If your child approaches you and says they want to act, that’s potentially a wonderful thing as may also be the case if they approach you about the desire to dance or play an instrument or paint or engage in any of the arts. But this particular request of acting, may require more scrutiny as it may potentially reveal a more concerning reason than just getting involved in organized “make believe”…… ESPECIALLY, if they tell you that they’re only interested in TV and film acting and not theater…..
A recent statistic published in “The Economist” stated that in a 1976 survey, “people ranked being “famous” 15th out of 16 possible life goals. By 2007, 51% of young people say that it was one of their principal ambitions. The proportion of American teenagers who believe themselves to be “very important”, jumped from 12% in 1950 to 50% in 2005. On a test that asks subjects to agree or disagree with statements such as, “I like to look at my body” and “someone should write a biography about me” 93% of young Americans emerge as being more narcissistic than the average of 20 years ago.” I hope I don’t have to tell you how alarming this is. The rise in taking and posting an abundance of “selfies”, has already started to be analyzed by psychologists as a symptom of narcissism among children AND adults. And if you’re a parent reading this, I’d like you to take a “gut-check” on just who it is that may be wanting this fame for your child! It’s quite possible that you’re the one pursuing this and your child may just be the vehicle for your own projections. If so, you may be putting your child in a place very detrimental to the growth of their esteem and psyche by pushing them into it.
Between my work as a casting director, as a professional musician and growing up the son of my father in the media town of Los Angeles, I’ve known many people who were famous and most of them, BEFORE they were famous. The ONLY difference between the two situations is somewhat obvious but given this stat above, it bears repeating and remembering…FREQUENTLY! It’s this:……wait for it…….. MORE PEOPLE KNOW WHO YOU ARE!…. THAT’S IT!! It doesn’t mean you’re more talented or worthy than you were before you became famous. In fact, many people who achieve fame and don’t feel they’ve done anything to actually be worthy of such adulation, find a way to sabotage it. I get about 10 “Selfies” a week from kids who have been indoctrinated in our celebrity-worship society with it’s warped values of fame, no matter how dubiously attained. They think that they can simply snap a shot of themselves, send it to a casting director and then clear their schedule for the next week for all the red-carpeted awards shows and paparazzi chases that will surely follow without an ounce of study and preparation!” The fact that more people know who or what Kim Kar-whatshername is, than know about who Mother Theresa was, is disturbing on so many levels. And don’t even get me started on the “cultural” impact of the cast of the Jersey Shore which I believe to be one of the signs of the apocalypse! It’s also the reason why the arts are being devalued left and right in the form of actors and musicians not being offered fair monetary compensation in a fit exchange of their gifts. Instead, artists are regularly being offered the hollow payment of “exposure” as if you can then turn around and offer it to your grocer or in place of your rent or your health insurance premium. Ego and vanity are enormously expensive commodities to which to aspire and the pursuit of them is the equivalent of worshiping sand never realizing the beaches are covered with it. And fame is usually an unsustainable phenomenon over the course of a lifetime, anyway as it’s sure to ebb and flow. This is ESPECIALLY true, if the search is for fame for it’s own sake as the ultimate goal, which is pretty well GUARANTEED to be unsustainable. That’s because once the fame is achieved, the activity that brought it, ceases to be of interest to the person who only USED that vehicle to attain their TRUE goal of fame. The actual and genuine drive to create however, is like an itch that must be scratched regularly and thus, can absolutely be sustainable throughout a lifetime! And the true expression of it will bring fulfillment to the artist whether they’re famous or not. The expression of creativity can bring fame as a byproduct, but it isn’t the main motivation of true artists. People who just want fame, clutter the artistic landscape with imposters making it more difficult for true artists of merit to emerge.
I knew several child stars when I was growing up, some of whom have become famous adults. I can tell you that it requires an enormous amount of emotional intelligence to navigate the challenges that follow fame for adults, let alone children. But acting for the sake of creativity should be its own reward just like painting a beautiful picture or dancing to the full extent of your heart’s creative expression. The urge to create is a beautiful one and is an archetype exerting a pull to some degree, in all of us. And it should be nurtured and kept in its purest state. So if your child comes to you and says they want to pursue acting, put them in a theater setting first to see if its acting they prefer. If it’s fame, you’ll be able to tell because they won’t be interested in the expression of acting as an end in itself. They’ll want to be on TV or in the movies. That’s your clue that their value system is in drastic need of a course correction. Try showing them this video on famous people explaining what fame actually does to their lives. If you’re one of those parents trying to live out your dreams through your kids, the watch it yourself!
Carl Jung the philosopher and psychologist theorized that the archetype covering the human desire to create could be found in the mythology of the mating of Eros and Psyche and their offspring was Pleasure. In the film, “Chariots of Fire”, the lead character’s sister tries to get him to give up his desire to run track in the Olympics and return home to become a minister like his father and grandfather. She finally asks him why he runs anyway since she finds it such a frivolous preoccupation. His answer is brilliant: “Because God made me fast! And when I run, I feel His pleasure!” There is no better reason to engage in any artistic pursuit. I wish your child the feeling of God’s pleasure in all of their’s!