Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard has been at the centre of a deeply unpleasant media storm

Grown Adults are Sexualising the Child Stars of ‘Stranger Things’, and it Needs to Stop

Karibu Staff Film/TV

The Creeping Trend of Sexualising Child Actors is Deeply Concerning, and Certain Media Organisations Need to Clean up their Act

At the age of just 14, talented actor Finn Wolfhard has the world at his feet. In the past year, he has had a prominent role in the remake of Steven King’s It, and is now arguably the main character in Netflix’s flagship original series Stranger Things. By anyone’s standards, you’d say that life was good for the teenager. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he has recently been at the centre of a deeply unpleasant media storm, and subsequently exposed to the dark side of global fame.

Last week, a 27 year-old model by the name of Ali Michael featured a photo of Wolfhard on her Instagram story with the caption “not to be weird but hit me up in four years”, presumably inferring a sexual attraction to the minor.

The post received widespread condemnation, and the model has since apologised. “It was completely absolutely a joke but I understand that people have been offended by it. It was wrong to joke about and I apologise,” she said. “I do not want Mike from Stranger Things to call me. I hope this clear things up.” Despite the attempt to pass it off as a ‘joke’, when it comes to effectively sexualising children, it’s hard to see what the punchline is. Still, there was at least an acknowledgement that the post was unacceptable. If this were a single, isolated incident, perhaps we could move on. Disturbingly, it would appear that the model is not alone in her desires.

https://twitter.com/hamburgerphone/status/925566299912028160

The problem with these sentiments is so obvious that it barely needs to be stated. The boy is fourteen years old; a minor. Not only that, he doesn’t even look his age. He literally looks like a child. Because that’s exactly what he is. Why on earth would an adult think it was acceptable to express their attraction to a child? It also begs the question of what the consequences would be if grown men were openly lusting after 14 year-old girls in the same way.

Wolfhard gave his thoughts on the incident in a very brief video interview with TMZ, in which he described the post as “gross”, adding “That’s good that she apologised. It’s weird but… I mean, I don’t know. It’s fine.” While Finn is handling the situation in an impressively mature manner, and seems keen to move on, it’s still important for us to explore why the model’s post, and others like it, are so important to address.

A Wider Problem

When it comes to this disturbing trend, Finn is not alone. Stranger things co-star Millie Bobby Brown was featured on the cover of W Magazine under the heading ‘Why TV is Sexier than Ever’ alongside names like Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgård, and James Franco. Millie Bobby Brown is just 13 years old. She was born in 2004. Her inclusion, therefore, is at best a glaring editorial mistake; at worst an indication of something much more sinister.

Reassuringly, outrage over this particular incident was widespread and swift, with countless Twitter users expressing their disgust at her inclusion:

To make things worse, the same magazine recently included the same child actress in one of their online galleries entitled “11 Actors Who Prove TV Has Never Been Hotter”. In a response piece on their website, Affinity Magazine went as far as claiming that W were “Promoting Pedophilia”. Still, despite universal condemnation, W don’t seem to have got the message. To the best of our knowledge, no formal apology has been issued for Millie’s inclusion on the cover. Not only that, W seem to have doubled down on their transgression by publishing an article on another Stranger Things star Sadie Sink, in which they describe the 15 year-old as “infatuating”. All of this asks serious questions of the organisation’s editorial staff, their motivations, and their moral compass (or lack thereof).

😘🙏@wmag

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W Magazine rightly joined in the universal condemnation of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, publishing dozens of articles on the subject. Still, how can an organisation such as theirs take a moral highground on anything, given their track record of deeply inappropriate coverage of child actors?

The problem runs much deeper than one questionable media outlet, or one model’s Instagram post. The disturbing trend is even more reprehensible in the context of the current climate of sexual harassment allegations.  If Hollywood is indeed a cesspool of predatory sexual behaviour, then they need to be protected more than anyone else. Child actors are the most vulnerable group in the industry. Any sexual intent towards them, however subtle, however indirect, needs to be called out and rejected in the strongest possible terms.

Alexander James