Disney star Bella Thorne on the cruelty of Disney fandom and the weight of scrutiny
I am unfamiliar with the work of Bella Thorne.
That's a good and normal thing for a 44-year-old man to say. Before I walked into the room to discuss "Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Day" with her, I did enough research to know she's a big Disney star, she sings, and she's got a book coming out. While I do have young kids who are in the Disney demographic, we've raised them to not watch television. If they want to see a show, we watch it on DVD or Netflix, without commercials, and so they aren't hardwired to love everything on the Disney Channel the way it seems like many kids are.
Being aware of her role with the company, I was surprised by Thorne's role in "Alexander." She doesn't particularly play likable here, with a scene near the end of the film that makes it fairly explicit that she's playing a particular kind of shallow, superficial teenage girl, and pretty much deflated any sympathy I might have had for the character.
What also surprised me was Thorne's reaction when I broached the subject with her.
This is a young performer who obviously has a complicated relationship with the company that has made her so well-known, and with the audience that consumes the sort of material that she's best known for so far. "When you're with Disney, you're judged very harshly," she said. "More with fans and the media and what they think of you and how they think you should look and be and… you know. 'You're ugly,' 'you're fat,' 'you're too skinny,' 'you have no boobs.' I get all those comments, all day long, and you know what? If I was just on film, I wouldn't get them."
That's a surprisingly frank reaction, and more than anything, I think Thorne represents the sort of young performer who has benefitted from having this giant corporate platform pushing her into the public eye, but who is also aware of what it will cost her to overstay her welcome. She appears to have her head on straight about all of this, and I hope as she transitions into adult roles, she's able to take what sounds like a genuinely taxing experience and turn it into a foundation for a career that makes her happy.
"Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Day" opens in theaters everywhere this Friday.