Photo Credit: David Livingston/Getty Images; Ferdaus Shamim/Wireimage
When we read Joe Jonas' very personal essay about growing up in the Disney fame machine, we felt bad for the kid. (Or at least, the kid he used to be.) When Dylan Sprouse read it, he had a different reaction. The former star of the Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck (along with his twin brother Cole Sprouse) knows exactly what it's like to be in the Jonas Brothers' shoes. In his eyes, however, Joe's grievances are not Disney's fault; they're the fault of the Jonases making all the wrong decisions.
"First, I think it’s bulls**t that they were being robbed of choice or creativity. If they wanted too, they could have told Disney 'no.' Cole and I did this hundreds of times and we ended up all right," Dylan, 21, wrote on his Tumblr. "The only reason they didn’t is because, like many of the people on that channel, I think they fell for the allure of fame. Granted, Cole and I had been acting our entire lives, so we saw it as a means to an end (money making) rather than an opportunity to become successful."
Joe said as much in his essay: The teenage brothers were terrified that their fame would be taken away from them if they didn't fall in line. Apparently, Dylan and Cole were a little more far-sighted.
"Nowadays artists just assume they have to do what they are told by their proprietors because there is a 'rigid structure to achievement.' It is nothing more than a scheme to rob you of your individuality and capitalize the gain they acquire from such treachery," Dylan said in his post. "If you believe this, not only are you incredibly foolish, but you are a BAD ARTIST... You do not have to become something else to be successful. Not only is it not too late for them to redefine themselves now, it was never too late."
"What that article felt like was: 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, still shame on you,'" Dylan concluded. "My personal creed? 'Fool me once, you’ll forever regret that decision.'"
Who knew that Zack and Cody were so hardcore about their artist beliefs? The brothers certainly seem more confident in their identities than many other young stars. They're currently on hiatus from acting to attend college -- a risk that most young stars in the spotlight, including Miley Cyrus, admit they're not willing to take.
So is the influence of Disney on its teenage stars exaggerated? Here's what Joe said about it on Vulture:
Being a part of a company like that comes with certain expectations. Not overtly, but there was a subtle vibe. We were working with Disney in 2007 when the Vanessa Hudgens nude-photo scandal happened. We heard that she had to be in the Disney offices for a whole day because they were trying to figure out how to keep her on lockdown. We’d hear execs talking about it, and they would tell us that they were so proud of us for not making the same mistakes, which made us feel like we couldn’t ever mess up. We didn’t want to disappoint anyone -- our parents, our fans, our employers -- so we put incredible pressure on ourselves, the kind of pressure that no teenager should be under.
There's no doubt that the Jonas Brothers were under pressure from Disney to act, look, and behave a certain way. According to Dylan Sprouse, they could have said "no," and Disney would have backed off. Disney also could have dropped their contract, and it sounds like the Jonas brothers weren't willing to take that chance. They prioritized money, fame and fans above making art. They're certainly not the first musicians to do so, and they won't be the last.
The point Dylan is arguing is that the Jonas Brothers should take responsibility for what happened to them. They knew, more or less, what they were getting into when they signed with Disney. They could have chosen to stop that train before it ran off the rails.
And he's right. The sad part is that most kids thrown into that kind of instant mega-fame don't have as much perspective as Dylan and Cole. They're given something that everybody wants, and they're going to hold onto it for dear life, at the expense of everything else. The Jonas Brothers are a cautionary tale they'll probably ignore.
Sprouse isn't the only person who took issue with Joe Jonas' essay. While Demi Lovato voiced her support on Twitter, her big sister Dallas felt that Joe was exploiting Demi's problems to make himself look more sympathetic. She posted her own reaction on Twitter:
Pathetic how people cut others down to get attention off themselves.. Loser— Dallas Lovato (@dallaslovato) December 2, 2013
Anybody else want to weigh in? Miley, we're pretty sure you're up next...