Stranger Still: The Sexualisation of Children

Stranger Things Season 2 premiered on October 27 to an excited audience worldwide, who immediately took to platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to express their glee. It was an amazing season and I absolutely loved it. What I didn’t love was the ensuing comments that came out following its release, sexualising the young actors that work on this spectacular show.

Finn Wolfhard was one such actor that received the most harassment, with celebrities upwards of Age 20 tweeting and posting disturbing things on social media. For instance, Ali Michael, a 27 year-old model posted a image of Wolfhard to her Instagram story, telling him to “hit [her] up in 4 years”, prefacing that by saying this wasn’t meant “to be weird”. It was weird though, there’s no getting around that. Many people called her out on this blatant sexual harassment of an underage teenager, most notably Wolfhard himself, calling her behaviour  “gross”.

She subsequently apologised, of course, stating that it was “never [her] intention (nor has it ever been) to sexualise a minor in any way, shape or form”, referring to her posts and humour as usually “tongue-in-cheek”, which was apparently what that post was meant to be.

Even worse was makeup-artist Jaclyn Hill’s reaction to Stranger Things 2. After she finished watching the show, she tweeted her “thoughts”, which was that it had given her a “lady boner”. Immediate backlash ensued, quite rightly. Many believed her to be sexualising children and directing a crude and disgusting comment towards the actors of the show. She didn’t apologise, really, but merely stated that it was “a joke” and that that comment was not at all directed at the under-18 actors of the show but rather the adults in it instead. Hill also told those that called her out that it was them that had awful minds for even thinking she could be directing the statement at the children at all.

Saying that your comments were a joke rather than addressing your inherent issues in sexualising children isn’t really acceptable though. Whether or not either Michael’s or Hill’s comments were meant as a joke isn’t the point here. It’s about perception, not intent. Intending not to be racist but making a racist comment still makes you racist. Furthermore, even if Hill did direct the comment towards those on the show that are over-18, it doesn’t make what she said any more okay. Saying that someone on a TV show gave you a “lady-boner” is strange and awful and should really be a thought you keep to yourself.

While these were high-profile cases involving comments made by well-known people, there have been many instances of people sexualising the Stranger Things kids on social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users alike have been tagging Finn Wolfhard in posts and saying things like “be my baby daddy” as well as expressing their feelings through some crude emojis. There has been incredible backlash from others stating that the actors are children and should not be sexualised in such a way from people much older than them. And they’re right. It must be awful to be a young actor and treated in such a manner.

They now must evaluate their actions and make sure that they don’t express what borders on paedophillic harassment in the future. Everyone needs to realise that these are children. Despite being actors, they do not have to submit themselves to the public. They should be given a chance to be children, not sexualised or treated as if they were adults.

By Michele Theil

Michele Theil is a freelance journalist based in London, specialising in investigative journalism and pieces relating to the LGBT+ community, women, race and culture – and their intersections. She is a bisexual woman of colour, and passionate about social justice, diversity, inclusion, writing, reading and swimming. Read her other work at micheletheil.com.

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