Stranger Things, Finn Wolfhard and the web’s insistence on sexualising kids

If you were on the internet during Harry Potter‘s prime, you may know that, among the children developing crushes on Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, were adults eagerly and openly counting down to when the young stars would reach the legal age of consent.

The same can be said for Hillary Duff, the Olsen twins, Lindsay Lohan. And today, over a decade after those stars aged into consenting human beings, the Stranger Things kids are enduring more of the same.

On 30 October, 27-year-old model Ali Michael posted to her Instagram story that 14-year-old actor Finn Wolfhard should contact her in four years, when he could engage in consenting sexual activity in the US.

Michael received significant outrage for ostensibly sexualising the minor and implying that the only thing stopping her from engaging with him sexually is written law. She eventually apologised, citing the “tongue-in-cheek” humour that often accompanies her Instagram stories.

“It was never my intention (nor has it ever been) to sexualize a minor in any way shape or form,” she wrote in a statement to Teen Vogue. “To those I offended or misled, I apologise for a post made in haste and lacking in sensitivity, particularly considering the landscape of the present culture.”

In a video procured by TMZ, a man at an airport asked Wolfhard what he thought of the debacle — seemingly not considering that asking a 14-year-old what he thought of being sexualised may be just as inappropriate.

“Yeah, that was nuts. That was gross,” an exhausted-sounding Wolfhard said. He eventually ended the topic with a placating “It’s fine”.

While many posted support for the actor online, the video also garnered responses that questioned a teenage boy’s disinterest in a good-looking older woman.

But Michael isn’t the only one guilty of sexualising the minor. Another popular tweet questions what’s in Wolfhard’s drinking water, and at the San Diego Comic Con, comedian Patton Oswalt introduces him as “an actor born with the greatest porn name ever”.

Another viral video showed adult men waiting for Wolfhard outside hotels. When he offered only a passing “hey”, the group called him rude.

A tweet by @chandlerborrero, whose account has since been locked, questioned why a 14-year-old wouldn’t take time out of the day for the fans who they say made him famous.

While not necessarily sexual in nature, the video points to how many view Wolfhard as an actor first and a child second. Sadly, his costars aren’t immune from this treatment either.

Millie Bobbie Brown, the 13-year-old actress who plays Eleven, has also been the subject of a weird sexual gaze by the media and online. In an issue of W, the magazine lists Brown as one of the reasons TV is “sexier than ever”.

A video of Brown modelling at a photoshoot was titled “lewd” on YouTube. Another video advertises that she’s wearing a swimsuit. Many of the comments reference masturbation.

The internet offers a safe haven for pedophiles. Every day, searches for child porn direct readers to this site, where we reported on YouTube star Austin Jones’ admission to soliciting videos from underage fans, as well as a viral video of child porn (which Memeburn did not post).

It begs the question: If pedophiles feel safe openly searching their perverted fantasies, why would others who find young stars attractive not feel the same expressing it?

We as a society have not succeeded in creating a culture that fully condemns this behaviour, and until we do, children will remain vulnerable.

Just ask Emma Watson. Or Lindsay Lohan. Or Finn Wolfhard in four years.

Featured image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0, resized)



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