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By Boyce Watkins, PhD


Former child star Gary Coleman pleaded guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief in an incident relating to domestic violence. The events took place last April and Coleman entered the plea on his 42nd birthday.

Apparently, Gary Coleman is having some health problems, including dialysis for an ongoing kidney issue and heart surgery. The surgery was complicated by pneumonia this past fall and the actor has also had a hard time finding work.

Coleman was arrested on January 24th on a warrant for failing to appear in court at his home. He spent a night in jail and had a bail of $1,725 dollars.

OK, backing away from the peculiar imagery of Gary Coleman in a domestic violence incident, here are some quick thoughts:

1) Domestic violence is very serious. If you find yourself in a situation that has gotten out of control, remove yourself immediately. Not doing so can cause you to end up in jail or seriously hurt. Deaths from domestic violence occur regularly throughout the United States and you only need to watch the popular TV show “Snapped” to know that it can happen to anyone.

2) It’s sad that Gary Coleman’s life has come to this. Every picture I see of Coleman has him looking either tired or frustrated, and I just feel bad for the guy. Who would have thought this is where he would end up?

3) The greatest challenge for Coleman is that being a child actor precludes your ability to go out and get a regular job. It’s not as if we could imagine Gary Coleman as an accountant or doctor, so to some extent, he seems to be trapped by his fame. The same seems to be true for Keisha Knight Pulliam, who will (in spite of her resistance on the issue) always be remembered as Rudy Huxtable. While these individuals might get upset that people can’t let go of their childhood persona, they should also remember the millions of other children (including myself) who would have died to have been in their position.

4) The saddest thing about child actors is that they don’t realize what they have until they’ve lost it. I think about Todd Bridges, Coleman’s costar on “Different Strokes.” Todd went on to have a life of drug addiction and financial ruin, after earning gobs of money and being on top of the world. It’s easy, at that age, to think that you’re always going to be a star, that the money will keep flowing in buckets. Without proper guidance, it’s easy to get caught up in things that you have no business doing. Before you know it, you’re on a VH-1 reality show, fresh out of rehab, trying to get your life back. The world has made a running joke out of former child actors, and it’s all just very very sad.