I’ve written a ton about child stars, and the main story with them is always: How the hell do I grow up? Because they age in the spotlight, they see the public as a sort of surrogate parental figure, and it becomes very important to them that we acknowledge their maturity. Of course, this ends up playing out in predictable, almost ritualistic ways — the half-to-full-nude photo spread (almost invariably on the cover of Rolling Stone) that announces the existence of their secondary sex characteristics; the “scandalous” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards; maybe a sexy or drugged-up character in some skeevy and/or edgy and/or “artistic” movie; possibly a sexy song with a sexy video. It’s hilarious how this points so obviously to what kids see as grown up: sex and substances. Strangely, we never get a Money magazine spread showing them paying bills or an O magazine piece in which they have a difficult-but-honest conversation with their aging parents. Those aren’t quite as fun, in the pantheon of ways we grow up.
We’ve seen some other, better ways of growing up, particularly of late. We still get all the standards, of course — hi, Miley! But because we are now so overrun with child stars in general, thanks to the Disney and Nickelodeon machines, we find ourselves with a constant stream of “transitioning” kid actor/singer/designer/moguls. Taylor Swift has treated us to the most seamless of transitions, probably because she was never under the influence of the innocence-demanding Disney Overlord; she was always just a girl songwriter, so it wasn’t as hard to become a woman songwriter. Selena Gomez is still sorta struggling at this, though she hasn’t been forced into a major scandal yet; Britney Spears, at 32 and a mom, somehow still seems to be struggling with this, the poor thing.
Joe Jonas employed a surprisingly rare tactic in a New York magazine tell-all this week: honesty. (It’s certainly been done before, though not often — there was a famously dirty recollection of ’50s Mouseketeerdom in Rolling Stone in the ’70s.) Sure, if everyone did this, it wouldn’t seem that interesting. But it’s strange that so few do. In a first-person, as-told-to story, he lays out what feels like the whole truth. It’s just salacious enough that he seems to be coming clean, but not so salacious that it seems unseemly. The biggest revelation is that he tried pot for the first time, in his teens, with fellow Disney stars Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. Ah, pot, so potent for these purposes: The drug that makes people seem cool without making them seem too awful! (Surely this would be a different story if he revealed he’d done crack with them before engaging in a threesome or something.) He tells backstories that make the front-stories of years past finally gel: He dated Lovato for just a month. The purity ring thing took on a life of its own. Mostly, the boys just wanted to sing, and Disney gave them a bigger chance than they ever dreamed of, with compromises they couldn’t have imagined (or cared about) at the time they signed on.
Now at least one Jonas can move on with whatever his artistic life entails, without having to layer lie upon previous lie until he doesn’t know who or what he is. Hopefully, that will help him avoid a Britney-level breakdown. At the very least, it’s a good start.