Razzie Awards apologize after 'repulsive' nomination for 'Firestarter' child star (updated)

FIRESTARTER, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, 2022. ph: Ken Woroner / © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
Ryan Kiera Armstrong in 'Firestarter' (Photo: Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

UPDATE Jan. 25, 2023: In response to the outcry, the Golden Raspberry Foundation has removed 12-year-old Ryan Kiera Armstrong from the ballot. In a statement, Razzies co-founder John Wilson issued an apology and called the criticism "valid," saying the backlash "brought our attention to how insensitive we've been in this instance. As a result, we have removed Armstrong's name from the final ballot that our members will cast next month. We also believe a public apology is owed Ms. Armstrong, and wish to say we regret any hurt she experienced as a result of our choices."

ORIGINAL STORY: Since launching in 1981, the Golden Raspberry Awards have positioned themselves as the anti-Academy Awards. Proclaiming theselves “Oscar’s ugly cousin,” the rabble-rousing Razzies dishonored the worst movies and performances in an industry infamous for over-awarding itself this time of year with quirky categories. For instance, Jackass: The Movie won Most Flatulent Teen-Targeted Movie in 2002, while the notorious turkey The Cat in the Hat was named Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie in 2003.

Good-natured celebrities like Tom Green (a five-time winner for 2002’s Freddy Got Fingered), Halle Berry (Worst Actress for 2004’s Catwoman) and Sandra Bullock (who scored a Razzie for All About Steve the night before winning an Oscar for The Blind Side in 2010) all showed up at the otherwise low-key ceremony to collect their trophies.

In more recent years, however, the Razzies have lost both pop-culture cachet and the goodwill of cinephiles. “Is it time to retire the Razzie Awards?,” more than a few pundits have asked. Some of the blowback could be chalked up to fatigue — maybe we’ve evolved past the snark; maybe the four-decades-old gag just jumped the shark — but the nominating committee has also made some very public missteps in recent years that have resulted in growing criticism.

The latest controversy came Monday when the Razzies selected 12-year-old Firestarter actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong among the list of nominees for Worst Actress, up there with Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World: Dominion), Diane Keaton (Mack & Rita), Kaya Scodelario (The King’s Daughter) and Alicia Silverstone (The Requin).

Never mind that Armstrong (It Chapter Two, Black Widow, The Old Way) is one of the most talented, most prolific child actors working, or that she was hardly the worst part of the failed Stephen King remake. The issue, of course, is that she is a child being mocked by adults — even as the Razzies insist it’s all just a joke.

Regardless, the organization is facing a stinging rebuke over the nomination.

“If you thought the Razzies would decide to be less mean-spirited this year, think again, as this year’s nominees for worst actress include a 12-year-old girl,” wrote Variety’s Ethan Shanfeld.

“The Razzies have sunk to a new low by nominating an eleven-year-old girl — whose performance I actually dug,” tweeted filmmaker Joe Russo (not that Joe Russo). “If you’re gonna continue denigrating people’s hard work — which you shouldn’t — at least target adults.”

“The [Razzies] are already mean-spirited & classless, but to nominate a kid is just repulsive & wrong,” wrote another child actor, Julian Hilliard. “Why put a kid at risk of increased bullying or worse? Be better.”

There was no immediate comment from the Golden Raspberry Foundation, the group behind the Razzies, about the latest controversy.

Although Armstrong’s nomination seems to be a tipping point, she is not the first child actor targeted by the organization. Previous nominees have included Diana Scarwid (who played Joan Crawford’s daughter in 1981’s Mommie Dearest), Jake Lloyd (who played a very young Anakin Skywalker in 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) and Macaulay Culkin (for three different performances in 1995).

The controversy over Armstrong’s nomination comes just a year after the Golden Raspberry Foundation embarrassed itself by creating a special category called Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie, only to rescind the designation once Willis’s family revealed he was struggling with the neurological disorder aphasia and stepping away from acting. Willis had appeared in 11 movies in 2021, but multiple reports suggested that, due to his deteriorating health, he was being exploited by the industry to appear in cash-grab movies.

There are certainly factions of movie fandom that have never given the Razzies much credence. In their inaugural year, the Razzies targeted another Stephen King adaptation, bestowing Worst Director on Stanley Kubrick for the horror classic The Shining. However, the organization behind the awards announced last year announced it would “take back” costar Shelley Duvall’s Worst Actress award due to the alleged abuse she received on set from Kubrick.

But as hostility towards the Razzies seems to grow by the years, it seems Hollywood has a hands-down contender for Worst Award Show.

This story was originally published Jan. 23, 2023 at 3:40 p.m. PT.