If there's anyone who knows what it's like to grow up in the spotlight, it's Mara Wilson. So when Stranger Things 2 premiered alongside a rash of inappropriate comments sexualizing the child actors, she was one of the first to speak out via Twitter, saying that "It does not feel good to have strange men comment on your body when you are 13, whether in a 'positive' or 'negative' way."
Now, she's penned an article for Elle relating the kids' experiences to her own, and some of the revelations are harrowing.
"Even before I was out of middle school, I had been featured on foot fetish websites, photoshopped into child porn, and received all kinds of letters and messages online from grown men. At every premiere and awards show, I would see strange men holding photos of me they’d printed themselves, hoping I would sign, and I would, hoping they were going to sell it somewhere and not keep it," she reveals. She's particularly disturbed by the reaction to pictures of Millie Bobby Brown at the season premiere, stating she felt "sick, and then [she] felt furious."
She goes on to elaborate on how this is not the fault of the stylists (because teenage girls should be allowed to look and feel as they please,) nor is it the fault of her parents (because claiming we know someone's home situation when we don't is ridiculous.) It's not even, according to Wilson, the fault of Hollywood, necessarily. Rather, it's the fault of the pervasive notion in popular media that we should sexualize young people, in particular young girls. This opens them up for predation.
Wilson writes of predators: "Child stars are seen as theirs: their property, their fantasy. Predators can fetishize 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."
It's an essay that's absolutely worth a read, written by someone who has experienced it firsthand. You can read the rest of it here.