Child Stars are notorious for their downward spirals once their pre-teen cuteness wears off and they’re thrown not only into puberty but also out of the spotlight before the next new thing is quickly shuffled in front of the camera only for the cycle to continue.
Well-known examples of this are Lindsay Lohan who publicly battled with addiction for years. Nickelodeon alumni Amanda Bynes was one that seemingly was doing well until her 2012 DUI and the mental health issues she faced onwards. Leading up to her eating disorder, Mary Kate Olsen and her sister Ashley were in the limelight before the age of 1 and grew an empire shortly afterwards releasing dozens of straight to DVD movies, dolls, fragrances, a clothing line, television shows, books, etc. Other stars who followed this tradition include Aaron Carter, Macaulay Culkin, Jodie Sweetin, and more recently Bella Thorne and Lia Marie Johnson.
In 2014 Bojack Horseman introduced us to Sarah Lynn. A 30-year-old former child star turned pop star turned addict in the public eye.
Sarah Lynn‘s career began on sitcom Horsin’ Around as Sabrina at the age of three. When the show ended in 1996, Sarah Lynn blew up, sold-out stadiums, and became one of the world’s biggest pop stars in the 2000s as she shed her “sweet little Sabrina” person and transformed into a sex icon.
Prior to this, Sarah Lynn’s innocence was evident, she wanted to be an architect and spend time with co-stars she looked up to primarily Bojack Horseman. However, as fame took over her life she is dragged further and further away from the real Sarah Lynn into something the rest of the world could enjoy.
In the prime of her career in the 2000s, no one really wanted to be with her for her. Everyone sought something from Sarah Lynn and Bojack was no exception despite what she might have thought.
In season 2, episode 2 character Kelsey says “After you get famous, you stop growing, you don’t have to.” although this quote is not directed or in reference to Sarah Lynn it gives us an insight into the mind frame of the character and other celebrities. Sarah Lynn’s fame came at such a young age, she never developed past the point of being a child and even as a 30-something-year-old, she is still a child.
When Sarah Lynn is 9 months sober, Bojack reaches out to her to party and of course, Sarah Lynn accepts the offer resulting in the two going on a month-long bender. At the end of it, the two are in a hotel room watching the Oscars and to Sarah Lynn’s disbelief, she wins. She then breaks down and exclaims “I don’t like anything about me.”.
When she was younger, Bojack gave Sarah Lynn a piece of advice which she seemed to hang onto throughout her life.
“The most important thing is, you got to give the people what they want, even if it kills you, even if it empties you out until there’s nothing left to empty. No matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, you don’t stop dancing, and you don’t stop smiling, and you give those people what they want.”
In The View from Halfway down Sarah Lynn states “I gave everything. I gave my whole life” and she quite literally did. In a performance of Don’t Stop Dancing, she sings “A song you taught me when I was small. Don’t stop dancing. Don’t stop dancing.” She sacrificed her entire life quite literally to entertain and make everyone else whether it be her fans, her agent, or her mother happy.
Was Sarah Lynn’s fate written early on? In her introductory episode (Prickly-Muffin) she tells Bojack “I’m at a place right now where I never need to grow as a person or rise to an occasion because I can constantly just surround myself with sycophants and enablers until I die tragically young.” and she wasn’t wrong.
The Sarah Lynn story, although fictional, carries so much weight when we reflect it against child stars who fell from the limelight. People are churned in and out of Hollywood and sacrifices are made in the name of entertainment but at what cost? The pressure consumes individuals and as a result, they fill the internal void with unhealthy and self-destructive coping mechanisms.
In some cases, the cost is life itself.