Why I screamed as I watched Bindi Irwin on Dancing With the Stars

There is a curious, almost parental response to seeing former child superstars become adults especially when so little manage to do so unscathed

When it comes to sudden bursts of sobbing, I tend to cry mostly where Im meant to: a sad commercial about a lonely pensioner; anything to do with newborn animals in crisis; the entire back catalogue of Joni Mitchell.

So it was a surprise when I felt tears stinging my eyes as I watched Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough take on the rumba complete with that lift from Dirty Dancing on the US . What was I, a grown female without the slightest interest in the Irwin dynasty or celebrity dance competitions( Im more of a So You Believe You Can Dance type ), with a well-developed distaste for anything Society of the Spectacle-esque, doing frantically scouring the net every week for the news of Bindis latest Dancing triumph?

It is, in fact, the same answer Ive had to Irwins routines throughout this season, and will likely experience again today and tomorrow as she faces the Dancing finale, the favourite out of four remaining celebs: a curious mixture of pride, affection and, in some way, relief. Relief because Irwin seems on target to escape the jaw of former child stardom more or less unscathed, which is not a privilege afforded to many whove grown up in the spotlight.

There is a curious, virtually parental response to seeing former child starrings become adults. I recollect go to Cameron Crowes middling We Bought A Zoo and feeling quite overcome with feeling at the sight of Patrick Fugit formerly the bright-eyed teen reporter William Miller in Almost Famous all grown up. It was all I could do to stop myself from operating to the screen, placing my hand on the projection of his face, and cooing, Last time I saw you, you were only this big!

In a poignant Washington Post profile, immediately after the release of Little Children, his big comeback role, the actor Jackie Earle Haley discussed the perils of growing up in the spotlight. When youre a child performer and youre a celebrity, he said, your identity gets attached to that.

My self-esteem got attached to this thing that wasnt real, and when that stopped, youre stuck with an identity that doesnt exist. Thats a deep hole to climb out of.

To climb out of that hole in the shadow of the enduring misfortune of your famous parents demise would be a whole different reckoning. Ensure Bindi pay tribute to Steve in her Dancing contemporary routine initially discussing his legacy in the confident and affectionate style weve come to expect from her, before crumbling into shaking sobs at the dances conclusion was sobering.

The Natalie Portmans and Joseph Gordon Levitts of the former-child-star pantheon are few and far between. And, in an increasingly mean-spirited cycle, whod attempt to grow up after a childhood career without entering witness protection? Time and 24/7 content has not been kind to Haley Joel Osment, Jake Lloyd, Amanda Bynes, Britney Spears and countless other .

Writing in Salon after Byness well publicised meltdown last year, Prachi Gupta reflected on the uphill battle former child superstars face as they age. Theres a reason that successful child stars are seen as the exception , not the norm. Who was reasonable to expect Britney Spears to be a functional adult when at 16 she was the worlds No 1 sex symbol?

Until recently, you might have counted Irwin among those names( after all, who can forget her 2006 rap single, Trouble In The Jungle ?). Its possible nay, likely that her appearance on Dancing With the Stars is part of a carefully calibrated PR offensive that will see her to move away from awkward teenagerdom and back into the limelight as a capable and popular young adult.

But for all of Irwins assuredness on the dance floor and in front of the camera, its in the behind-the-scenes footage that I find my she made it! propensities going into overdrive, because its there that shes precisely not the guaranteed, PR-friendly teen that weve come to know. Watching her goof around with Hough and attempt the famous lift in what appears to be a millpond out the back of the studio, grunting oh, jeez! and hollering like a big dag, its clear that shes going to be -AOK.

And one things definitely ensure: Ill cry when she dances in the finale.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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