Child actors - Do they need protection from acting?
These past few weeks we've seen a lot of controversy raging about Dakota Fanning and her role in Hounddog, most of it is complete hysteria and fabrication as she is an actress acting in a role and she was acting scared and distressed, something she has done time and time again in roles.
However there was a bigger question raised about child actors, or actors who portray roles for films that are aimed at a much older audience than them. Fanning is acting in a film that is meant for an audience much older than herself, and the role itself demands a much older and wiser performance than her physical age, should she be allowed to? Should child actors be allowed to act in films where their role, the content of the film and the film rating are for an older audience?
There is no doubt that Fanning is an amazing actress already, even at her age she is out performing those much older and she seems to be loving it, but is she understanding it and is she able to cope with it all?
When she is acting in a film that would receive a viewing certificate greater than her age, should she be allowed to? Should she in fact be restricted to act in films that she could legally watch?
Are we perhaps just being a bit too controlling and nanny-ish here? She is an actor, and if she can understand what that means and she is protected from harm in her acting scenes then does it matter? If the finalised film is a certificate that meant she couldn't watch it, does that matter if her individual scenes protect her from that higher rated content? After all editing and effects can make just about anything happen on screen.
If we did start restricting the work child actors did then who would play children in films? How could we have seen such a brilliant film in The Sixth Sense without Haley Joel Osment giving us that superb performance at age eleven in a film that is rated around the world from PG to 18.
Should we take a step back and ensure that the parents, managers and the filmmakers on the film are adult and responsible enough to look after the child actor? After all one of them could surely take advantage, but all of them? Bear in mind for filmmakers we're talking casting, producers, director and the studio themselves.
Do child actors need protection from acting? It's perhaps true that they need protection from Hollywood and fame, after all there are many stories of child actors falling fowl of the trappings of fame, but then so many more adults do too, and this in itself is not a reason to restrict child actors from acting.
There is also the question of when a child actor becomes an actor. If they were only allowed to act in films that reflected their age, then when do they have the rights of a grown actor? Not until they are 18? Do we then stop showing anyone under 18 in an 18 film?
Frankly I think it all starts to get too controlling, too hand holding and too much of a nanny state. This is starting to sound like we should be telling someone elses child what they can and can't deal with in their own mind, and not considering their own thoughts and feelings or their parents parental skills, or the dozens of other people around them looking after their interests as well as their own reputations.
What do you think? How do you feel about child actors? Should they be restricted to only films they themselves could watch? When does a child actor become an actor with the ability to decide these things for themselves? Do child actors need more protection from fame and Hollywood rather that the acting itself, or are those around them and close to them the ones who should be helping them make decisions and not the audience?