In 1987 a sensational thing happened in my humble hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario. Local twin babies Lisa and Michelle Blair were somehow selected to play the baby in the film Three Men and a Baby starring Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson (and directed by Leonard Nimoy). The movie was a smash hit as the top grossing movie of the year narrowly beating out Fatal Attraction.
But why did they need twins to play one role? It’s the same reason Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were drafted to play the singular role of Michelle Tanner on Full House. California law required that child actors could only be “under the lights” of a film set for 20 minutes a day. The restriction exists because a child cannot reasonably express whether they want to appear in films or not. The law also protects children from potential Hollywood hazards like competitive pressure and stress. Having identical twins on set was a practical way to get 40 minutes of screen time a day for one role.
More than 20 years after Three Men and a Baby hit the screen, a new crop of child stars has exploded onto screens everywhere. I, and most people my age, are experiencing the babification of our Facebook news feeds. Slowly but surely status updates about getting drunk and barfing all over the place have evolved into updates about your kids barfing all over the place.
Most people with kids rarely even appear in photos on their pages anymore. Now it’s all pics of little Jessica curled up with the dog or videos of Jamie eating a lemon and freaking out.
From my vantage point this is a welcome improvement. Your baby photos and stories are unfiltered. Your kids are generally ego-free and their accomplishments are worth celebrating. First steps and first words are much more exciting than self-curated stories that make others feel not thin enough, not successful enough, not hiking in Bali enough. Like never before we get a window into the daily, shitty, snotty, adorable grind of raising a new person.
For a time, Facebook allowed parents to create separate pages for their progeny, but recently ended the practice by disabling the accounts of people posting on their baby’s behalf. For the time being parents must share their pages with their kids.
Not to spoil the fun, but maybe Hollywood prudence might be in order of social-media happy parents. Like the Blair twins, or Mary Kate and Ashley, your child has no reasonable way to express whether they want all of their shitty, snotty and adorable moments captured and handed to Zuckerberg et al. for eternity. And if Facebook’s timeline is any indication, eternity is where we are headed with this stuff.
I know, it’s not a big deal today but it is possible that your little child stars might not want that information public in the future. Maybe they grow up transgendered and don’t want public reminders of their previous gender. Maybe one day malevolent peers gain access to the pics and use it against them. Maybe somehow any one of the predators lurking online gains access to this information and manipulates or distributes it.
It’s a grim thought. But something to keep in mind when you upload photos of your young-ones when they are at their most vulnerable. We all know how child stars turn out.