either

But I fully admit I may just not “get” acting, and all those involved may be perfectly blasé about it. In defense of the “not” side of the question, again I’ll point to several memoir/recollection pieces from actresses that had their first kisss on screen and were embarrassed or uncomfortable.

I’d be more worried about the child’s financial welfare. I’ve heard too many stories about children that were the victims of their own family’s greed.

Shame on you, Bricker. You know better than to spread misinformation on the SDMB.

Everyone knows Weeds airs on Showtime, not HBO. :wink:

Bricker, I’m not all that familiar with Patty Duke’s story, but I thought that, in spite of the care taken with her that you mention earlier, she’d ended up coming out of her teens almost as wild as Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan have been, if not as much in the public eye. ISTR that she’s heavily involved, now with alcoholism, and mental illness advocacy, and that some of the things she experienced were only barely removed from being sexual abuse.

If your thesis is that she was more effectively protected than more modern stars, I’d like to you address what benefit you think it may have had.

Guess you haven’t seen The Tin Drum.

Oh, wait, that’s one o’ them furren film, it doesn’t count.

A fair point. Duke was exploited financially, no question about it, and her managers did NOT have her best interests at heart. However, in fairness, her major “wild” problem was bipolar disorder; she was never a druggie or a drunk.

She does describe an incident that bordered on sexual abuse, but it was not a pattern of behavior – more like a drunken interlude on the part of her managers.

I certainly contend that, insofar as the INDUSTRY goes, she was shielded more than modern child stars are; what happened in her personal time is something that could have happened to any child, star or not.

And if we’re discussing the benefits of some sort of government intervention – what happened to Duke’s money was a major factor in the reform of California’s laws concerning child stars’ earnings.

Thanks for the further information. As I said, I just have been peripherally aware of her history and her advocacy.

To address your point about shielding child stars, I have to admit my gut feeling is that as long as reasonable care is taken I’m not going to be upset with children down to 10 years of age or so being exposed to some very adult themes. I don’t know where one would draw reasonable care, though. Forex - what benefit is there to talking around “marital relations” with a 12 yo, if she’s a Jamie Lynn Spears fan?

It seems to me that even outside of the production side of the entertainment industry sex, and sexuality is far more out in the open than it had been in the seventies and eighties. And trying to maintain a mental box in just one corner of society isn’t really going to be feasible, nor useful.

Coincidentally, I was just wondering last night what happened to the movie Hounddog? Has it just not been released yet, was it released & blipped out of sight, or was it completed but shelved because who really wants to see it?

Haven’t seen the film, so I have no comment.

I did- YIKIES!!!
Btw, I just IMDB’d Hounddog. I guess it was “released”, but I’m not sure it was really distributed. I do know that it seems to have been nigh-universally despised.

My first kiss was on stage. I was in a high school Summerstock production. I was twelve. I was the youngest person in the cast and had a small speaking role - one which involved a stage kiss and where the character I was playing was supposed to be a young adult - actually, it was a little more than a stage kiss - it was an interrupted date rape - but interrupted very early in the forced kissing part. It was awkward, but in the interests of playing it cool, I don’t think I 'fessed up that my romantic kissing days were yet to come. And it was no more awkward than most of my junior high years. (In retrospect, what I perceived as going around me then was not at all what was going on around me). I don’t know it was damaging one way or another.

Its never occurred to me before that was my “first kiss” as my first kiss came a few years later.