An inexplicably popular daily newspaper published a piece about Millie Bobby Brown’s meteoric rise to the coveted plinth of Young Hollywood this morning. Accompanying photos of her body in size adjusted designer dresses and soft feet sliding about in high heels is much breathy prose about how ‘her parents sacrificed everything’ to help their daughter follow her dream, including moving from Bournemouth to Hollywood and not having enough money to eat.
In short, all the trappings of a traditional rags to riches story you can read with your lunchtime sarnie and imagine for yourself/your child before reality sets in and you realise you’re going to spend the afternoon trying to remove crumbs from your keyboard again.
What about the part where we acknowledge that in order for the Brown family to enjoy the trappings of fame, Millie is obliged to hand her physical and psychological development over to the world to discuss casually, to speculate about her developing sexuality and critique her personal choices? The ‘death by a thousand cuts’ style invasions of privacy that will see her followed and taunted by grown men who, very soon, will start to shout provocative comments at her to provoke a reaction that will make a great front page?
Well, no one wants to read about that over their Pret wrap and pumpkin spiced latte, do they?
In the era of #FakeNews, it’s increasingly important to be cautious with our selection of sources but we must also remember traditional media organisations are as reliant upon the existing structure as the people who hide their darkest secrets in its workings and we can’t rely on them to tell us everything we need to know.
The fact that we’re apparently inclined towards reinforcing our existing beliefs rather than seeking to deconstruct them doesn’t help. As we’re learning through the Catholic church, the BBC, the Houses of Parliament and now Hollywood via allegations about elite members, abuse of power is not something we should look out for, it’s something we should expect. It’s hiding in plain sight.
An Open Secret was released in June 2015 but failed to receive any approaches for distribution from Hollywood. The makers of this harrowing documentary, which examines the lives of Hollywood abuse victims from various different perspectives, released it on Vimeo for a limited period in an attempt to attract attention and I read about it on Saturday in Roisin O’Connor’s Independent article.
Aside from the raw discomfort one experiences when watching a kid insist he’s having the time of his life on camera, only to see a light go out when he thinks he’s not being filmed, don’t expect revelation. Allegations about X-Men director Bryan Singer hosting pool parties at which teenage boys were drugged, raped and assaulted have been knocking around since 2014 and Corey Feldman’s refusal to stop talking about the abuse he claims he and Corey Haim suffered in the 80s has forced the subject into the public eye.
What the makers of An Open Secret want you to look at, face on, is not the silver screen with its fancy sound effects and digital imagery. You can do that everywhere else. They want you to stare into the workings of the machine behind the story; the relentless, hungry machine that draws kids in with promises of stardom, guts them and returns them to their unknowing families to put them back together.
You shouldn’t underestimate the Hollywood machine. It’s been operating for a long time – modified to accommodate the modern world it’s true – but it remains a Faustian pact in industry form and it’s no surprise that An Open Secret has remained ‘off radar’ for so long. The machine has learned how to effectively deflect, ignore and undermine claims like these and by simply ignoring the voices of the victims, it retains the power to make them disappear.
Don’t let that happen. ‘An Open Secret’ is still on Vimeo. Don’t look away. We owe it to those who can’t.