Monday, April 14, 2014

When Pop Culture Gets it Right...or Wrong: Where have the boys gone?

It seems you really can't escape hearing about celebrity news. It's so prevalent these days that even the regular news stations will run a story if they think it will be of interest to the general public. One such story I think it's safe to say that we're all tired of hearing about is Justin Bieber's woes. What do I care? After all, I'm 31 years old and way past any interest in teens idols.

But it did get me thinking...What about the teen idols of my time? What ever happened to some of them? I went on a mini-search for a few I swooned heavily over and received mostly bad news from the internet.

One such fellow was named Jonathan Brandis. I remember him from the movie Lady Bugs, which I watched many times while wishing he would secretly join my soccer team. I guess I wasn't alone because it's reported that he received 4k fan letters a week. So, what happened? Well, he got older, the fame (and jobs) faded, and he hung himself at age 27. It was a sad realization from someone who had coveted him in the past. Makes me wish I had sent him a letter later in life to tell him how much I enjoyed his work.

Another actor I loved to watch growing up was Edward Furlong. His parts in both Terminator 2 and American History X captivated me. What I loved so much about him was that he wasn't the typical pretty boy. He was a badass with a heart. Now? He's been arrested several times for alleged domestic abuse, and I went on to read that he's been struggling with drug addictions. His career, like Jonathan's, has also slid off the map with adulthood.

Brad Renfro is another I can't help but mention. Part of his charm for me was that he was from Knoxville, TN, which is where I grew up. His acting abilities became evident in The Client, but being young I remember him mostly from Tom and Huck. He died at age 25 of a heroin overdose back in 2008.

I'm realizing all these years later that the fame machine is a sad thing...and that I had been unknowingly a part of it. It built these boys up as idols in my head, only to wash their names from my memory once the next crop of cuties came of age. It makes me wish there had been something all of us fangirls, as a collective, could have done to help these boys out...some way to let them know we hadn't, and wouldn't, forget them. Some way we could have understood their humanity, that they were not mere commodities. But we did forget, until their names sprang briefly into the news to announce their death or court date.

Let this be a warning to the next generation to know the difference between idolization and supporting someone in their craft.

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