The Family Apatow
There’s a marked difference, to me, between a child star and a child actor. Miley Cyrus was a child star, Dakota Fanning was a child actor who became famous. I would count Maude and Iris Apatow in the child actor column because they only appear in their dad Judd’s movies (and their mom Leslie Mann is always their mom). I loved Knocked Up, I loved Funny People (yes, I thought it was terribly underrated and underappreciated), and I will see This is 40. Maude only has 3 IMDb credits to her name, which is understandable. She’s 14 -- how many movies should a 14-year-old have under their belt?
But Maude is famous somewhere else: Twitter. And this is where things get tricky, as Judd has acknowledged. She wrote a piece for Hello Giggles and it’s thoughtful, sweet, painfully self-conscious but at the same time revealing. Maude has close to 63K followers (I am one of them). That’s hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities for her to be trolled, yelled at, cyber-hounded and scolded. People are mean; people on Twitter are meaner. Add a little bit of celebrity into the mix and some take that as an opportunity to be downright vicious. But the adoration tweets can be creepy and unsettling too. It’s a cycle Maude knows well when she says that Twitter is an instant place to feel good or bad depending on what comments are in her feed.
Many celebrity parents say it’s natural for their kids to move into the business because they grow up around it. Look at Willow Smith, and how as a family the Smiths are building a brand, with the music, movies and clothing. They get sh-t on a lot for it, and I’ve seen a few interviews where Jada says that they are different from other showbiz parents in one huge way: they don’t need the money. The kids can quit at anytime, they aren’t supporting a family, and no one relies on them to work. It’s all for fun. And maybe fame = fun when it’s all you’ve known.
The Apatow family doesn’t seem to court too much attention outside of promoting their films (I’ve never seen photos of them outside a work setting). Judd gave an interview where he said Twitter is a way for her to find her voice; clearly, she is a talented writer and maybe Twitter will accelerate her self-discovery as an artist. But is finding your voice on Twitter different than whipping your hair back and forth in a video? Or is it actually worse, because Willow has the protection of the fourth wall and doesn’t have that immediate, anonymous flood of feedback. Being online just seems to invite vitriol for these girls: when Willow put a photo up of herself on Instagram with a fake piercing, the comments were so mean she took it down and apologized. I’ve seen Maude apologize for tweets as well – they are browbeaten and made to feel bad about things that are completely inconsequential. Imagine the anxiety that must create, and curiously how addictive that anxiety can be to a teenager. Sometimes they…almost live off the drama.
Fighting technology is futile. Part of the beauty of “what I ate for breakfast” Twitter is that the noise floats away. Not Maude’s. She gets tweeted by Rashida Jones, HuffPo and Mindy Kaling and puts up photos with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. She may not court the attention of other high-profile people, but she can’t help: she lives it.
Maude says in her Hello Giggles piece that part of the reason she uses Twitter is to feel close to celebs she doesn’t know, so she must know that that’s part of the reason some people follow her. And in that way teenagers and celebrities are alike – totally self-absorbed but lacking self-awareness. She IS famous. She’s in an artistic circle that people obsess over. I can’t decide if her posting a photo of Paul Rudd is like Gwyneth’s “Uncle Steven” name dropping, just a result of the breeding. Does 63 thousand followers make it unreasonable for her to act like the unpopular kid at school? Yes, but she’s 14. No 14-year-old should act reasonably, famous or not.
Attached - Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann with daughters Maude and Iris at the premiere of Paranorman earlier this month.