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Growing Up Too Fast

In 2008, a young friend from the Czech Republic spent six months in the United States, in part to help me research a book on Roman Polanski and the mores of Hollywood in general.  At first she was highly impressed by what she found there; she thought she had encountered a higher civilization.  No one in the film industry appeared to be poor or hungry; no one walked when he could drive; everyone lived in a home, it seemed to her, of Babylonian luxury.  No actor’s career, however evanescent, failed to elicit enough fame and adulation to last him a lifetime.

“Even our President doesn’t live as well as Tom Cruise,” she said.

Six months later, her views had altered considerably.  She had noticed a strange, indefinable malaise among many of the actors and actresses we met.  Although fortunate by the standards of the Czech working man, they lacked what she called a “moral center.”  They were materially affluent, and yet apparently unsatisfied and insecure, as if they somehow felt guilty about their unheard-of rewards.  It did not take her long to make a connection between this state of affairs and the seemingly unlimited career opportunities and scope for self-expression that, initially, she had thought so impressive.  “People here grow up too fast,” she observed after studying the definitive Hollywood trajectory of Samantha Gailey, the 13-year-old aspiring actress...

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