Back in 2018, one-time child actor Leelee Sobieski said she didn’t know “why it’s legal for a child to act,” essentially calling a Hollywood “a gross industry” for how it forces children to be judged by their appearance. The psychological impact of show business on the young and impressionable has been explored time and again—most recently in Shia LaBeouf’s Honey Boy—but that doesn’t make this essay from School Of Rock’s Becca Brown any less gutting.
Brown played Katie, the bassist in the band of talented kids Jack Black’s slacker substitute assembles in the 2003 film. In the essay, titled “Confessions Of An Obsolete Child Actor,” she reflects on getting cast in the film at the age of 10 following an appearance on NPR’s From The Top, as well as the tight bonds she forged with her co-stars—“We all fell in love with each other pretty much instantly,” she writes.
But, despite playing a key supporting role in a beloved, critically-acclaimed comedy, Brown spent the subsequent years being bulled by classmates and pressured to get cast in more roles by her parents, leading her to develop an eating disorder and an unhealthy relationship with the industry. On top of that, she also found herself forced to grapple with grown men sexualizing her online and in person.
On message boards (what a time 2003 was), grown men would sexualize me, commenting, “The bassist is going to grow up to be hot” and “Can’t wait ’til she’s 18.” My mom would read the comments online for hours on end, relaying all of the negative ones to me. When I was in sixth grade, a strange man in a trench coat came to my school and tried to take photos of me, and absolutely nothing was done about it. For the first time, I felt unsafe existing. When my parents brought this to my school’s administration, the principal said, “I guess that’s the price of fame.”
Brown goes on to discuss how drugs and alcohol became an escape from the anxieties she felt, and how her hard-fought sobriety has helped her better appreciate the joys she’s since found in stand-up comedy, acting, and music. “[F]rankly, it’s fucking hard to maintain sobriety,” she writes, “but sometimes the idea of a TMZ headline reading ‘That one girl from School Of Rock dead from overdose at 27' is all it takes to keep me from a relapse.”
Read the full essay here.
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