Alyson Stoner has been a Hollywood fixture since she was a small child. Now in her late 20s, she has consistent work. She wrote a long essay about how horrible growing up in Hollywood is, something that we know from many sources and stories. One thing I want to highlight here is Stoner’s discussion of child labor.
Alyson also touches upon “child labor laws” in the essay, saying set conditions are “inappropriate and hazardous” and revealing that some agents even encouraged her “to look at early emancipation so I can work longer hours” to “increase my hire-ability.”
“In just over a decade, the tentacles of the industry have suffocated and destroyed my family, every member with their own unique hardship. This whole dynamic can distort and exhaust even the healthiest of humans. Yet, each of us is forced to uphold a veneer, lest negative press reach our doorstep. The show truly never stops,” she continues. “Then it hits me. My childhood is officially gone.”
To avoid such precarious instances going forward, Alyson suggests, among many things, mental health and open conversation should be prioritized and regulations regarding child entertainment should be put in place.
“Very few resources exist to help people unpack and navigate the implications of a child star-studded culture, whether you’re the kid, the parent, the agent, or the audience,” she wrote. “Solutions like mental health practitioners and Industry Literacy courses are easy next steps. Though I’m not without scars and ongoing struggles, I am still one of the most fortunate cases. I had access to a therapist who saw past the enchantment of fame and taught me to safely reinhabit my body.”
Framing all of this in terms of child labor is tremendously important. Hollywood is a unique industry. But what is not unique is that children do not have the cognitive ability to handle laboring long hours in hard conditions. They cannot make the decisions necessary in this industry. Parents are often the worse part of this equation since they are getting rich off their children. Like any industry, there will be exploitation if there is not real restrictions with real consequences. Right now, child labor exploitation runs rampant in Hollywood. While there has to be a place for children in the movies, that has to come with a system that actually protects them. Otherwise they might as well be working in an early twentieth century sweatshop or coal mine.