Revisiting Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, it’s easy to hate li’l Annie Skywalker, the hero-to-be of the film. He says a lot of dumb stuff, mostly about sand, or angels, or whether or not this is podracing. (To clarify: it is, indeed, podracing.) The exceedingly poor dialogue imposed on young Anakin, in addition to his unseemly bowl cut and the overall badness of The Phantom Menace, made child actor Jake Lloyd public enemy #1 among diehard Star Wars fans. He would remain an object of mockery for years, though the harsh words levied against him have now come to an abrupt halt in the light of tragic, troubling news.

The New York Daily News reported yesterday that Lloyd has been transferred to a psychiatric facility to treat his schizophrenia following a ten-month stint in prison. The sad tale began last June, when Lloyd was arrested by South Carolina state police after a flashy, high-speed car chase (the report cites Lloyd as driving at speeds over 100 miles per hour) through two counties. He was imprisoned on charges of reckless driving, failure to stop, and driving without a license, but the state has now ruled that Lloyd would be better served by receiving mental care instead of the usual punishment. The actor’s mother Lisa told TMZ that she visited her son last week, and has already noticed a measurable improvement in his temperament.

Hearing tales of child stars gone awry always provokes a twinge of sadness, but this case feels particularly ugly, considering the public’s role in his mental deterioration. Of course it’d be simplistic to say that mean Star Wars fans gave Jake Lloyd schizophrenia, but at the same time, it’d be disingenuous to suggest that years and years of ceaseless derision in the public arena didn’t at least contribute to his current state. Hopefully, he’ll now receive the care he needs and make a speedy recovery.

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