Former child star Mara Wilson has penned a blistering essay slamming the sexualisation of child actors, particularly Stranger Things star Mille Bobby Brown.
The now 30-year-old actor, who you definitely remember from Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street, penned an essay for Elle titled ‘A 13-Year-Old Girl Is Not “All Grown Up”‘, slamming sentiments made about MBB’s recent red carpet appearance.
“Last week, I saw a photo of her on Twitter, dressed up for a premiere. I thought she looked like a teenage girl. The caption, however, read that, at 13, she was “all grown up.” It had been tweeted by a grown man.
“I felt sick, and then I felt furious. A 13-year-old girl is not all grown up. And even if she had been what we consider “all grown up,” that is not newsworthy. I thought of the media outlets that posted countdown clocks until Emma Watson or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were “legal”—that is to say, “safe” fantasy material. These websites also run scare pieces about kidnapped children, teen sex-trafficking, and pedophile predators. Young girls at risk, young girls objectified: It’s all titillation to them. These adults fetishise innocence, and the loss of innocence even more. They know what they’re selling.”
Wilson described how she was no stranger to this experience herself, having received “creepy” fan mail from grown men as young teenager, been featured on foot fetish websites, and photoshopped into child porn.
“None of the boys at school paid any attention to me, except to put the occasional “kick me” sign on my back. But I had something these men wanted: my youth.”
“Child stars are seen as theirs [predator’s]: their property, their fantasy. Predators can fetishise their innocence and youth without any guilt, because they believe that once a child becomes a public figure, they forfeit their rights to be protected the way a child should.”
In the years since her child star days, Wilson has receded from the public eye (although she’s appeared on Broad City and voiced a character on BoJack Horseman), but still receives gross and inappropriate comments. She says she can deal with it now, but the rise in accessibility via the internet and social media has put today’s child stars at greater risk.
“It’s never a bad idea to assume whoever you discuss on the internet can and will see what you say about them, and this is doubly true of children.
“What’s really at play here the creepy, inappropriate public inclination to sexualise young girls in the media. We do not need to perpetuate the culture of dehumanisation Hollywood has enabled. But the media has become democratised; social media and user-generated content mean anyone can write about anyone, and there is a good chance anyone will see it. We are all part of the media, but I don’t know if we’ve realised that yet, nor understood what a tremendous responsibility that is … it wasn’t just the predators who hurt me. We—the public, the media—are all grown up. We just need to act like it.”
It comes after huge backlash to a model posting an Instagram story of 14-year-old Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, with the invitation to “hit me up in 4 years”.
Stranger Things might have made huge celebs out of all its stars, but everyone getting thirsty for actual children needs to back the hell off.
Anyway, have a read of Mara’s full essay here. (MBB hasn’t responded yet, but we’ll update this post if and when she does.)Image: Getty Images / Gilbert Carrasquillo; David Livingston