'Matilda' Star Mara Wilson Calls Out Disturbing Trend of 'Sexualizing' Child Actors

Mara Wilson
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Mara Wilson is imploring people to reevaluate the way they think and talk about child actors.

The former child star -- who came to fame with roles in films like Matilda and Miracle on 34th Street -- recently penned a forceful editorial for Elle.com, in which she got candid about the perverse sexual objectification directed at young performers in Hollywood -- a troubling trend she became familiar with early in her life.

"Even before I was out of middle school, I had been featured on foot fetish websites, photoshopped into child porn, and received all kinds of letters and messages online from grown men," wrote the actress, who is now 30. 

"At every premiere and awards show, I would see strange men holding photos of me they’d printed themselves, hoping I would sign, and I would, hoping they were going to sell it somewhere and not keep it," she added.

Wilson -- who made her big screen debut at the age of five in Mrs. Doubtfire --  explained that the sexualization she experienced evolved into grotesque criticism and discussion of her physical appearance when she became a teenager.

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"As soon as I’d hit puberty, it had become okay for strangers to discuss my body. 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," Wilson recalled. "Because I was a child actor, my body was public domain."

Memories of her objectification and the inappropriate attention directed at her appearance were stirred recently, when she saw photos of Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown at a premiere for the hit Netflix series' second season.

"I saw a photo of her on Twitter, dressed up for a premiere. I thought she looked like a teenage girl. The caption, however, read that, at 13, she 'just grew up in front of our eyes.' It had been tweeted by a grown man," Wilson shared.

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"I felt sick, and then I felt furious," she wrote. "A 13-year-old girl is not all grown up. And even if she had been what we consider grown up, that is not newsworthy."

Wilson went on to explain how nearly all commentary critiquing Brown's appearance were overtly inappropriate -- whether it came from those saying that she "looks so old" or those who blamed Brown's parents.

"Her outfit had been flattering, and I’d seen more revealed at a 1997 Girl Scout Father-Daughter Dance. And even if she had been dressed in a 'revealing' way, what would it matter?" Wilson shared. "The implication was that if a young girl in the public eye showed anything that could even possibly be construed as an expression of her sexuality, she would be an acceptable target for scorn or harassment."

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As for those blaming Brown's parents for her red carpet appearance, the actress broke down how those comments are actually attempts to shift the blame of objectifying a minor.

"Saying what amounts to, 'If she didn’t want to be sexualized, her parents should not have dressed her that way,' takes the responsibility away from the one doing the sexualizing," she explained. "It wouldn't be unacceptable for an adult to comment on the body of a 13-year-old girl they knew. So why do these adults make pronouncements about the body of a 13-year-old girl they have never met?"

"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 added.

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Wilson -- who mostly retired from acting in 2000 and now focuses primarily on writing -- also briefly addressed the massive sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked Hollywood in recently weeks, in which dozens of powerful show business figures have been accused of sexual harassment and abuse.

"My position, as someone who grew up in and near Hollywood, has always been that it isn’t necessarily immoral, but amoral," she reflected. "When actors are dehumanized, objectified, seen as bankable resources rather than people, this makes for an extreme imbalance of power. And no one loves an imbalance of power more than a predator."

The list of Hollywood stars who have been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment over the last months has continued to grow, seemingly every day. Watch the video below for more on the ongoing scandal.