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Corey Haim

Michael Bezjian/Getty Images

When a Corey Haim dies, when an Andrew Koenig dies, when a Mackenize Phillips is arrested, the question is asked: Why are child stars cursed?

Counterpunch

Our own Answer B!tch is correct, of course: They're not. The tragedies make headlines, but, on the whole, child stars go onto lives as happy and productive as anyone else.

But the assumptions keep coming, because, in a way, child stars are cursed.

They don't turn into werewolves with the full moon, and they're not destined to suffer. They're doomed to hear that they're cursed every time one of them falls.

Danny Bonaduce, a former child star via Central Casting, with all the expected résumé lowlights, offers a telling anecdote. "When I went to rehab, I was the only ex-child star," he said once, "but there were nine dentists."

Do we ever ask, why are dentists cursed? Of course not. We know better than to judge dentists as a one-size-fits-all group.

We don't know better with child stars. To us, a Leif Garrett is an Andrew Koenig is a Corey Haim: cursed—Ron Howard, Jodie Foster, Neil Patrick Harris and a few others who haven't been arrested, excepted. (Continued fame does have its perks…)

One size does not fit all, though. Not for dentists. Not for child stars. The storyline we know by heart—early success, fast money, access to the vice of choice, downward spiral, etc.—may or may not be applicable. And it's never insightful.

Take Phillips, an early posterchild for the child-star cliché. Her long history of trouble, she made painfully clear in last year's memoir, stemmed from her home life, and not Hollywood.

Or take Brittany Murphy, herself a "T.G.I.F."-era child actor. Her death was assigned to the young-stars-gone-bad column, when, in reality, it was a cautionary tale about cold medicine.

If Koenig's family hadn't disclosed the actor's long battle with depression, we might have focused on silliness such as whether the Growing Pains star fell victim to the "curse of the '80s." (Scratch that, some of us are focused on that.)

If we look at Haim's life, and say he struggled simply because he was cursed, then we ignore tough questions that, frankly, we needed Corey Feldman to raise: Namely, what does Hollywood owe its young, if anything?

The curse of the child star? To be told, repeatedly, that you're cursed, that being a child star is a fatal condition, when sometimes it's not even the symptom.

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Sadly, there were no happy endings for the stars, of the child variety or otherwise, in our Hollywood: Dying Young gallery.