Student Issues

Stranger Things & The Dangerous Sexualization of Child Stars

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard of Netflix’s smash hit original series, Stranger Things. Even if you don’t watch the show yourself, you’ll have been made aware of the stellar success that Netflix, the cast and crew members have been enjoying from it since season one launched last year. Everyone who watches it is obessed – but somewhere down the line, healthy obsessions from some fans have turned into unhealthy behaviour.

To put things into context, Stranger Things central themes and storylines are heavily based around pre-teens. Yes, there are dominant adult characters who are crucial to the plot, but it’s main focus is entirely on the young characters Mike, Eleven, Dustin, Lucas and Will. Noah Schnapp, who plays Will, is the youngest of these having turned 13 in October and Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas, is the oldest – but yet he is still only 16. The kids in the show mirror real life – they are just kids.

And while many people may shrug the fact that they’re kids off as it’s stating the obvious, the sad truth is that as of recently this statement needs to be reinforced. There is plenty of evidence with just one simple search on Twitter to see that these young and credible actors are being grossly and uncomfortably sexualised by fans of the show.

The sexualisation of this talented cast all boils down to the obsessive culture surrounding the show. Everyone knows what it’s like to be obsessed with a show, actor, musician or band. It’s normal. There is a hype and everyone suddenly climbs aboard the bandwagon. In 2002 it was Britney Spears. In 2009 it was Glee. In 2013, it was One Direction. And while it can be fun for people to obsess over something or someone, it can also be all-consuming and that’s when things turn unhealthy and inappropriate.

And while all the young cast members have been victimised by this gross behaviour on social media, Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike, has sadly been subjected to the most. Wolfhard is an astounding young actor, and also played Richie in It, which in turn has given him plenty of attention worldwide for appearing in both the TV show and film of the year. The most famous example is when 27-year-old model Ali Michael shared a photo of him on social media with the caption “not to be weird but hit me up in four years”.

He is 14.

To make matters worse, paparazzi pressed him with questions about how he felt about the comment, failing to recognise that they were asking a young teenager an inappropriate question.

When appearing on webseries Game Grumps, Wolfhard was introduced as having the “greatest porn name ever.” At a panel during the San Diego Comic Con he had to plea with people to stop calling him “daddy.” This is absolutely disgusting and unacceptable from an outsider’s point of view, without even considering how he must feel. Wolfhard hasn’t even fully emotionally matured himself, and with everything else fame brings, how is he meant to comprehend this inappropriate attention?

People of all ages get obsessions and crushes all the time. It’s part and parcel of life. Is this the reason the Stranger Things cast have been exposed to a high level of inappropriatene behaviour and attention from fans of the show? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that. Does that make it okay then? Absolutely not.

Being catapulted into fame is hard enough to deal with as a child actor, and the added worry and confusion surrounding sexual nature is not something they should have to deal with at this point in their lives. They still have a lot of growing up to do. They are not physically and emotionally mature. To anyone who even thinks of them in an inappropriate manner let alone say it, leave them alone.

They’re kids.