Who's Actually Entertained by Infant and Toddler ‘Actors’ Potentially Being Traumatized?

When an Oscar nominee wins and accepts the prize at the podium, he/she typically thanks the various other participants in the relevant film’s creation. For me what’s always conspicuously lacking in the brief speech is any mention of the infants or toddlers used in filming negatively melodramatic scenes, let alone any potential resultant harm to their very malleable psyches, perhaps even PTSD trauma.

In his book The Interpretation of Dreams Dr. Freud states: “It is painful to me to think that many of the hypotheses upon which I base my psychological solution of the psychoneuroses will arouse skepticism and ridicule when they first become known.

“For instance, I shall have to assert that impressions of the second year of life, and even the first, leave an enduring trace upon the emotional life of subsequent [neurotic persons], and that these impressions — although greatly distorted and exaggerated by the memory — may furnish the earliest and profoundest basis of a [neurotic] symptom.

“… In confirmation of this I recall certain examples in which the death of the father occurred when the child was very young, and subsequent incidents, otherwise inexplicable, proved that the child had unconsciously preserved recollections of the person who had so early gone out of its life.”

Long before reading Sigmund Freud’s or other academics’ theories/thoughts on very early life trauma, I began cringing at and was bewildered by how the producers and directors of that negatively hyperemotional big-/small-screen ‘entertainment’ can comfortably conclude that no psychological harm would come to their infant/toddler ‘actors’, who are screaming in bewilderment.

More so, how could the parents of those undoubtedly extremely upset infants/toddlers allow it?!

Anyway, it’s doubtful many viewers are actually entertained by an infant or toddler being used in such film scenes and potentially traumatized. I certainly am repulsed by it.

Contemporary research reveals that, since it cannot fight or flight, a baby stuck in a crib on its back hearing parental discord in the next room can only “move into a third neurological state, known as a ‘freeze’ state … This freeze state is a trauma state” (Childhood Disrupted, pg.123).

If allowed to continue unhindered, it causes the brain to improperly develop. It can be the starting point towards a childhood, adolescence and adulthood in which the brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammatory stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines.

Also known is that the unpredictability of a stressor, and not the intensity, does the most harm. When the stressor “is completely predictable, even if it is more traumatic — such as giving a [laboratory] rat a regularly scheduled foot shock accompanied by a sharp, loud sound — the stress does not create these exact same [negative] brain changes” (pg. 42).

Admittedly, I’d initially presumed there had to be a reliable educated consensus within the entertainment industry and psychology academia that there’s little or no such risk, otherwise the practice would logically and compassionately have ceased. But I became increasingly doubtful of the factual accuracy of any such potential consensus.

Cannot one logically conclude by observing their turmoil-filled facial expressions that they’re perceiving, and likely cerebrally recording, the hyper-emotional scene activity around them at face value rather than as a fictitious occurrence?

I could understand the infant/toddler-actor usage commonly occurring during a more naïve entertainment industry of the 20th Century; however, one can still see it in contemporary small and big screen movie productions.

Animal abuse during filming rightfully isn’t tolerated, and likewise the entertainment industry shouldn’t use infants and toddlers in adversely hyper-emotional drama — especially if contemporary alternatives, such as mannequin infants and/or digital manipulation technology, can be utilized more often.

~Post Script~


By Celebretainment Jan 8, 2024

Jodie Comer was ordered to stop soothing crying babies during the making of her new film.

The 30-year-old ‘Killing Eve’ actress, who has no children, plays a petrified mum who flees her London home with her newborn amid an ecological flooding disaster in the upcoming survival movie ‘The End We Start From’.

She told The Sunday Times about the experience of handling different babies during its production: “It’s such a lesson. The smallest baby was eight weeks. At first my hands were visibly shaking. My younger cousins have grown up now, so I’m not around babies an awful lot.

“It felt like a huge responsibility. I thought, ‘Wow, they’re so fragile’.”

Jodie added she became more confident with the babies on set and would try to calm the children during shooting — but was told to let them cry.

She said: “I became more comfortable, sometimes to my detriment! There are scenes where we needed a baby to cry but I was soothing him instead.

“The crew would shout, ‘Stop!’ …”