Mischa Barton Expresses Her Feelings on Hollywood’s Cultural Evolution

Hollywood can be a cruel place. Many fans feel entitled to private information about the stars they adore because they see their public personas as part of the product they offer. Many celebrities find themselves facing harassment from fans and the media, and it can be enough to drive them into hiding. The impact of this cruel treatment can mean stars feel like they cannot be themselves in public. Over the years, many celebrities have opened up about the hurtful impact of being made the punchline or the headline when they were trying to do their job. 

Mischa Barton is among the celebrities who have been on the receiving end of cruel media treatment. At the height of her popularity, she found herself targeted by Perez Hilton. These days, she’s reflecting on a cultural change taking place in Hollywood, and she’s fairly happy with the shift. 

Mischa Barton looking off camera, touching her face
Mischa Barton | Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/AFP via Getty Images

Mischa Barton confronted Perez Hilton 

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The height of Barton’s career was in the early 2000s. She portrayed Marissa Cooper on the hit teen drama The O.C., and that role put her squarely in the spotlight … and in the crosshair of media trolls. Hilton, who is a celebrity gossip blogger and notoriously hated among celebrity circles for his cruel “reporting,” was also at the height of his career. 

Hilton made his living targeting celebrities in the cruelest and most unforgiving ways. Barton, being a rising star, was a clear target for the abuse. His posts about Barton were typical for his style, but that didn’t make them any less hurtful or ugly. He gave her cruel nicknames and made fun of her appearance. 

Nearly two decades later, Barton finally got a chance to tell Hilton how badly he impacted her to his face. The pair found themselves in a tense exchange in the middle of a party. “This bullying that you did for so long to so many young girls, I find it hard to let go,” Barton said as she confronted Hilton for the hurt he caused. “I don’t really sit well with people who purposefully harm other people.” Hilton made a quick exit soon after Barton spoke her mind. 

New work has broadened Mischa Barton’s perspective

These days, Barton has put herself back in the spotlight. She’s been filming The Hills: New Beginnings, and the work has given her newfound respect for reality TV stars. “You’re not just putting your life out there, but you’re managing every aspect of it, from hair and makeup to wardrobe and events. It’s a lot,” the star explained. 

Managing the pressures of that kind of public scrutiny requires a dedication to self-care and the ability to step back and get some much-needed perspective. After filming, Barton knew she needed to unplug and get some time away from the potential toxicity of fan responses. 

Mischa Barton sees a shift in Hollywood culture

The cruel comments and abuse that Barton endured are still present in celebrity culture, but there are signs that they’re changing. Recently, Barton opened up to Paper about what it was like to live under that pressure: “You were told that if you stepped too far out of line your career was over, you would just not get a second shot at it. That’s how agents and managers and publicists used to approach it, or women felt about it. You know, if I put on weight or if I had a bad story printed about me, then my career could just be dead and they’ll move on to the next person.”  

She’s heartened by a shift in the way women in Hollywood carry themselves, though. She cites the #MeToo movement as a place where she sees real bravery and change. “Thank god [women now] have each other so that they can have that support system, because it’s really hard when you feel like you’re the only person going through it,” Barton went on. 

She sees bold women unafraid to be themselves in the spotlight. “[N]ow we live in the Billie Eilish era and there are the Camila Cabellos who are not afraid to speak out and say, ‘Hey, I’m a woman. I have good days. I have bad days. I also don’t have to show my body in a way that I don’t want to. And I can dress and behave the way that I want to,” Barton explained. She admits she’s a little jealous her own career didn’t peak in this era, but she’s mostly just glad to see a shift away from the toxicity that left her afraid to leave her own home.