So this is really more of a question/subject for debate than a thought-out position:
Is it ethical to involve your young child in an endeavor which will bring them great stardom? I’m talking about acting, reality-show casting, etc.
This arises after having just watched about 15 minutes of “Guy vs. Rachel’s Kid’s Cookoff” or something like that, and turning it off in some disgust and real sadness I was experiencing at watching the sort of cloying made-for-TV adultishness that seems to be the norm in how these kids are expected to act.
Some obvious arguments against child stardom:
- It tends to mess kids up later on. For a great fictional illustration of this phenomenon, see P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia, and William H. Macy’s portrayal of “Quiz Kid Donnie Smith” later in life. For nonfictional illustrations, think about just about any child star. Some particularly well-documented non-fictional cases: Michael Jackson, Drew Barrymore.
- Kids don’t exercise anything like informed consent in this process. Especially not young kids. A 3-year-old who has some sort of adorable made-for-TV quality will have decisions made by their parents. Even when the kid is asked and they say “yeah, I love this” they’re not really in a position to say this. Maybe there are some gray areas when a kid is in their middle teenage years, but single-digits? Seems clearly aren’t really in a mental condition to consent to this stuff.
- It’s exploitative. Kids aren’t really in a position for many years to reap the profits they bring their parents (or their production companies, networks, etc). In the mean time someone else is making a lot of money on them, money which they will never see unless their parents happen to be really good, farsighted people.
Obviously you can tel where my intuitions lie – but maybe I’m missing something?
It’s additionally frustrating that “but they’re so cute” is offered up as a reply to 1-3 above, and that that seems to carry the day so often in whatever arguments we do have about this. I’m not sure how old Honey Boo-Boo was when she first was on TV – 3? The fact that so many people were entertained by this obviously explains why it DOES happen, but seems really far from why it SHOULD.
I’m honestly a little surprised there are not more legal strictures preventing this stuff from happening. There are child labor laws, bans on child pornography, and a few other things, but why should adults be allowed to enroll their children in lives that, in the short- and medium-term, seem like bad deals for them, just to entertain the rest of us?
And why is this considered an acceptable subject to make fun of on VH1-style documentaries? Think about what we’re really laughing at.