Should Teenagers Be Famous
The Catastrophic Downfall of Teen Stars
Fame. We all kind of want it. As my fellow Novellian writer has pointed out in her article, many of us even pretend to be on talk shows, friends with, or even dating the celebrities we idolize. This is all, at least to me, just what fandom has become. With teenagers now imagining being the celebrities on talk shows or dating a celebrity, the longing to be famous is more common and seems much more attainable and pleasant than it is. If one does attain the celebrity level of fame that daydreams are made of at an early age, will it do more harm than help? Should teenagers even be celebrities? I’m finding the answer through a somewhat thorough look at teenagers who reach this level of fame and how fandom culture, the media, and toxic relationships with parental guardians and managers can contribute to the catastrophic downfall of teen stars.
Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Disney Stars, the members of One Direction, and the entire cast of Stranger Things (and many others like them) met fame at an early age, and, in recent years, they have spoken about their experiences. One of the most recent examples is the documentary on Britney Spears and her family’s conservatorship over her. Spears’ experience is one of many childhood stardom stories where a minor’s guardians manage the financial affairs due to their age. A fourteen-year-old can’t supervise their parent’s bank account. When this person turns eighteen and leaves the household, the parents no longer have a stable source of income from this child. This means there is a big incentive for the parents, guardians, or even managers to profit off this person for as long as possible — by whatever means necessary. In Spears’ case, her family and manager profited off of her since she was seven. Britney’s overwhelming success only gave them more motivation to continue to abuse her talent by removing her power and her rights, leaving her without control over her art and her life.
Another more recent example is family vlogging channels. Family vlogging channels are Vlogs, or short video diaries, surrounding someone’s life, daily routines, and activities. Vlogs are usually a one-person show, a family vlogging channel centers around a family recording and posting their lives online. Well, more like parents recording their family’s lives. These parents gain millions of subscribers (and dollars) posting content based on their children. Youtube videos can capture everything involving a pregnancy, from gender (biological sex) reveal, to potential names and the final decision, and baby showers, thus making the parents money. To some people, that itself is enough motivation to get pregnant. Once the child is born, they spend their life with their parents documenting their lives to post it online. Again, the same issue comes up. Not only does it cause a large amount of stress, trauma, a complete lack of privacy on the child’s side as they have no say in the content, but the child can face endless bullying from their parents posting the details of their lives online.
It leaves their children vulnerable to complete strangers. Vlogging channels are ethically “iffy” that way, especially when considering that you don’t know who is watching. Pedophiles and internet creeps won’t hesitate to reach out if they find a means of contact. And if their parents share their life with strangers, why wouldn’t it be okay for them to do so?
Speaking of internet creeps, social media’s effect on teenage stars, though only predominantly present in the latter half of the 2010s, is still prominent. Let’s talk about that. As mentioned before, with the rise of social media and the rising ability to say whatever you want on the internet, the ability to insult and sexualize celebrities increased. Teen stars can find thousands of negative comments about their physical image — and a million other things about themselves. These ill-suited comments can have a detrimental impact on these young stars’ mental and physical health — causing body dysmorphia, eating disorders as well as mental illness.
Teen stardom also exposes children to objectification and sexualization. Billie Eilish only wore baggy clothing for fear of being sexualized. When the paparazzi photographed her wearing a tank top, the internet perverts rushed to both sexualize and fat-shame her. People have even created timers for when teen stars turn 18, as disgusting as it is. Millie Bobby Brown, who rose to fame in 2016 from playing Eleven on Stranger Things, co-star Finn Wolfhard, and influencer Charli D’Amelio all have these countdowns made by adults, waiting until they reach the age of 18, so it’s not a crime to fetishize them.
This sexualization of minors has been present in the media for years. In an extremely recent case, Bhad Bhabie (A.K.A. cash me outside how bout that girl A.K.A. Gucci flip flops girl) turned 18 and opened an only fans account. Within the first six hours, she had made a million dollars. For those not in the know, OnlyFans is Patreon for sex workers. It provides a safe way to exchange nudes and other NSFW content by running a subscription-based platform. When Bhad Bhabie turned 18 and made millions, it proves that thousands of people waited for her to turn 18 and were willing to shell out money to see her nudes. Though it is entirely legal, it is extremely creepy. I won’t do a whole cyberbullying speech because I will never top the Disney Channel ones, but having large amounts of hate directed at you for how you look from a young age — especially if your career revolves around what others think about you as an actor does — can have negative effects on your mental health.
Traditional media such as magazines, tabloids, and television have similar effects, especially when it comes to fat-shaming. Many 2000s stars are more affected by this in particular. In cases like Demi Lovato’s, she developed an eating disorder and multiple substance abuse issues. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s Oprah interview where she talks about the rumors of them having anorexia and states immediately after the question: “So what size are you?” Taylor Swift was body-shamed by the media on and off for years. Traditional media is also just as guilty of the sexualization of minors. The media depicted the One Direction members as womanizers, and Liam Payne was offered alcohol to endure a nude photoshoot. Another notable incident was with Emma Watson, who had a paparazzi take a photo up her skirt while leaving her 18th birthday party. Jarringly, if the picture had been taken hours earlier, it would have been child pornography. Magazines have been fat-shaming and insulting celebrities for decades, and they will always insult celebrities, but when they’re insulting such a vulnerable group as actual children, it becomes much more harmful.
Fandom culture’s role in fame is quite strange nowadays. As a celebrity, there is no doubt that fans will romanticize you. Statement of fact. Celebrity romanticization comes in different forms, but nowadays, expressed in a profuse amount of fanfiction. For those who don’t know, Fanfiction is typically fictional writing crafted by fans, based on an existing work of fiction, such as a movie or television series (or about a celebrity’s life). Some stories center around rewriting the plot or making a character live or date another character; other stories have a reader insert (readers insert themselves in the story). When fanfiction falls in the new adult category, it often depicts the reader/co-star having a rather lewd relationship with a beloved celebrity. This doesn’t seem to freak anyone out, even when the love interest star is underage.
This is gross because shipping an underage and of age character, especially an actor, is just creepy, and let’s not forget, literally illegal. Liking that ship or writing NSFW fanfiction about it is like borderline pedophilia — if not just actually pedophilia. It’s nasty and perverted, and no one should do this. It is sexual content about an underaged person.
Don’t believe me? Who could forget the infamous “My parents sold me to One Direction and now I am their slave” genre of literature? These stories contribute to the sexualization of young celebrities and cross a whole lot of boundaries. It also enables young fans to think that sexualizing young stars and characters is okay and doing so has no repercussions. Writers need to learn to be more respectful if they are to put this kind of work out into the world — a world where the celebrities themselves can access it.
There is an expectation for young stars not to deviate from the image fans have when they grow up in the spotlight. Being forced to behave as some character you’ve depicted since you were twelve can take a toll on a person, but if they even start to act like a different person, someone on Twitter will say, “I miss the old you :( </3”. Putting people into a box will never have good consequences, especially during teen years. This fear of change will harm their sense of self and self-image, along with literally everything else we’ve seen in this article.
So I ask the question: should teenagers be famous? The answer: No. Nobody under the age of 19 should be a celebrity. Being a child growing up in the media opens you up to a wide range of manipulation, grooming, and just overall creepiness and toxicity. This only intensifies preteen and teen years, the pressure to stay the same, maintain an image yet, also have sex appeal (as a literal CHILD) continues into adulthood.
I don’t think any child or teen should be exposed to such a horrendous array of people and experiences while being so vulnerable. I would like to give every one of the teen stars from the 2000s a hug because first, the media made them unstable and ill, then the media mocked them for being unstable and ill, all while profiting off of them. I’m extremely happy that they are speaking out and getting justice and awareness for their situations out there. #freebritney
Written by: Madi Terry