Remember 2016? I know! It may feel like eons ago, but if you look back, you'll be able to recall one of the biggest moments of the year, which came right after Stranger Things was released on Netflix. If you were like me and many other people, you binged at least most of that first season either in a day or a weekend, and couldn't wait to get to Season 2. The young cast of mostly unknown child actors were thrust into the spotlight, but now star Natalia Dyer is revealing her issues with them being over-sxualized in the media.
Caleb McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, and Gaten Matarazzo were all expertly cast as the core group of pre-teens in Season 1 of Stranger Things, and the immediate (and enduring) success of the show has opened up a lot of opportunities for them. But, along with all the awards, interviews, movie offers and meetings with fans, their co-star Natalia Dyer (who plays older sibling Nancy to Wolfhard's Mike) has seen some of them be over-sexualized, and she is definitely not on board with that. Speaking with The Independent, Dyer said:
There are so many layers going on here. I generally feel like, to me, it’s oversexualising them. I feel protective over the younger kids even though they’re not kids anymore, they’re teens. They’re all great people and all having to grow up in very crazy circumstances. As a private person, I just feel like, leave people alone – unless you’re talking about their work or what they want to talk about. It’s a very tricky and complex issue. [Sexualizing younger actors is] a cultural issue, there must be a bigger concept behind it as to why. Just let people be the people that they are, without any judgement.
While Wolfhard has come out to talk about the suggestive messages he's gotten from adult fans, and that's certainly a big and disturbing issue, the media has also played a very unfortunate part in legitimizing the treatment of these kids as sex objects. As you might imagine, this has especially been an issue for Millie Bobby Brown.
In 2017, Brown did an interview with W Magazine, and was then listed on the magazine's cover as one of the reasons "why TV is sexier than ever." The same publication still has an online gallery up which lists Brown as one of 13 actors "who prove that television has never been hotter." And, lest you think that gallery is all about who had a hot career at the time, it will be obvious once you look at all the photos (which feature several scantily clad and / or sexily posed actresses while most of the men are fully clothed / allowed to look like regular guys) that it's about sex appeal.
Luckily, after the W cover was revealed, many people took the magazine to task on social media for having the nerve to feature a 13-year-old girl when talking about who's sexy, and Brown herself has opened up about being sexualized and getting inappropriate comments in the years since her star began to rise, with an Instagram post which celebrated her birthday earlier this year.
As Dyer said, she feels protective over her younger castmates on Stranger Things, and even though she didn't grow up in the spotlight (Dyer nabbed her role while a 20-year-old college student), it does make sense. She still realizes how tough growing up can be, in general, and knows how much scrutiny all of the kids have on them right now, and, for the girls in the cast, knows what pressures there likely are to be / act / dress a certain way to play up sex appeal. It's true that this is a cultural issue we still need to figure out, along with so many others.
Natalia Dyer and her young co-stars seem to have a good handle on where the lines are with this issue, so let's hope that they can all keep their wits about them as Stranger Things continues. The hit horror series will be back for Season 4 at some point, but no release date has been set yet. To see what's coming in the next few weeks, be sure to check out our fall TV premiere schedule!