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Literature / Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame

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Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame is the 2016 Autobiography by Former Child Star Mara Wilson.

While best known for her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street and of course Matilda - Mara also goes into detail about things such as her first impression of sex, her mother's death when she was only eight, grappling with body image as she got older, discovering she had OCD and even the politics of high school show choir.

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Mara also narrates the audio version.

Tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Mara's mother is initially furious when she sings "I know about sex!" on the set of Mrs Doubtfire, but Chris Columbus and Robin Williams finding it amusing softens her attitude a little.
  • Adult Fear: In The C-Word, your daughter discovering photoshopped porn of herself online or getting creepy fan mail from older men.
  • Alpha Bitch: Olivia from National Enchoirer - though the trope is played with. Olivia is not the most popular girl in school and is in fact jealous of girls who are more successful, but she's the head of the clique that Mara falls in with.
  • Always Someone Better: As a teenager, Mara felt this way towards Scarlett Johansson and Kristen Stewart - actresses who successfully transitioned from child to adult stars.
  • Anachronic Order: The chapters don't follow Mara's life chronologically, instead focusing on different sections.
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  • Armour-Piercing Question: The Junior Anti-Sex League - Mara rants about a Girl Posse who are more beautiful than her, that she calls 'The Slut Squad'. Her brother asks her what exactly they do to warrant such a nickname.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Gavin the South African shows up at Mara's front door saying he forgot something. And that something is to kiss her there on the spot.
  • But Not Too White: Apparently a 'Where are they now?' special featuring her never aired because she looked "too pale" for the video.
  • Children Are Innocent:
    • Although Mara learned about sex early on, she had a very innocent view of it. She describes wiping the toilet seat in case a boy had used it before and residual semen accidentally got her pregnant.
    • She also assumed that Melrose Place was an expose into the lives of adults.
    • She also thought a sex scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral was just two people bouncing on a trampoline that was off-camera.
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  • Coming-of-Age Story: A lot of the chapters do have narratives about Mara's growing up.
  • Compliment Backfire: Mara eventually comes to find the word 'cute' to be a back-handed way of calling her young.
  • Contractual Purity:invoked Discussed. Mara's parents said she could only do family-friendly movies while she was a child actress. She wanted to move away from that image by starring in The Safety of Objects - simply because her character smoked and discussed penises. Her father didn't want her to audition for 13 because the protagonist didn't get any redemption. Later in life she worries about writing a sex comedy in case her Matilda fans hear about it.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A coincidence that Mara herself can't ignore is discovering that Kissing Doorknobs - the book that helped her realise she had OCD - was written by the mother of one of her Matilda co-stars.
  • Cool Big Sis: Anna certainly thought Mara was, as described in Goddess Oracle.
    "As a sister, you were a pretty good mom."
  • Creepy Child: Elementary Existentialism illustrates Mara as one, due to her worry about death and the end of the world.
  • Cringe Comedy: WGAS - Mara attempts stand-up comedy, bombs on stage and discovers that Zack Galfianakis was watching the whole thing.
  • D-Cup Distress: Initially. Mara getting big breasts made it very hard for her to play tomboyish or less girly roles in films. She eventually grew to like them.
  • Daddy's Girl: It's clear that Mara grew up very close to her father.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Robin Williams's death and Mara's relationship with him is given a chapter.
  • The Determinator: When she first wanted to act, Mara's mother made her do several mock auditions and prepared her for the rejections by simply telling her she didn't get the part over and over. Mara's response? "I can just go on more."
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Defied. Mara's younger sister was named Anna, and everyone else had to promise never to call her 'Anna-Banana'.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Olivia cutting her hair short in National Enchoirer coincides with the beginning of the end of her friendship with Mara.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Mara pokes fun at one of her headshots - "so cool, so edgy, so should have taken off the Tigger watch."
  • Female Misogynist: Mara admits to being one in her teen years, hating girls who were prettier than her and being jealous of the attention they got from boys.
  • First Guy Wins: Mara desperately hoped this would be the case with her first boyfriend Zack. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for her) reality ensued.
  • Flanderization: What Mara says happened to her character in Miracle on 34th Street, due to an inexperienced director emphasising cuteness over substance.
  • Foreign Fanservice: When meeting a South African called Gavin, Mara warns herself not to exoticise his accent. It doesn't work.
  • From the Mouths of Babes:
    • In the very first chapter, Mara recounts learning about sex and then running around the set of Mrs. Doubtfire singing about it.
    • After going to a movie premiere, Mara says to her mother "the men look great, but the women need to go home and get dressed" - prompting a laughing fit from Suzie.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Mara's father comes up with 'Radio WGAS' (who gives a shit?)
  • Gender Flip: The producers of Miracle on 34th Street wanted to have the remake's child be a boy (following the lead of Home Alone) but people recommended Mara for the part, so the character became a girl once again.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Mara was subjected to a lot of this while filming Miracle, as the studio wanted to curl her hair and make her into "the next Shirley Temple" - which was completely against her personality. As a teenager her breasts developed to be quite big, meaning she was auditioning for girly roles that she didn't want to play.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Initially for Mara, who is unable to cope with her identity as she ages from child to teenager. She subverts the trope in Elementary Existentialism, affirming she worries less about the end of the world or things she did as a child now that she's older.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: invoked Mara describes getting offered the role of the fat girl in a pilot, although they told her she would be padded out. She wanted to play a character closer to her personality, and then discovered that the actresses being seen for that role were far more beautiful.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Mara felt this way as a teenager, but at the end of the chapter in question she lists things she came to like about her appearance - especially her eyes.
  • I Am Not Spock:invoked Discussed in Dear Matilda, where Mara talks about being seen as Matilda all her life. She herself says she may have thought Matilda was 'her' character for a while.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: As a teenager, Mara is constantly hoping she'll grow up to be beautiful enough to make it as a Hollywood actress. She describes wishing she would get into a car accident so she could get cosmetic surgery without feeling guilty. And at one point she seriously considered getting surgery just so she could play the "ugly best friend" roles. Ouch.
  • In Memoriam:invoked Remembering Robin naturally enough is a chapter about Mara's friendship with Robin Williams.
  • Irony: When auditioning for show choir, the teacher is shocked that Mara is nervous - after having performed at the Oscars.
  • It Runs in the Family: Like her mother, Mara was an actress in her youth but as she grew up, only did it for fun. Her brother Danny was also a child actor briefly.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Mara lampshades the irony that show choir was looked down on by everyone in their school, right before Glee became a success.
    • Her parents thought she would get a few small roles to pay for college and quickly get bored. Then she auditioned for Mrs Doubtfire.
  • Jossed:invoked Mara josses the claims that she is ashamed of Thomas and the Magic Railroad - taking the time to praise the director Britt Alcroft and saying she enjoyed her time in the UK and Canada. The issue she had was developing breasts by the time re-shoots had to be done - meaning it didn't help her body image struggles.
  • Lies to Children: Defied by Mara's mother Suzie. She had a habit of telling children uncomfortable truths. Mara was told about sex at age five!
  • Mama Bear: Suzie kept going to bat for Mara as her character in Miracle underwent Flanderization.
  • Mood Whiplash: The way Mara describes her mother's behaviour. "Her unpredictability was predictable".
  • Motor Mouth: Mara describes her child self as such. Robin Williams "made the mistake" of asking her to tell him a story - so she rambled on for ages.
  • Named After Someone Famous: As children, Mara's siblings named the tooth fairy Sally after Sally Field (who played Mara's mother in Mrs. Doubtfire).
  • Not Like Other Girls: Deconstructed in National Enchoirer - where Mara illustrates that a girl with that attitude just views herself as better than everyone else in an internalised misogynistic way.
  • Parting Words Regret: Mara wishes she could have explained to Robin Williams that she didn't want to do a Mrs Doubtfire sequel because she would want it to be done right.
  • Promotion to Parent: After their mother's death, Mara gets called out by their brothers for acting more like a parent to their sister Anna.
  • Refuge in Audacity: One of Mara's choreographers in choir called one move 'the Stripper Move' and then said "don't call it that because I don't want to get fired".
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Mara and Olivia in National Enchoirer. Of course Mara later came out as bisexual, so that makes it more of a full blown crush.
  • Second Love: Mara mentions that her father eventually remarried, and she was very close with this stepmother.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Goddess Oracle illustrates the differences between Mara and her sister Anna - Mara is a more structured nerdy writer, while Anna is a Bohemian artist type.
  • Slut-Shaming: Played for Laughs in The Junior Anti-Sex League. Mara says she often started her stories with "there once was a very bad girl..."
    "How bad?"
  • Stage Mom: Averted by Mara's parents, who did their best to keep her grounded.
  • Super OCD: Deconstructed in Patterns - a chapter dealing with Mara's own OCD diagnosis.
  • Suppressed Mammaries: While filming Thomas, Mara developed breasts and had to have them strapped down for re-shoots.
  • T-Word Euphemism: There's a chapter called The C-Word which isn't the one you're thinking of. Mara refers to being called 'cute'.
  • Take That!: Mara gives one to Jennifer Love Hewitt for donating money to a school with a great choir program already, as opposed to a small midwestern school who couldn't afford one.
  • The Talk: The very first chapter - The Junior Anti-Sex League - opens with Mara's mother giving her one. Mara was five and filming Mrs Doubtfire at the time. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: In The C-Word Mara talks about getting annoyed with this archetype - saying parts for young girls were either the super girly Shirley Temple roles or else "Bart Simpson with pigtails".
  • Vacation, Dear Boy: invoked Mara says she made Thomas And The Magic Railroad just because she'd get to visit the UK.
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