School of Rock alum Rivkah Reyes describes the negative aftermath of the film’s release, which included bullying and years of addiction. Starring Jack Black, the 2003 comedy was a box office hit, earning almost quadruple its budget during its original run. Its widespread success made it the highest-grossing musical comedy for more than a decade, until it was later surpassed by Pitch Perfect in 2015. During this time, its mainstream appeal launched the film’s child actors into the spotlight.
In School of Rock, the story primarily focuses on Black’s character, Dewey Finn, an aspiring rock guitarist who disguises himself as a distinguished educator and receives a music teaching job at a prestigious prep school. While there, he attempts to launch a new band with his preteen students. His unorthodox teaching methods eventually win over his class, who enthusiastically take up new instruments. Reyes played ten-year-old Katie, a quiet student who proves to be a talented bass player.
While speaking to the New York Post, Reyes revealed the adverse effects of the film’s popularity. The actor, who uses they/them pronouns, described the ways in which they were subsequently sexualized and stalked as a child. A grown man followed them to school when they were in sixth grade and tried to snap photos. On message boards, adult men shared their excitement for when the actor eventually turned eighteen. Along with these terrifying events, Reyes also faced severe bullying at school:
“Especially after production wrapped, when I first came back to school, people were really nice or really mean. There was no middle ground…I was literally followed around the school with people chanting ‘School of Rock.’”
The intense isolation and alienation resulted in a traumatic adolescence for Reyes, who feared that they would never achieve greater success than the character of Katie, thereby marking them for the rest of their life. As Reyes explained, “I spent over a decade terrified that I’d peaked at 10 years old.” This culminated in years of addiction and self-harm. However, Reyes eventually got sober in 2017 and returned to acting, music, and writing. They are currently producing an upcoming podcast, Where Are We Now, which will feature other child stars as guests.
Currently, the recent release of the documentary Framing Britney Spears has spurred many in the entertainment industry to re-examine the uneven, highly gendered power dynamics within Hollywood, particularly when it comes to how female celebrities are treated in pop culture. In their interview, Reyes compared their difficult transition into adulthood after School of Rock with the harsh circumstances Spears herself experienced. It is a much-needed reckoning with the type of patriarchal malice that too often targets women in the limelight. As more female entertainers share their experiences, it is clear that greater structural safety nets and cultural empathy need to become the norm, rather than the outlier.
Source: New York Post