Was Sarah's Mourning Exploited? Did KS Go too Far?

Discuss the latest Avonlea actor, actress, and crew related news.

Did Kevin Sullivan Go too far when the scene was scripted for Sarah to mourn her mother's death?

Yes
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No
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Total votes: 8

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Timothy
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Was Sarah's Mourning Exploited? Did KS Go too Far?

Post by Timothy » Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:58 am

The following Avonlea Guide news article refers to Sarah Polley's recent comments that she felt "exploited" in Road to Avonlea and equates her experience on the series to a "horror show." Much of this has to do with Kevin Sullivan writing a scene where Polley mourns over her fictional mother Ruth Stanley's death, after Sarah's real mother died. The pain experienced from this has caused her bitterness toward the series.

Polley Lashes Out at Avonlea; Joins Jury at 2007 Cannes
April 22, 2007 - In a recent article in the Scotsman, Sarah Polley lashed out at Road to Avonlea, calling the television series "the worst thing that happened." Polley commented about a scene after her mother died where she mourns the death of her character's fictional mother. "I felt that, to some degree, the pain and the sadness that I was going through was exploited," she remembered. "So things like that make it a bit of a horror show in my memory."

During a 2005 chat, Kevin Sullivan said that the scene was from 'Home Movie' and that it "was specifically written for Sarah to mourn her own mom. Sarah gives a very touching performance considering the reality behind what you see on screen," Sullivan remembered.

Polley also contends that the series saved her life. "I had an instant support network of adults around me at all times, which was great, but it was also terrible that I couldn't be at school with my friends, which is where I wanted to be." Polley's desire to be in school was short lived, as she dropped out of school to pursue political activism.
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Do you feel that Sarah Polley was exploited on the show?

Do you think Kevin Sullivan went too far when the scene was scripted for Sarah to mourn her mother's death?

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Post by AvonLea » Sun Apr 22, 2007 1:50 pm

I think is was thoughtful of Sullivan, but maybe a bit harsh. It depends on if Sarah had spoken against it at the time and if he had listened or not. I think it's just another Sarah lashing at Avonlea. She should get over that problem.
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Post by hobbie » Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:10 am

I agree with you Avonlea.It really depends on if Sara had spoken against it and if he had listened or not.
It's difficult to vote not knowing if she was forced to do it or not.
When you see"behind the scenes" you see a Sara who is having fun,she even says that she misses it when a season is over.The show surely given her some good things to remember.She should think more of that..
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Post by Timothy » Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:08 pm

I think those are good points AvonLea and Hobbie. Another thing to consider...

Sarah's father, Michael Polley, was her legal guardian for the first couple years of the series--and yet, he appeared to let her do anything she wanted. Can she really blame Kevin Sullivan, or even Terry Gilliam (for Adventures of Baron Munchausen) when it is the father/guardian's responsibility to protect her from such allegedly bad treatment?

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Post by AvonLea » Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:04 am

Good point, Timothy. You know, I am still not seeing this scene. It is before her father dies? Or when she's with Dora and Davey? I can't see it...
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Post by Timothy » Wed Apr 25, 2007 8:39 pm

Kevin Sullivan claims this scene is in the fourth season episode 'Home Movie' where Jasper overhears Sara's grief over her mother's loss. However, we know that there are several scenes in the first few seasons where Sara is grieving over her mother. I don't know why Kevin Sullivan doesn't make references to these scenes that occured before 'Home Movie.'

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Post by Oldbats » Thu Apr 26, 2007 2:49 pm

As can be seen from her rather incendiary political activism days, I think Sarah Polley has a tendency to lash out at things, from time to time, and focus only on the negative.

That series really helped to further her career, and for many of her fans, that's what put her on the map.

She had free will, as Timothy pointed out. She makes it seem as though she were forced to do that episode at gun point.

I think, if nothing else, doing that series helped to give her a life that most of us only dream of.

Did Kevin Sullivan go too far? That's rather impossible to answer, seeing as how we don't know what was going on "behind the scenes" at the time. Perhaps it was a kind gesture on his part, perhaps a sadistic one, but I really don't see him as the cruel type.
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Post by Sara » Fri Apr 27, 2007 4:00 am

As Oldbats said, I think Sarah Polley became so famous and popular through Avonlea. There were many scenes before the one in Modern Times in which Sara mourns her mother's death. If they really annoyed her so much, she should've left Avonlea at that time. However, she's entitled if she was forced to do it. But I don't find Sullivan so cruel. I guess that's another excuse for Sarah to lash at Avonlea.
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Post by Shelly » Thu May 10, 2007 5:59 pm

Oldbats wrote:That series really helped to further her career, and for many of her fans, that's what put her on the map.
I would say it was her turn in The Sweet Hereafter that put her on the map, not RTA (even though she is noted for it, and it was popular).
Oldbats also wrote:She had free will, as Timothy pointed out. She makes it seem as though she were forced to do that episode at gun point.
If you're referring to "Home Movie", and if you consider--to a point--that Sarah really wanted out two seasons earlier, but was contractually obligated to do five seasons, then one could say that, in a way, she was forced.

From what I've heard, KS was quite a taskmaster.
Sara wrote:As Oldbats said, I think Sarah Polley became so famous and popular through Avonlea.
Once again, she did not really "break out" until ten years ago. Before then, only RTA fans--and, to a lesser extent, probably Ramona fans--had any idea.
Sara also wrote:There were many scenes before the one in Modern Times in which Sara mourns her mother's death. If they really annoyed her so much, she should've left Avonlea at that time.
She couldn't leave. It would've been a breech of her contract.
Sara also wrote:But I don't find Sullivan so cruel. I guess that's another excuse for Sarah to lash at Avonlea.
I don't call it "lashing out". As I see it, Sarah is looking back on her RTA days through adult eyes and calling a spade a spade. That said, if you read the Scotsman interview in its entirety, you would've seen this at the end (emphasis mine)...

She was just five when she appeared in her first film, One Magic Christmas, while Road to Avonlea covered the years from nine to 15. Was she robbed of her childhood? "It was definitely not the easiest world for a child to be in and I would not choose it for my own kids," she says. "At the same time, I feel it's really hard to talk about regretting something when it led you to a place you're grateful to be. Would I choose to repeat it? I don't know. But I ended up doing something I love so how can you look back and go, 'Oh I wish this hadn't happened'? It all led somewhere fine for me. But I think that's generally not the case. I think I was really, really lucky." With any luck, too, the past will remain in the past.

* * * * *

Personally, I think it's a possibility her grief over her mother's loss (IMO, the bigger sore point with her and her RTA days) was exploited. The film and TV industry is not a kind one, particularly not to children. It's totally possible she could have and did say something about it then, but nothing was done, so--like I'd think any professional would do--she did what was asked of her.
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Post by hobbie » Thu May 10, 2007 10:42 pm

Shelly what you wrote is very clarifying to me.
When did Sara her mother died? was it before Avonlea?
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Post by Timothy » Sat May 12, 2007 9:54 am

Shelly wrote:
Oldbats wrote:That series really helped to further her career, and for many of her fans, that's what put her on the map.
I would say it was her turn in The Sweet Hereafter that put her on the map, not RTA (even though she is noted for it, and it was popular).
I agree with Oldbats that it was RTA that put her on the map. I don't believe that 'Sweet Hereafter' was her first international breakthrough role. RTA played in over 140 countries and broke viewer records in some of these countries, including Iran. The difference is that many critics love 'Sweet Hereafter' and dismiss RTA as a sacharine filled show.
Shelly wrote:
Oldbats also wrote:She had free will, as Timothy pointed out. She makes it seem as though she were forced to do that episode at gun point.
If you're referring to "Home Movie", and if you consider--to a point--that Sarah really wanted out two seasons earlier, but was contractually obligated to do five seasons, then one could say that, in a way, she was forced.

From what I've heard, KS was quite a taskmaster.
Sarah's father is the one who approved her contract and allowed Sarah to go through this so-called horrible ordeal (He even acted in the show with her as Dr. Blair). Kevin Sullivan is a producer and businessman. It's not his responsibility to tell Michael Polley how to raise his child. Consider Gema's father, Lou Zamprogna. He was a strong supporter and advocate for Gema during the series and made sure his demands for her welfare were heard. If Sarah is to blaim anyone, it's her father.

I think that if, as in previous interviews, you call Avonlea a "horrible" show, the worst thing that happened, and blame the series for bad treatment, that is a form of lashing out. She very well could have been exploited, but it's her legal guardian's role to defend her. It should be noted that Sarah was often treated better than the other children on the show. She got her own mobile home on set while the other children shared a trailer. She also had a personal trainer.
hobbie wrote: When did Sara her mother died? was it before Avonlea?
Sadly, Sarah's mother, Diane Polley, died of cancer on January 10, 1990, three days after 'The Journey Begins' aired on CBC.

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Post by Shinnen » Tue May 15, 2007 1:57 pm

I can't say for sure if she was exploited or not, but I think she wasn't. I imagine the series was already planned out and perhaps the episode was already written, because they have to have a vision of where their show is going to go, and they would need to write the stuff out before beginning. Also, it would be expected that she would once in awhile mourn her mother's death in the series, because that would be realistic.

I'm a little ignorant about contracts, what would happen if she decided to quit her's?
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Post by AvonLea » Tue May 15, 2007 2:28 pm

Shinnen!! You're back!! I missed you!
Sorry, very random. But I just thought something. Maybe Sarah did better at that show because of her mother's death. Maybe she was really sad there. Just a random thought.
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Post by Gwendolene » Thu May 17, 2007 4:51 am

I always found the crying scene in "When She Was Bad", in which Hetty says something to the effect of "Thank God your mother is dead, so she didn't see the way you turned out!" quite disturbing. I think this may have been the scene that Sarah refers to in the interview.
Just a few weeks after her mother's death, a scene was written into the show in which Polley had to cry about her fictional mother dying. "I felt that, to some degree, the pain and the sadness that I was going through was exploited," she recalls. "So things like that make it a bit of a horror show in my memory."
While I agree that her guardian should have been more proactive, the fact that the powers that be even considered writing and filming such a scene a few weeks after her death to be tastless, insensitive and disturbing on many levels. Sarah was a child after all and doing such a scene so soon after her mothers death, could (and apparently did) emotionally scar her. There were other paths the writers could have went down to accelerate the argument.

I remember watching that scene before I knew about her loss and thinking she was an amazing actress. Now, it just makes me sad. I remember reading in another interview, where Sarah said that when she sees an "amazing" performance from a child, that she wonders about the ethics involved in creating such a performance, and I tend to agree with her. Children are so eager to please, and often do not realize the long-term consequences of their choices (Emotionally, professionally or personally).

Sorry for ranting, but I've been on bad shoots as a adult and hated it... I can't imagine going through what she did, for 5 years, and as a child no less. Very sad.
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Post by Shinnen » Fri May 18, 2007 1:27 pm

AvonLea wrote:Shinnen!! You're back!! I missed you!
Sorry, very random. But I just thought something. Maybe Sarah did better at that show because of her mother's death. Maybe she was really sad there. Just a random thought.
lol, It was very random of me to just pop back. :wink: I was busy, and probably will be on and off the board this year. I've really missed everyone here too.

I trust that your right, Gwendolene, sense you know more about it than I do. I have thought that even if she wasn't exploited, it still would be sad for her.
O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be. ~George Matheson

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