This week, Disney darling Demi Lovato checked herself into a treatment facility for physical and emotional issues. “She’s a cutter,” my daughter said when I brought up Demi’s hospitalization, “Everybody knows that.” I didn’t know that.
This week, Disney darling Demi Lovato checked herself into a “treatment facility” for “physical and emotional issues.” Lovato is the star of the Camp Rock movies and television series Sonny With A Chance, as well as being a pop singer who is currently on tour with the Jonas Brothers, one of whom she was formerly romantically involved with. That’s a lot on the plate of someone who also has to deal with being an 18-year-old, a time when figuring out who you are is a full-time job. Lindsay Lohan has been there. Britney Spears has been there. Miley Cyrus IS there. All for Disney, by the way.
Being the mother of a 15-year-old girl, I decided it was time for a talk with her about “physical and emotional issues” and, while 15 is a little older than the target audience for the current lineup that consists of things like Wizards of Waverly Place, Suite Life on Deck, Jonas L.A., Hannah Montana, in our house, we’re all fans of the brightly-colored mind candy that Disney Channel offers. Yes, even the 17-year-old boy. Don’t tell him you know that.
“Of course she has problems. She’s a cutter,” my daughter said when I brought up Demi’s hospitalization, “Everybody knows that.”
I didn’t know that.
Ten seconds of Google, and she’d pulled up numerous pictures of Lovato, many in long sleeves or wearing just one arm warmer, several with red scratches on her arms. It should have been obvious to anyone with five minutes of experience with teenagers that this girl had a problem. So why wasn’t it obvious to a network that specializes in employing teens?
Or was it?
These kids have stylists, so who dressed her in one arm warmer? Was Disney covering up a psychological issue for profit? I don’t know. The best case scenario is that someone wasn’t paying attention.
But can we really give them the benefit of the doubt on this one? After all, since Miley Cyrus has been carrying the hugely popular Hannah Montana franchise (estimated by People Magazine to be worth more than $1 billion), she’s been courting scandal like a middle-aged man courts a TGIFriday’s waitress at closing time on a Tuesday. First, at 14, there were the pictures leaked of her sexily sharing a piece of licorice with a friend like a human girl-on-human girl version of Lady and the Tramp. Then, at 15, there was the photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair where she appeared topless, though her representatives insist that photos were just meant to imply toplessness. Next, at 16, there was the 2009 Teen Choice Awards performance that included a whole little clothing and a whole lotta pole dancing. That same year, TMZ leaked a video of Miley giving a lap dance to the producer of her movie, The Last Song. And don’t forget the tattoos and older boyfriends. Sure she’s ranked number thirteen on Forbes’ list of 100 most influential celebrities of 2010, but she might need a teensy bit more guidance to stay on top. Or out of jail.
Naturally, some of what child stars go through is your average, every day teen angst. But there’s a difference between a normal teen taking the time to sulk in her bedroom for days, nursing her first broken heart, and a famous one having her humiliation known worldwide within minutes. She’s got phones ringing off the hook with reporters wanting a statement, and paparazzi hiding outside wanting a picture of her looking miserable, instead of just being able to slam the door to her room and scream “LEAVE ME ALONE!”
Of course, Disney isn’t a charity. Just because they specialize in entertainment for children doesn’t mean they aren’t in it to make money, same as everybody else. And these girls have parents who should see their own offspring struggling before anybody else. But you’d think that Disney and parents alike would work to keep them up and running, if for no other reason than a healthy child star is worth more than an ill one. But, more altruistically, because there is a whole world full of girls, like my daughter, who are savvy enough to know when someone they see on television is battling demons and, if they aren’t encouraged to get help, might not think it’s important for themselves to get help for the same problems. I’m glad Demi Lovato took it upon herself to get help, and disappointed in Disney for continuing to milk struggling cash cows. Because they don’t make sleeves to cover dead eyes and empty souls. Let’s get Rachel Zoe on that.