We're just one week into summer 2011 and already, Hollywood's pint-sized studs are behaving like tools! Just this week, the twitchy pocket-sized "Romeo", Shia LeBeouf, took a break from promoting his "Transformers 3" flick to talk about an on-set tryst with his former co-star, Megan Fox while Ms. Fox was dating former teen heart-throb Brian Austin Green. And Justin Bieber, after a busy spring of publicly groping Disney princess, Selena Gomez, decided that it was time for the whole world to know that in addition to a hot babe, he also has a potty mouth, which he unleashed on a member of the BET network's security team, calling the man a "d*bag" - Baby, baby!!??
The man-child is a specialty of Hollywood, where men with little-boy faces play out a kind of Dorian Gray existence, straddling the worlds of innocent child and knowing adult. Every generation has known man-boys like LeBeouf and the Bieb. For my grandmother's generation, they had Mickey Rooney, a man whose baby face and diminutive frame made him ageless, well, at least for a while. I grew up in the Tiger Beat generation, and so it was Ralph Macchio, Gary Coleman, and Emmanuel Lewis who laid claim to the man-child mantle. It's a bit incongruous, these seeming little boys rocketing into stardom while they're still waiting for puberty. The biggest shock of my life so far is not that Doogie Howser is gay, but that he's got gray hair and well-defined pecks!
The man-child moniker can be a double-edged sword, especially when it's time to grow up. There was a recent "Vanity Fair" interview with Jaleel White - the annoying "Steve Urkel" of ABC's "Family Matters" sitcom - where the actor spoke of the travails of maintaining his character's sexual innocence while going through the struggles of puberty:
"I knew physically I had made certain sacrifices to keep that property alive that just couldn't be made anymore. I wasn't changing my hair; I was staying out of the gym. To be honest, I was retarding my own growth as a man in order to maintain the authenticity to what I thought that character should be."
The man-child mystic is quite a curiosity, and for some people, this disjointed combination of little boy looks and manly desires is irresistible. My older sister, for instance, was in desperate love with Michael Jackson starting from his Jackson 5 days all the way up to "Thriller". While I loved his music, he was never an object of physical desire or adoration for me. Same for Ralph Macchio, Emmanuel Lewis, Gary Coleman, Urkel, and Doogie Howser.
For Shia LeBeouf and Justin Bieber, their man-child duality may get them the girl(s) in the short-run, as their little-boy looks, and massive paychecks will allow the ladies to take their seeming innocence at face value. And maybe they'll have a longer run at this. Heck, it's no mere coincidence that Bieber's mentor is the once baby-faced Lothario, Usher, who's had a checkered past with the ladies. At some point, though, having the face of an angel won't erase the wrong that they do. And while the portrait of the character Dorian Gray which wore the stain of his sins across its canvas only exists in fiction, in this digital age of Twitter and Facebook, the seed-sewing activities of these millionaire tykes won't go unnoticed. I'm just saying:)