Hey, did you watch Stranger Things 2? Because I watched Stranger Things 2, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more! (Plus, we get a season 3, right? RIGHT?!) But if you’ve been on the Internet post-ST2’s release, you probably also know that more than the awesomeness of this season is being discussed. Most concerning in this online discussion: how “hot” the Stranger Things stars are.
This is really freaking creepy.
Yes, the Stranger Things kids are adorable. Yes, Millie Bobby Brown looks 110% more stylish than me in all the press photos and it makes me feel a bit self-conscious. And yes, these kids make my inner boy-crazy 12 year old heart squeal in delight. But we call them the “Stranger Things KIDS” for a reason. It’s because they’re CHILDREN.
I haven’t quite figured out why people think it’s ok to sexualize children. And then, even more confusing, when child stars grow up to have “rebellious” stages or revel in their sexuality, it’s seen as obscene and that the star has “gone bad.”
Miley Cyrus is a prime example. In her Disney Channel Hannah Montana days, she was sweet and innocent. And also had adult men crushing on her. But then fast forward to her Wrecking Ball, bleached blonde, grinding on Robin Thicke at the VMAs days, and she’s “gone too far!” “She’s a slut!” “She’s disgusting!”
This is a genuine face palm moment. Which is it? What do you want from her? Can she only be “sexy” if it’s on the general public’s terms? Does taking control of her own sexuality somehow make her disgusting?
This same kind of double standard has happened over and over again with child stars as they are sexualized and exploited at such a young age and then when they become adults and they lash out against their past treatment or spiral into addiction or some other unfortunate coping mechanism, they’re rejected. The collective tide of public love turns to scorn when what made them famous in the first place (i.e. their singing, acting, dancing, creative ability) hasn’t changed at all. Suddenly they are seen as ungrateful for the fame that the public has bestowed upon them. (In fact, this is happening already as Finn Wolfhard was shamed for not interacting with fans outside of his hotel). They are throwing away the privileges that their celebrity has given them. And they are betraying their greatest fans.
I suppose it might be that I just don’t understand the kind of ownership that fans feel for actors, movies, books, etc. That because there is a collective love for something that they’ve taken part in, then the people who benefit from it (i.e. authors, actors, screenwriters, directors, artists, etc) are somehow indebted to those fans. And they should take whatever is thrown at them like being a sex symbol at 13 or being expected to fawn over all your fans all the time even if they’re skulking around outside your hotel when they shouldn’t be there.
The Stranger Things Kids are just kids. They’re children who landed incredible roles and are wonderful young actors and have become part of a pop-culture phenomenon. But please, let’s protect them as best we can. Let’s not sexualize them. Let’s not demand they interact with us if it’s not at a sponsored event where that’s the main purpose. (And even then, remember to respect boundaries because they’re still humans who sometimes are sick or having a bad day and aren’t functioning at 100% all the time.)
Instead, why don’t we embrace these fun and full-of-life kids for all their quirks and cute teenageness. And hope they can have somewhat normal and successful adult lives not marred by the shadows of too-quick childhood fame. That’s the least we could do for these little actors who’ve brought so much bingeable goodness into our homes, right?