Mara Wilson knows a thing — or several — about being a child actor: The now 30-year-old starred in Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and Matilda before she turned 10. And in an essay for Elle, she writes about the experience of being sexualized as a young actress and how we need to stop perpetuating that trend.
“As soon as I’d hit puberty, it had become okay for strangers to discuss my body,” she writes. “Every time I stumbled across an article about myself, every fear I had about my pubescent body was confirmed: I was ‘ugly,’ which as a woman, made me useless, or I was ‘cute,’ which made me an object. I was ‘grown up,’ which made me vulnerable. Because I was a child actor, my body was public domain.”
She then praises the child actors of Netflix’s Stranger Things and laments the way people talk about 13-year-old star Millie Bobby Brown, pointing out a picture of her from the season 2 premiere that a grown man later tweeted with the caption, “She just grew up in front of our eyes.”
“Commenting on a child’s body, whether in a ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ way, in a sexualizing or pitying way, is still commenting on a child’s body,” Wilson says.
She concludes the essay by calling for not just the media, but everyone to think about what they say about children before they say it: “It’s never a bad idea to assume whoever you discuss on the internet can and will see what you say about them, and this is doubly true of children,” she writes. “We — the public, the media — are all grown up. We just need to act like it.”
Read Wilson’s full essay here.