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La Beouf: Not Shy About Acting Out

shiaLast week, when actor Shia La Beouf made headlines for his outrageous public behavior at a New York theater, it was no surprise to those who have followed the career of the 28 year-old actor.

La Beouf is probably best known for his leading role in the first three “Transformer” films. He rose to prominence as the title character in the Disney Channel series, “Even Stevens”.

His meteoric rise in Hollywood notwithstanding, La Beouf‘s name has emblazoned the headlines fairly regularly over the last few years. It hasn’t been with rave reviews; the gossip rags have routinely fed on his fairly obvious public disdain for rules and laws.

The actor’s rap sheet includes allegedly threatening a neighbor by driving his car into the neighbor’s vehicle, trespassing, misdemeanor drunk driving, and other public scuffles. He also drew the venomous ire of the internet for reportedly plagiarizing segments from a number of authors for various writing and film projects.

Last week, La Beouf added to his impressive collection of foul fodder on TMZ and the like by being charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass at a New York theater during a performance. He reportedly yelled with the play in progress, smoked, and refused to leave the theater. When police arrived, La Beouf allegedly spat at them, and used a homophobic slur. Curiously, he was also accused of randomly spanking strangers while passing them.

We read these accounts and wonder, why would a celebrity act so outrageously in public? Certainly, without spending time in conversation with Shia La Beouf, we can’t know exactly what would cause him to perform these attention-getting public acts. However, as interested observers, we can speculate on some possible reasons why someone like him might have such aggressively abnormal public behavior.

Aside from the obvious assumption of substance abuse (and La Beouf was reported as being drunk), one perspective to drawn on would be a psychodynamic view, originated by Sigmund Freud. This postulates that our behavior and feelings as adults are largely rooted in our childhood experiences.

In La Beouf’s case, he had what might be described as an atypical childhood. He’s been quoted describing his parents as “hippies” and “pretty weird people”. Certainly many parents who’ve led such a lifestyle have raised healthy, successful adults. But no one would argue such a worldview emphasizes personal freedom over established rules, perhaps the hallmark of that philosophy. La Beouf has been quoted that his childhood has left him with “scars”.

One of his first public performing credits was doing stand-up comedy as a ten year-old “with the mouth of a 50 year-old”. The implication is one of a child using profanity in public with no parental restrictions. A young child learns the reinforcing power of breaking rules in public.

Over the course of his adult life, the actor’s continual run-ins with the law seem to suggest he doesn’t believe rules and laws pertain to him, or may never have been adaptively socialized to that effect. In response to accusations of plagiarism for his writing and filmmaking, La Beouf reportedly responded that copyright laws are too restrictive and “don’t allow creative ideas to flow freely”. Again, the assumption appears to be that public proscriptions are for the masses, not me.

It’s a well-worn cliché that continual acting out in public by a celebrity is often seen as the plaintive wail of a cry for help. Those with permissive parents frequently are low in self-regulation and tend to have problems with authority.

So should we expect someone like Shia La Beouf to blame his childhood for his well-documented apparent urge to blast through boundaries? Although the psychodynamic view would say yes, that’s merely simple speculation. We as observers want to try to maintain a sense of order in our own lives by trying to guess what causes the outrageous acts of Nick Nolte, Robert Downey, Jr., Mel Gibson, and the like. But in reality, only the actor himself can seek the real answers. Psychotherapy would be the best place for a talented young performer like Shia La Beouf to protect an impressive career that might be in jeopardy.

Shia LaBeouf image available at Shutterstock.

La Beouf: Not Shy About Acting Out

Henry Kimmel, Psy.D.

Henry Kimmel, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist in Encino, CA. He's also been involved in the entertainment industry as a producer, writer, and director. Follow Dr. Kimmel on Twitter @geropsych.

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APA Reference
Kimmel, H. (2014). La Beouf: Not Shy About Acting Out. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jul 2014
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