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Stop Giving Me S*** for Loving Shia LaBeouf

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by Jonas Barnes

If you had told me a handful of years ago that I’d be sitting in my childhood home during the early morning hours of my 37th birthday writing an article about how Shia LaBeouf has affected my life and continued sobriety, I’d have told you that you were crazier than Shia himself.

It’s a weird world though, because here we are. I’ve been following Shia’s career for quite a while, and I’ve seen the public ups and downs like everyone else. I’ve honestly always been “Team Shia” (except for that Indiana Jones movie, maybe) and people gave me shit for it.

Listen, I get it! He’s the “Even Stevens” kid! Why…the fuck…would I have banked anything on THAT guy, of all people? I’ll tell you why: I saw something behind the mask he was wearing. I saw a very talented artist that was dealing with some hardcore shit at a very young age. I saw a kid who was going to use those demons that plagued him and blow our goddamn minds once he got a hold of his life and career. And I was right to do that.

Shia LaBeouf is an addict. He’s made this very clear in his actions, and he’s apologized for those very same actions on multiple occasions. As an addict myself, I understand that on a smaller scale. I do stand up comedy and perform all over the country, but I’m nothing in comparison to Shia when it comes to people knowing who I am. When I fuck up, a town knows about it. When Shia fucked up, most of a nation knew about it.

Here’s the thing about addiction though: It’s usually something that makes us go south because we’re hurting. And I always looked at what was happening with him as exactly that: Dude was hurting, clearly. And I get that feeling 1000%. I also get that the most pained artists end up being some of the best once they come out on the other end.

I see movies every week for work and recently, I hit up two Shia films that blew me away and proved that I was right to follow him the whole time. The first movie was “The Peanut Butter Falcon” where Shia plays a fisherman on the run from locals who befriends a young man with Downs Syndrome with dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. The movie plays out like a buddy drama between Shia and his co-star, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of love, friendship, drive, following your dreams, becoming a better person, and helping those that may be less fortunate than us. It paints a world where a very jaded and angry person looks past the surface of a man with a disability and becomes his family. It shows a truly brilliant dramatic and emotional side to the dude that fucked around in the Transformers movie. It was a touching story of love and adventure, featuring two people who couldn’t have had more opposite lives. 

The next movie was the one that brought me to tears and a film that has been in the works since Shia pledged to be more dedicated to his sobriety. The movie “Honey Boy” spoke to me on so many levels and showed what kind of an artist Shia LaBeouf truly is. Honey Boy is the story of…well, it’s his childhood. But here’s the twist: Shia plays his own abusive father in the film, acting out the things that his father did to him growing up as a child actor, ultimately leading him down a road of addiction and damn near complete ruin.

He exorcised his past demons by literally playing the monster from his past that sent him down that path. That, my friends, is a work of brilliance. I can also tell you that, after going through therapy myself, that takes a huge set of balls to pull off. If you haven’t seen the movie, you need to as soon as you possibly can because it is very, very good. For me, on a personal level, it reminded me that our pasts do not define us. It reminded me that we don’t have to be a slave to our traumas or our addictions. It reminded me that even the most horrible experiences don’t have to destroy us. And it reminded me that relapses happen, but what really matters is how you come back from them. It’s a brilliant film that I cannot wait to watch over and over again.

So here we sit, coming up on the new year, and Shia has done the 180 that I saw coming since before he was on house arrest in “Disturbia”. After all the drunken outbursts, nights in jail, disorderly Broadway show disturbances, paper bags over his head on a red carpet and the words “Just Do It!” being screamed in our face…Shia is here to stay and his talent is truly shining through. And on top of all of that, he’s also a really good fucking dude. He called up a guy that got punched in the face because they looked like Shia and wanted to bring him soup. Know who has brought me soup in NYC? Absolutely goddamn nobody. You know who would have? Shia Motherfucking LaBeouf.

Note: He also co-founded the Slauson Recreational Theater Company in LA, which is a free performing arts theater where he teaches people how to act for not one goddamn cent. THAT is called giving back to your arts. And THAT is called turning a life of negatives into multiple lives of positives. Well done, Shia LaBeouf.

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