Proving the Doubters Wrong: The Jason Bateman Story, by Sam Butler

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You’ve seen him in Little House on the Prairie. You watched him grow up on Valerie. You’ve seen him in Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses, and Ozark. You’ve witnessed his rise to fame—and he hasn’t stopped rising since 1969. He’s one of the best actors to ever grace TV, he’s the one, the only, the handsome Mr. square-jaw himself, Jason Bateman.

His whole life people doubted him (this is probably not true). His whole life he’s had haters holding him back (also probably not true). But every day, he wakes up, puts on his pants one leg at a time (this is true), and proves them wrong. Since the birth of his career in 1981, Bateman has risen above the doubters, growing as an actor, as a filmmaker—as a man. His haters have tried so hard to put him down that his life can be outlined by what they said, and how he shut them up (this is definitely not true). But I’ll prove it:
Jason Bateman is 11 years old. As he sits in his room playing Space Invaders on his Atari, his mother enters.
“Jason,” she says in a raspy, nagging voice, “why are you kids so addicted to your screens these days? Why don’t you go get a job like your father?”
Jason, who’d just lost his game due to his mother’s interruption, responded calmly, a habit his mother had harshly ingrained in him.
“I have an audition tomorrow, mother, for a TV show.”
His mother laughs. “TV Show?! You’ll never make it on a TV show! Just get a job working at a grocery store or something!”
His mother, still laughing at the idea of Jason on a TV screen, exits his room, leaving him to continue to lose at Space Invaders.
“Christ, boy thinks he’s an actor!” Jason overhears his mother say to herself as she lets out a wheezing laugh.
Bateman’s Response: In 1981, Jason Bateman is cast on Little House on the Prairie as James Cooper.
A budding Jason Bateman enters his agent’s office, fresh off his stint as Michael Burton in the TV series It’s Your Move. A grin on his face shining with his excitement for the future, Jason has come to see his agent and make a bold request.
“Hey, Mr. Agent,” he says to his aptly named agent.
“Jason!” his agent says excitedly, cigar smoke clouding his face. “What can I do for ya?”
“Well,” says Jason, the excitement audible in his voice, “I was hoping you could put me up for a major role in a TV show. I want to be on a show that’ll run for a long time.”
To Jason’s shock, his agent lets out a cruel laugh.
“Jason, Jason, I love you as much as the next guy. More than the next guy! But let’s be real here, you’re not ready for that!”
Jason is taken aback. The fact that his own agent would say this about him—to him—leaves him speechless.
“Listen, Jason,” his agent continues, “I have a part in a TV Movie for you. It’s called Can You Feel Me Dancing?
Jason, still shaken by his agent’s comment, has no response.
“And the best part is: your sister’s the star! You’ll be the perfect complement. Just think: Justine Bateman in the spotlight and Jason dutifully behind her! It’s perfect for you!”
“Oh, great,” Jason manages to squeak out.
“Listen, Jason. I know it’s not what you’d hoped. But it’s what you need right now. If I put you up for roles like this…” Mr. Agent holds up the script to the pilot of Valerie. “…you’d shine too bright. You’d burn out too soon.” Mr. Agent tosses the script aside.
“You’re right,” Jason lies. “Thanks for looking out for me.”
Bateman’s Response: In 1986, Jason Bateman is cast as David Hogan on Valerie, a show that would continue for six seasons.
Jason is sitting on the set of Valerie with Jeremy Licht, the actor who plays his brother Mark. As they discuss their acting careers, Jeremy inadvertently brings up a sore spot for Jason.
“I love doing TV,” says Jeremy, in a squeaky, pre-pubescent voice, “but my favorite experience was being in The Twilight Zone: The Movie.”
“Well, I’ve done movies,” Jason says defensively. “Right to Kill?, Can You Feel Me Dancing?...”
Jeremy interrupts him with a laugh. “Those are TV movies, Jason. Have you ever been in an actual movie?”
“Like—in theaters? Well, no. I guess not.”
Jeremy chuckles condescendingly. “It’s okay, Jason. Bigtime film isn’t for everyone.”
Bateman’s Response: In 1987, Bateman stars in what is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time: Teen Wolf Too.
It’s December, and Jason is back in his childhood home. As the snow softly falls outside, he sits with his father beside the family Christmas tree. The peaceful winter scene spreads love and happiness throughout the quaint neighborhood, but the warmth stops at the door of the Bateman household.
“Jason, the eighties are over. Valerie’s been done for two years now. You were a child actor, but I think it’s time you grew up,” Jason’s father says to him.
Jason’s upset, but unsurprised by his father’s comments. He’d never tried to disguise his hope that Jason’s acting career would be only a phase.
“What does ‘growing up’ mean?” Jason asks. “I’m an actor, dad. I’m always going to be an actor.”
“You were a child actor, Jason. Every child actor goes through their drug and alcohol abuse phase, and then they either grow up or stay there. But you—you can’t even do that.”
Jason was dismayed to hear this from his father. Everyone knows a child actor can’t grow up until they go through their drugged-out phase, but Jason was shocked that even his own father thought he couldn’t handle that.
“You can’t just stay in the pre-drug abuse stage of a child actor’s life forever! You’re never going to grow up. You’re a child, Jason. A child.”
Bateman’s Response: Bateman struggled with drugs and alcohol through the ‘90s and early ‘00s. With the help of his wife Amanda, Bateman eventually beat his issues and continued his illustrious career.
Bateman enters a large ballroom, excited to see old friends, old faces, and old people. It’s the ten-year anniversary party for Valerie’s last episode, and Jason is eager to find out who among the gang has found the most success.
To his surprise, Bateman mingles with his former costars to find that nobody has really broken out. Many had careers like his in the ‘90s: small movies, short-running TV shows, drugs.
At the end of the night, Valerie creator Charlie Hauck steps up in front of the crowd to give a toast to the show’s valiant run, and the laughs it brought to millions during its six-year stint.
“Welcome, everybody, and thank you for coming,” Hauck begins. “I know we’re all here to celebrate our joint success, but first I just want to say one thing.”
The crowd hushes, curious to hear what Hauck has to say.
“To my actors: having seen all of your careers spin out has brought me a so much comfort. I’ve always known that Valerie worked because of me, and now I have the proof!”
The actors are dumbfounded. Their faces shoot looks of shock and anger at their former showrunner.
“Jeremy, Luis, Josh, Jason—I always knew you weren’t made for television. Especially you, Jason. Do you really think you could be the frontman of a beloved TV show?”
Jason is stunned at Hauck’s direct aggression, but as he always does, he takes it as a challenge.
Jason stands up from his seat, glaring at Hauck. “One day I’ll be the lead of a long-running TV show. You’ll see!” he shouts. As Hauck stands speechless at his interruption, Jason turns and walks out of the ballroom, never to see Hauck again.
Bateman’s Response: In 2003, Bateman becomes the frontman of a beloved TV show, Arrested Development. After a long hiatus, the show is still running, with season five soon to be released on Netflix.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It has been seven days since my last confession,” says born-again catholic Jason Bateman.
“What is on your mind my son?” asks the priest, unaware of the identity of his TV-star confessor.
“Well—I’m not quite sure how to say this…I’m too good at comedy TV.”
God, listening from above, perks his head up, surprised that his proudest creation has become aware of his own greatness.
“Care to explain why this is a sin?” the foolish priest asks.
“Well, clearly, God is punishing me. Despite widespread critical acclaim, Arrested Development is being cancelled. My greatest shot at success is being wiped from the face of TV.”
God, aware of how crucial a turning point this is for Bateman, sends his spirit down to earth. With a flash of light unnoticed by Bateman, he takes control of the body of the priest.
With insight into Bateman’s history of thriving off of negative motivation, God begins to prod him.
“It’s probably because God thinks you’re too scared to branch into film,” God says. “He thinks you can’t handle it, and he’s challenging you to prove him wrong.”
A familiar flame lights inside Bateman. Knowing what he has to do, he abruptly stands and leaves confession.
“I’ll show you,” Jason mutters to himself as he sprints to the nearest movie studio.
“I know you will,” God says, as he ascends back to his throne in heaven.
Bateman’s Response: Juno (2007), Hancock (2008), Horrible Bosses (2011), Identity Thief (2013), This is Where I Leave You (2014), Zootopia (2016).
Thunder claps outside Jason Bateman’s extravagant California home. Flashes of lightning illuminate his bedroom, where Bateman is sound asleep next to his wife. Inside his head, though, another storm rages on.
Bateman is dreaming that he’s in a dark, empty room. The only light he sees is a harsh spotlight some 15 feet away, shining a circle of brightness onto the cold, concrete floor. In this otherwise pitch-black space, Bateman can’t see anything outside of the spotlight. He can only feel the cold floor on his naked body.
Suddenly, a plaid blanket slides into the lit area of the floor. The blanket promising much-needed warmth, Bateman doesn’t have time to worry about where—or whom—it came from, and he begins to move towards it.
As he begins to head to the blanket, Bateman realizes he can’t walk. It’s not a physical pain that’s stopping him—it’s a crippling fear. It’s a voice somewhere deep inside warning him to stay low, and move slowly.
Bateman carefully crawls toward the blanket. The deafening silence is broken only by the sounds of his body sliding against the waxed floor.
Just three feet away now, Bateman can now see a soft glow on his hands. He suddenly finds that he was wrong. He’s fully clothed. But it isn’t his normal attire. He’s dressed as what looks to him like—
A clown.
Abruptly, floodlights loudly switch on. The room isn’t a room—it’s a miles wide warehouse. And it’s not empty, it’s full of people.
But not just any people—versions of him.
Michael Bluth speaks first. “Why have you done this to us?”
“Done what?” Bateman pleads, terrified. “What did I do? Why am I here?”
Nick Wilde, the animated Fox speaks next. “You made us all a laughingstock. We’re all jokes!”
Bateman tries to understand the issue, but his fear makes him sound angry. “What do you mean? You’re comedy characters! You’re supposed to be!”
Nick growls.
Sandy Patterson from Identity Thief steps forward, putting an arm in front of Nick to calm him. “That is the problem. We’re all comedy characters. You’re failing us—you’re failing yourself. You’re incapable of being a serious actor, so you go and make a fool of us.”
“Look, it’s not that I’m incapable, it’s just—”
“ARE YOU CALLING US LIARS?” shouts the doctor from The Invention of Lying.
The characters all rapidly double in size, dwarfing Bateman on the floor. Frozen with fear, he can’t move or even speak in response.
“GET HIM!” shouts the doctor, and the characters all rush at the cowering Jason Bateman.
Jason awakens with a start in his bed, finding himself drenched in what he hopes is sweat. He looks over at his still-sleeping wife, and gets out of bed to make a call to his agent.
Bateman’s Response: In 2017, Bateman starred in and directed Netflix’s hit summer drama series Ozark.
So, I guess it was true. Jason Bateman’s iconic career can be timelined simply by each instance where he bested his doubters, whether it was his mother, father, or own subconscious creations.
The scary thing is: he’s only just beginning. Bateman will continue to prove everybody wrong. He’ll show us that there really is no ceiling for what he could go on to do.
Could he one day direct a Best Picture winning film? Could he become the actor that all others are measured against? Could he one day become President of the United States? I don’t know.
But I do know one thing: if you tell him he can’t do something, he will.
Let this be a lesson to you all: watch what you say to Jason Bateman. There is literally nothing he can’t do. And if you’re not careful, he’s going to rule the world.