On Monday, the world bid farewell to Shirley Temple Black. She was perhaps the most famous child star of all time. Also this week, Shia LaBeouf set up an art installation in Los Angeles to explore his meta-modernist concepts on social media. Oh, and he was wants to apologize too. What happened to the bright-eyed star from the Transformers franchise with the frantic delivery and spastic charm? Perhaps analyzing the recently deceased is the perfect way to consider the recently apologetic.
It’s hard for an average viewer to even attempt to comprehend the rigors of stardom during and sometimes prior to adolescence. And when adulthood arrives for these young stars, it can come with a furious bang. Miley Cyrus? Justin Bieber? Are they next in that long line of former Disney stars who have spent time in one kind of rehab facility or another? The fact that so many wind up turning to a 12-step program is rather telling of the kind of pressure these fresh-faced stars are pit against.
When Shirley Temple was 22, she retired from acting and devoted herself to a life of overseas service for the U.S. government. She served as the U. S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. There aren’t exactly average positions for a former child star. Meanwhile, the recently “retired” LaBeouf is sitting at a table wearing and tuxedo and a bag on his head while crying with total strangers.
Now, blatantly dismissing LaBeouf’s artistic ambitions is a mistake, but like Miley Cyrus and countless others, this former child star is in the midst of a fervent rebellion. Perhaps even he doesn’t know what or who he is rebelling against, but it’s obvious he aims to cut all ties with his former polished Hollywood existence and devote himself to bizarre displays of plagiarism. Yet, regardless of how many times Shia apologies to Daniel Clowes or anyone else, these openly desperate acts ring more of a performer without a performance, and a vessel without a cargo.
When Shirley Temple left Tinseltown, she selflessly devoted herself to improving the lives of people in the far corners of the world. We could all take a lesson from Shirley, even the few of us who are not former child stars. Shia, we get it, you’re sorry. And you should be. Because you have much more to offer than tears behind a paper bag.