Oversexualised: Before Millie Bobby Brown, there was Natalie Portman and the Olsen twins and Mara Wilson too
‘Stranger Things’ star Millie Bobby Brown recently responded to ‘gross’ comments made about her coming of age… but she’s not the only one to have dealt with such perverse public attention.
A couple of weeks ago, trolls revealed that they had started a timer literally counting down the days until they could legally sexualise Stranger Things star, Millie Bobby Brown.
Part of the dark side of the internet – the part that would make you want to hole up in a cave and never speak to another human being ever again – it’s the kind of thing that keeps parents up at night, afraid to go to sleep for fear of what will haunt their dreams… or perhaps nightmares would be a better choice of word here.
As Millie herself recently put it, “it’s gross”. Just trying to navigate life as best she can, the actor has already had to face much more in her 18-years than most of her peers ever will and yes, it can be really overwhelming.
“Being liked and trying to fit in, it’s all a lot, and you’re trying to [know] yourself while doing that,” Millie explained on The Guilty Feminist podcast. “The only difference is obviously I’m doing that in the public eye.”
Criticising the press and social media for adding to that burden, Brown confirmed that there’s been a noticeable shift in how she’s been treated since her last birthday in February. “I have definitely been dealing with that more in the last couple weeks of turning 18. [I’m] definitely seeing a difference between the way people act and the way the press and social media react to me coming of age.”
“I believe that shouldn’t change anything, but it’s gross and it’s true. It’s just a very good representation of what’s going on in the world and how young girls are sexualised. So, I have been dealing with that, but I have also been dealing with that for forever.”
Also speaking on the topic around the time of her 16th birthday, Brown admitted that “the last few years haven’t been easy”. “There are moments I get frustrated from the inaccuracy, inappropriate comments, sexualisation, and unnecessary insults that ultimately have resulted in pain and insecurity for me,” she wrote in an Instagram post at the time.
“But not ever will I be defeated. I’ll continue doing what I love and spreading the message in order to make change.”
Two years later and she’s still having to do the same thing. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one to have dealt with such attention either. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were the subject of similar countdowns before they turned 18 in the early naughties. As was Natalie Portman who said that her local radio show started a timer ticking off the days until she “would be legal to sleep with”.
“Being sexualised as a child, I think, took away from my own sexuality, because it made me afraid,” she told Dax Shepherd on his Armchair Expert podcast.
“But at that age, you do have your own sexuality, and you do have your own desire, and you do want to explore things, and you do want to be open. But you don’t feel safe, necessarily, when there’s, like, older men that are interested, and you’re like, ‘No, no, no, no,’” she explained.
Last February, Matilda star Mara Wilson penned a New York Times essay titled “The lies Hollywood tells about little girls” on the topic. “Britney Spears and I learned the same lesson growing up,” the op-ed begins. “When you’re young and famous, there is no such thing as control.”
Later down in the article, Mara states that she “had already been sexualised anyway”. “And I hated it,” she continued. “I mostly acted in family movies – the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, Matilda, Mrs Doubtfire. I never appeared in anything more revealing than a knee-length sundress. This was all intentional: My parents thought I would be safer that way. But it didn’t work.
“People had been asking me, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ in interviews since I was 6. Reporters asked me who I thought the sexiest actor was and about Hugh Grant’s arrest for soliciting a prostitute. It was cute when 10-year-olds sent me letters saying they were in love with me. It was not when 50-year-old men did. Before I even turned 12, there were images of me on foot fetish websites and photoshopped into child pornography. Every time, I felt ashamed,” she admitted.
“Hollywood has resolved to tackle harassment in the industry, but I was never sexually harassed on a film set. My sexual harassment always came at the hands of the media and the public,” she pointed out, later adding that there’s often an assumption that “famous kids deserve this. They asked for this by becoming famous and entitled, so it’s fine to attack them.”
If Mara’s recollection of events sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Hers is not an isolated experience and history is repeating itself with Millie Bobby Brown.