I can't imagine Stranger Things without Millie Bobby Brown. Her wide-eyed innocence, the way she was able to skillfully communicate without speech, and, of course, how fearlessly she rocked a shaved head. She's a talented actress and her debut on the Netflix series had many sitting up and taking notice.
But in all of the hype and promotion and obsession with the 80s themed show, we seem to have forgotten one very important thing: she's 13 years old. She was 11 when they filmed Stranger Things. She's a child.
Unfortunately, a video that she posted to her Instagram account this morning underscores this fact in a heartbreaking way.
Millie Bobby Brown Insta
Millie Bobby Brown Insta
This video comes in the midst of shooting season two of Stranger Things, but as Lainey Gossip points out, filming the series is hardly her only responsibility at the moment.
Lainey explains, "There are rules about how many hours off [child actors] must have before they can come back to set, how much r & r is meant to be included in their days, and a host of other restrictions. These days these rules are followed very closely (though it wasn’t always that way) and on a show like Stranger Things where kids are everywhere, coordinating their days would be of the highest priority. What isn’t regulated, though, is what you do on your time off. Like appearing at comic book conventions on Saturdays after shooting Monday to Friday."
Lainey goes on to explain that while none of the other Stranger Things cast members are scheduled to appear, Millie Bobby Brown is slated to for five hours of autograph signings (at $50 bucks a pop), fan photos ($60 bucks each) and a 45-minute question and answer panel with only a fifteen minute break the entire six and a half hour day. On her "day off".
Again - she's thirteen.
As of press time, her Instagram video has been watched over a million times.
So right now, Millie Bobby Brown's reality is feeling like she has to apologize for disappointing thousands of people and have that apology viewed by over a million. This is the kind of pressure that breaks full grown adults, and we're putting it squarely on the narrow shoulders of a child.
The video raises another issue that's always rubbed me the wrong way - the ethics of parent(s) also functioning as managers.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Brown reveals just how much pressure she was under to succeed, saying that her family uprooted their entire lives to move to the US to pursue an acting career, a move involving "tears, tears, tears". And when it didn't go as planned, Brown says "I was devastated. I wasn’t getting work. I thought I was done."
I was devastated.
I wasn't getting work.
I thought I was done.
This makes my heart ache both as a mother and as a human being. We've all heard how incredibly difficult show biz can be even as an adult trying to break into the industry — what does it feel like when you're just a child? How large does that pressure to succeed loom when you are responsible for your entire family (two adults, and older sister and a younger sister) moving to an entirely different continent? How crushing is it when the entire family's entire financial future depends on you?
Would you be able to take it?
And when her parents are so heavily invested in her financial success, when her financial success dictates whether or not they're financially solvent as a family, how do the lines blur between caring for the wellbeing of your child and earning an extra few thousand dollars from autograph signings?
And it makes me wonder, who suggested canceling this appearance? Was it Brown's parents, concerned for her well-being? Or did she have to convince them that a day off was worth more than a cheque? Did she have to prove that she was tired —beyond tired— and just needed a break; a day where she could sleep and relax and be a child, instead of an employee?
I worry for her. I worry for her because as a devoted gossip enthusiast I know the track record of child stars— we know the track record. McCauley Culkin. Lindsay Lohan. Justin Beiber. Amanda Bynes. Britney Spears.
Seeing what these others have gone through, seeing the record of child stars having successful, healthy lives vs. lives filled with addictions, abuse, exploitation and mental illness, would you ever steer your child towards this world? I hope I'm wrong, and I hope that it was Brown's parents who pushed for the break. I hope her mom is right beside her doing what I would be - hugging her and feeding her soup as she rests, and telling her that she'd love her just the same if she never makes a cent from show biz again.
But deep in my bones, I worry that's not at all what's happening.