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Are child actors too sexualized?

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With the recent release of the second season of the popular Netflix Original series, Stranger Things, many people have brought to light the issue of certain “fans” of the show sexualizing its characters and actors, despite the fact that these characters are portrayed both as and by minors.

Now, this should not have to be said, but this kind of behavior coming from adults that claim to be fans of the show (and of any other content that stars minors) is absolutely inappropriate and utterly disgusting.

In one instance, Alexandra Nicole “Ali” Michael, a 27-year-old American fashion model, posted a picture of Finn Wolfhard (the 14-year-old who plays Mike Wheeler on the aforementioned series) on her Instagram story along with the caption, “Not to be weird but hit me up in 4 years @finnwolfhardoffical.” This post sparked some outrage amongst many fans of the show, and rightfully so: this adult should not find a 14-year-old attractive in any way, and the idea of her waiting four years for Wolfhard to be of legal age is predatory and repulsive, to say the least.

This is not the only instance that has gotten Stranger Things fans upset. Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the popular character, Eleven, was placed on a list in W Magazine that listed her as one of the “hottest” television stars, despite her young age of 13. Some speculated that the list may have been referring to Brown’s quickly rising popularity. However, many fans were appalled to see the list, as Brown was listed alongside Nicole Kidman, James Franco, and ten other actors, and included photos (some of which involved stars in more suggestive positions than others), which heavily implied that “hottest” did not necessarily refer to “trendiest,” or “most popular.”

Those who defend the behavior of some of the show’s adult following may claim that comments of this kind, “come with the job,” or that these actors and actresses, “aren’t exactly little kids anymore.” Some may even go so far as to state that, “14 is the age of consent in some countries,” but these arguments are downright unacceptable.

Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, the Home Box Office (HBO) original series, posted a Twitter thread that discussed the abuse and harassment that the Stranger Things cast has faced, and stated, “It doesn’t matter if they are an actor… they are kids first.” She went on to say, “Give them the space they need in order to grow without feeling like they owe anyone anything for living their childhood dreams.”

Turner’s statement is one of the best I’ve read, simply because it’s true: just because these kids are actors does not mean that they owe their fans anything, and it definitely does not mean that these fans can simply treat them however they please.

These kids should be allowed to be kids, and should not have to worry about harassment – sexual or otherwise – from their fans just because they are famous.

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