06 Oct, 2023 Reviewing the first six episodes of ex-Disney star’s ‘Dear Hollywood’ podcast
By Summer Lane
Photo: Deposit, Editorial Use Only
Times have changed – and that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. For example, it’s probably safe to say that Hollywood has never been so exposed. The dark side of celebrity culture has never been more transparent, and Americans are asking more questions about the behind-the-scenes motivations and agendas of moviemaking and entertainment like never before.
On the flip side, the quality of Hollywood films has never been so low. When was the last time Disney made a movie that was on par with the quality of hits like “Cars” or “Finding Nemo”?
These days, there’s an agenda in nearly every movie, television show, and album. Celebrities openly toe the party line on issues like abortion, transgenderism, “racial injustice” and political candidates. Hollywood is no longer about entertaining so much as it is about setting a narrative for culture to follow.
But what about kids in show business? We’ve all seen the tragic life stories of stars like Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. What goes so terribly wrong that causes ex-child stars to inevitably go off the rails, shave their heads, get addicted to drugs, and jump from one bad relationship to the next? Sure, this isn’t EVERY child star’s story, but it’s a LOT of them.
From Macaulay Culkin (who has discussed some seriously disturbing stories about being a child star) to Bobby Driscoll, it seems as if there are precious few child stars who emerge from Hollywood unscathed. Just look at the lives of Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, or Amanda Bynes.
What do these kids have in common? Fame, fortune, and success, sure. Let’s face it, though: there are plenty of kids who have money, access, and privilege who don’t go off the rails. So, the question remains: what is it about Hollywood culture that almost always drives these kids toward the cliff of destruction?
Ex-Disney and child star Alyson Stoner has a lot of insight into this, and she has cataloged her thoughts on her ongoing podcast series, “Dear Hollywood,” which is available online for free on platforms like YouTube and Spotify.
If you’re a Millennial or slightly older, you may recall perky little Stoner whirling around as a professional dancer on “Camp Rock” alongside the Jonas Brothers or being oh-so-cute on “Cheaper by the Dozen” (the Steve Martin version). She was a clean-cut, drama-free Disney actress, and I always wondered what had happened to her.
Now, I don’t wonder. She’s telling everybody exactly what happened in a series of in-depth episodes that take a deep dive into the psychology and effects of child stardom and working in the “biz.”
I listened to the first six episodes of Stoner’s podcast to see what all the hype was about, and what I found was, overall, an insightful and thoughtful conversation about what it was like for her to grow up in the spotlight as a young child.
Waiting for someone to do formal research on the impact of child stardom so that people might *finally* believe the facts and statistics we’ve been shouting for generations. Seriously searching for someone to do this! I assure you it’d have explosive impact on media and society.
— Alyson Stoner (@AlysonStoner) November 6, 2022
In her series, she discusses body image, eating disorders, toxic positivity, plastic surgery, “yes men” in Hollywood, and the chilling reality that kids on set are essentially conditioned to believe that anyone, at any time, should have complete access to them in the name of their career.
She talks about how she grew up in the industry, what it was like working as a child, how she ended up doing a stint in rehab, and perhaps, most tragically, how she lost her faith. It’s an eye-opening look, really, at the reasons why child stars can become a tragic combination of insecure and self-loathing while being simultaneously narcissistic and immature – all thanks to a swirling cacophony of enabling stage parents, publicists, and producers.
On the whole, I’d say Stoner is remarkably analytical and self-aware. She understands why she did what she did as a child star and she also recognizes that she’s one of the lucky few to break free of the toxic spiral of what she calls the “toddler-to-trainwreck pipeline in the entertainment industry.”
However, there are some darker issues in Stoner’s analyses. First, she talks in episode five about how she once fervently turned to church and God as a source of hope but now has abandoned that because, according to her, churches and pastors are steeped in racism, prejudice, and many other progressive terms that popularly abound in social justice rhetoric.
Here, Stoner does not come across as hateful, but rather, confused and disappointed. The problem, of course, is that she projects her personal opinion about the church, which is likely rooted in having a bad experience, as most of us have had, rather than presenting an argument that is based on an objective, theological, and apologetical analysis of the actual Gospel and Scripture itself. I caution listeners to be mindful of this.
I, like Stoner, went through a long phase where I associated Christians with Jesus – and of course, I was horribly disappointed. Christians and the church always let me down. The Gospel, however, and Jesus, will never let me down. Stoner has not yet come to this conclusion in her analysis of the Christian church, and unless she truly studies Scripture, she never will. (I pray that she does, of course!)
Stoner also drops a few “F” bombs throughout the series. Additionally, Stoner refers to herself as “they,” in the vein of our rapidly fluctuating and gender-fluid culture. Readers at the Counter Culture Mom Show are well aware that gender fluidity and the gender-bending movement of popular culture today are antithetical to God’s Word and design for gender. (Gen. 1:27, Deut. 22:5, Matt. 19:4, etc.). My personal assessment of Stoner’s position on gender reflects an individual who is thoughtful and kind, but who, without the moral compass of God’s Word in her life, is still missing the mark on common sense issues.
These elements of her podcast muddy the waters of what is, otherwise, I think, a very honest and raw reflection on the dark and perverse side of the entertainment industry. A lot of her story hit home with me as she discusses her body dysmorphia and eating disorder – and I’m sure many young women, even outside of the entertainment industry – can relate to her story.
Alyson Stoner is clearly trying to do the right thing and shine a light on the shadowy side of Hollywood, but her assessments often come up short because she fails to recognize one thing: God’s Word is the standard of truth and morality in all of our lives. Without this solid truth to guide us, we will always be confused and wandering.
One of the biggest arguments she presents against Christianity is that when she was suffering from an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, she was using Scripture verses as motivational phrases. She talked about writing them down, repeating them, and sticking them to her wall. While this in itself is not bad, it reminds me of something I did growing up, long before I understood anything about Scripture.
I would write down encouraging and well-known “motivational” Scripture verses on post-it notes around my room, along with phrases like, “YOU ARE AMAZING” and “GOD WILL WORK A VICTORY IN YOUR LIFE.” I took this theological practice out of the teaching of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, along with a whole host of other prosperity gospel preachers.
I believed that if I repeated the phrases often enough and just “had enough faith,” eventually, God would move in my life and fix my problems – and I had plenty. Like Alyson, I had major self-image problems. I struggled with an eating problem (among other things) for years, counting calories obsessively and at one point, dropping down to a gaunt 95 pounds. My eating and body issues were driven by OTHER factors in my life – this was just a symptom.
And guess what? The prosperity gospel didn’t help me or save me. It disappointed me. I felt that, when I didn’t get healed and my issues only deepened, God had betrayed me. I felt stiffed. I was filled with rage, in fact. I suspect that this is how Stoner feels, as well, and it tells me that she probably hasn’t sat down and studied Scripture in-depth. If she did, it might just change her life like it changed mine – but it took me until I was 27 years old to figure that out.
I feel tremendous sympathy for Stoner’s story and I pray that she comes to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior, because that would really be the ultimate healing story – and what a testimony it would be, too!
If nothing else “Dear Hollywood” is an advertisement for why parents should never consider taking their kids to L.A. to “make them a star.”
Overall, the podcast is worth a listen if you want some insight into what it’s like to grow up as a child star, but keep in mind that this podcast is not, in any way, appropriate for young children to watch.
You can watch the first episode here if you want to assess Stoner’s story for yourself (and please note that this review is not a review of any other of Stoner’s political stances or comments – this is meant to be a singular review of ONLY her “Dear Hollywood” podcast):
The opinions in this article are specific to its author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Counter Culture Mom team. This specific article was written by Summer Lane, and may not be reproduced, except to quote for reviews or interviews, without the express permission of the author.
Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 30 books, including the hit Collapse Series and Resurrection Series. She is an experienced journalist and columnist who reports on news within the U.S. and abroad. She is the Associate Editor for Right Side Broadcasting Network. Additionally, she analyzes politics and policies on The Write Revolution.
Summer is also a mom and wife who enjoys rural country living, herding cats, and gardening. She is passionate about writing about women’s issues, parenting, and politics from a theologically-grounded perspective that points readers to the good news of the gospel.
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