In which the kids aren't alright.

Printed 21/07/09.

When will we learn our lesson about child stars? Considering the procession of simpering, precocious and increasingly screwed-up junior celebs that have been committed to the hall of fame over the years – from Edward VI via Shirley Temple, to Britney and that crying kid on Britain’s Got Talent – it’s amazing that we continue pushing them into the spotlight. Surely I wasn’t the only one who watched 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi performing at Michael Jackson’s memorial and played a quick game of spot-the-disturbing-irony?

I firmly believe that when it comes to fame, we should be following the usual rule; that anything fairly bad for adults is bound to be significantly worse for children. Like whiskey. Or meth addiction. Or saturated fats. Or pneumonia. When we consider what a touch of celebrity does to fully-developed adults, in the marriage-failing, surgery-abusing, scientology-following, wardrobe-malfunctioning arenas, it seems mightily irresponsible to let kids near the stuff at all. (Though I do realise that implementing an over-18s only policy on fame would mean no age-accurate youth performances in any film or TV show ever again, and admittedly that would be weird. Grease was scary enough.)

But aside from all the rehab and head-shaving potential of child stardom, there are also practicality issues. Scouting a cute kid for one film incurs only minor risks, but what happens when you’re signing them up to do seven? Or more specifically, what happens when the kid, who was a fairly average but endearing actor aged 11, gets progressively less cute and increasingly worse as he gets older, until at 19 he can ruin the biggest-grossing blockbuster of all time by turning out the performance of a damp, and slightly musty, flannel? Yes Daniel Radcliffe, I’m afraid I do mean you.

You know I only ever tell the complete truth, so those of you who haven’t seen it yet will believe me when I say this: he is really, really, bad. Which is a shame (not to mention a waste of 250 million dollars), because the rest of the film is really, really quite good. But I suppose it couldn’t be helped; back in 2000, the casting director wasn’t to know that their perfect Potter would turn out squeaky-voiced, stiff-of-jaw and incapable of expressing any emotion beyond what seems to be a mild bout of IBS.

Similar mistakes were made with Emma Watson of course, but we don’t notice as much because at least she has turned out attractive (if still eminently slappable). But poor Radcliffe has started to look like the creepy supply teacher no-one wants to sit next to on the Geography trip. And that is the sad truth of child stars – even when they’re playing wizards, nobody can actually see into the future. Let’s just hope we’re spared the impromptu eighth installment, Harry Potter and the Padded Cell of Celebrity.

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This week’s philosophical ponderment, up for reader debate: do I have no social life because of my LoveFilm subscription, or do I have the LoveFilm subscription because I have no social life?
Either way, the pressure to get my thrifty fill from the 30-day free trial has reduced me to hermit status, hell bent on consuming as much visual media as my flatmates and sleep cycle will let me. Remember the days where you had to go to a video shop, actively, on two feet? Were we better people then, or just less educated in the ways of crime fighting, medical procedures and Scarlett Johansson’s midriff? Am I getting scurvy? I’m pretty sure the answers to these questions and more all exist somewhere in Gossip Girl season 2, if I can just find them before they start charging me.

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I’ve recently had notice from a fan/critic of old, my friend Hannah’s hairdresser, who says that I am using too many long words in these articles. I’m sure he realises it’s just the desperate attempts of a wistful graduate to prove to herself that she did her degree for something other than the Topshop discount. But nonetheless, just for him, here is a selection of very short words: if. Tweak. Glob. Clang. Drab. Zoo. Bop. Antidisestablishmentarianism. Pip pip.