A few months ago, I saw this image floating around and it really piqued my curiosity about the differences in America’s adoration in the past for Shirley Temple and their current obsession with Honey Boo Boo. I will admit, I’ve seen a few episodes of the show featuring the toddler in a tiara and there are fascinating aspects of her life. Some consider Here Comes Honey Boo Boo to be entertaining while others think it’s trash. Nevertheless, the fact remains: Shirley and Alana (Honey Boo Boo) are products of an illusion.
Shirley Temple entered Hollywood on a wing and a prayer for the creators of the Motion Picture Production Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency. They were trying to clean up Hollywood from promiscuity and remind American citizens about wholesomeness and character. If you’re like me and you feel nostalgic for your childhood when you watch this video of Shirley Temple, then, I hate to tell you… but you’re part of the brainwashing!
She was a fascinating child with a brilliant mind. I read her autobiography and Mrs. Temple-Black spoke of the different ways in which she remembered how to deliver her lines and how she recalled the patterns of heat on her face in order to make every performance spot-on. I could go on and on about the intricacies of her life as a child star, but I believe that would undermine the point I’m trying to make.
Sure, Shirley Temple was highly educated and wholesome, but she was still a kid! As audiences, we are only made aware of the final products of film — we will never know if she became tired, cried because she wanted a nap, used her stomach as a mouth, or said ridiculous or catchy phrases because her persona was constructed by the Hollywood system. She had a purpose and her purpose was fulfilled in the eyes of those constructing the illusion.
While Alana’s fame is incomparable to Shirley Temple, we are delivered much of the same ideology. Her family’s image is edited together in a less ethical or moral fashion, but we don’t see everything that was left on the cutting room floor. I think the fascination with Honey Boo Boo is similar to past audience’s fascination with Shirley Temple: childlike wonder.
In the next Double Take, I’m going to look at a handful of children’s lives in Hollywood to highlight some of their experiences and purposes to the Classical Hollywood system. In the meantime, who’s your favourite child star?