Disney stars and their epic meltdowns have been a running joke for a while now. With all the pressure and temptation of teen stardom, Disney has a record of turning out talented kids who become Hollywood cliches of addiction and mental health issues. In all honesty, it’s pretty sad to think about the lives these young people must lead, full of insecurity and constant criticism. The world just loves to watch a Disney princess hit rock bottom.
So it’s interesting to hear about the “Disney curse” from the perspective of Disney Channel President, Gary Marsh. Or rather, it’s odd that he seems to take absolutely no responsibility for his company’s ability to make millions of dollars off of a minor and then kick them to the curb when they have a difficult time growing up under the spotlight.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Marsh talked about the Disney Channel’s strategy of leveraging popular young characters to within an inch of their sanity.
“For most of people who act, getting a television [show] is the end product. It’s the destination. For [Disney], it’s the launch pad. In my mind it’s: ‘You’ve landed a TV show, now what’s the consumer products opportunity? The film opportunities? The Disney channel movie? The crossover episode? The book you’re going to write?’ So they become Disney stars because they intersect with Disney in many ways, and that’s by design. Occasionally there are downsides to that: when we get overly identified with somebody and they go off the rails.”
And given the level of pressure that immense exposure puts on someone during their adolescent years, the tendency to “go off the rails” is pretty high. Sure that has minor consequences for the Disney brand, because they’ve invested a large amount of money into these young stars. But the thing is, Disney will always have a new crop of talent to replace them with. There’s no shortage of young people who would like their own TV show.
The young person who went “off the rails” however, is often damaged for the rest of their lives. Their reputations, their careers, that can all go away if they make the wrong move while under the intense stress of the entertainment industry. Disney has the downside of being “overly identified” with someone for a brief amount of time. That young person has the rest of their life to rebuild once Disney is done with them.
The really amazing thing about this interview is that Marsh realizes that the stress these young people are under is incredible. He admits, “It’s nearly impossible to carry the weight of [their] fans on [their] shoulders.” And then at the same time, he takes absolutely no responsibility for putting them in that position. At the end of the day, Marsh says that it’s the parents responsibility to keep these kids behaving. ”We give them all of the tools they might need, but the network is not responsible for raising their children.”
But tools, Marsh is referring to a seminar called “Talent 101″ that brings in security experts, psychologists and life coaches to speak with parents and actors before their shows launch. Apparently, the equivalent of freshman orientation for Disney actors and actresses should suffice in helping them handle a career that exhausts and troubles grown adults.
But of course, it’s not Disney’s responsibility to raise these kids. Disney is just the one putting the “impossible demands” on them. No responsibility in that at all.