MATILDA’s Mara Wilson Calls Out Hollywood, Media for Sexualizing Child Stars

Photo from Mara Wilson’s Instagram

MATILDA’s Mara Wilson Calls Out Hollywood, Media for Sexualizing Child Stars

By Movieguide® Staff

Actress Mara Wilson is best known for her child star roles in MATILDA, MRS. DOUBTFIRE, and the 1994 remake of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. Since she’s drastically limited her roles as she grew up, the 33-year-old reflected on Hollywood and the media’s perpetual sexualization of children.

In a recent op-ed published by the New York Times, Wilson revealed that she was objectified and sexualized from her earliest roles in Hollywood.

“My parents thought I would be safer that way,” Wilson wrote of starting in the industry as a child. “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 [actor] Hugh Grant’s arrest for soliciting a prostitute.”

Wilson also noted that she did not experience sexual harassment on set but rather from the media and the general public.

“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.”

Wilson continued, “Hollywood has resolved to tackle harassment in the industry,” Wilson said, referring to the #MeToo movement. “But I was never sexually harassed on a film set. My sexual harassment always came at the hands of the media and the public.”

However, Wilson’s said that the media took advantage of her while she was a child star in other ways that weren’t sexual.

Wilson recalled her 13th birthday in July 2000. Wilson was on a press tour in Toronto to promote THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD, and a journalist asked the young actress how she was feeling.

Wilson decided to be honest about working on her birthday, which she now sees as “one of the biggest mistakes of my life.”

“I don’t know why I opened up to her,” Wilson said. “But I had never been good at hiding my feelings. … And she seemed like she really cared. The next day, Canada’s newspaper of record put me on the front page of its entertainment section. The article began, ‘The interview hasn’t even begun with Mara Wilson, Child Star, and she’s complaining to her staff.’

“The article went on to describe me as a ‘spoiled brat’ who was now ‘at midlife,'” Wilson added. “It described the dark paths child stars like me often went down. It embraced what I now refer to as ‘The Narrative,’ the idea that anyone who grew up in the public eye will meet some tragic end.”

Although Wilson notices societal shifts in the right direction, she notes that there is irreversible damage caused by sexualization in media.

Movieguide® Founder and Publisher Dr. Ted Baehr wrote about the sexual saturation in the media in his book, The Screen-Wise Family.

Baehr writes:

It is very important for families to understand that destructive sexual content is not just found in sleazy sex shops. Research has shown that the exposure of randomly selected male college students to sexually suggestive R-rated theatrical movies increases their aggressive behavior toward women and decreases both male and female sensitivity to rape and the plight of the victim. After viewing this type of material, both males and females judge a female rape victim to be less injured, less worthy and more responsible for her own plight.[viii]

Extensive research has been conducted on the aggressive pornography to be found in R-rated films. These movies are easily accessible to teenagers. Many of these movies are broadcast on cable TV. Many such movies show scantily clothed or nude females in sexually arousing situations being attacked, raped, tortured, etc. The research shows that male viewers can be conditioned by watching these movies into associating sexual arousal with inflicting injury, rape, humiliation, or torture on females. As Dr. Cline has noted, “Where these films are available on videotapes (which most are), these can be repeatedly viewed in the privacy of one’s residence and masturbated to with the associated risks of negative or antisocial conditioning noted above.”[ix]

This study, of course, has been made all the more frightening by the growth of internet pornography. As the internet grew from being merely a service for sending text data by modem into the primary video delivery method for the mass media of entertainment, its use for spreading pornography has become ubiquitous. The quantity, and high definition quality of, pornography has exploded and one of the results has been a growth in human sex slave trafficking. As the number of men driven to the depths of pornography soars, so too does the demand for “something more.”

Furthermore, Baehr states:

Movies and other mass media of entertainment present lust as love with one night sexual relationships, tedious ordeals, endless battles, or perverted activity. This desecration of love should be an anathema to God’s people.

KIDS suggests that promiscuous sex posing as love is acceptable among young teenage children. 50 SHADES OF GREY depicts sado-masochism as appropriate and even enticing. WAR OF THE ROSESsuggests that marriage is war. MAGIC MIKE depicts hedonistic, promiscuous lust as a fulfilling lifestyle. THE SHAPE OF WATER promotes the idea that lust, including bestiality, should be expressed openly, without shame. In MOTHER!, traditional heterosexual marriage is depicted as a sad, emotionally abusive situation for women. The Disney movie RUTHLESS PEOPLE has the husband trying to murder his wife, while the wife is trying to blackmail the husband. In CRIMSON PEAK, parental neglect leads to a justification for incestuous lust. PHILADELPHIA, BOOKSMART, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, BIRDCAGE, and LOVE, SIMON present homosexual lust as love.

Many horror movies capture an audience by luring them with the thought of forbidden lust, such as necrophilia (fornication with the dead) and bestiality (fornication with animals).

However, horror movies and other mass media of entertainment are not the only entertainment that extol forbidden fruit. The Disney comedy SPLASH lifts up bestiality in a humorous way by having the hero fall in love with a mermaid. Bestiality is not funny, hurts the animals and is condemned by God.

Many movies suggest, or even promote, the idea of sex with a child.

But there is hope.

In 1995, there were 36 movies produced that had excessive sexual content. These films earned on average less than $1 million at the box office. By 2018 the number made dropped to 15. Only six of these were made by the major studios. Movies with excessive sex averaged one-fifth the box office of movies with no sex whatsoever. Also, movies with no homosexual content totaled $7.9 billion at the domestic box office, while movies with strong homosexual content totaled only $0.6 billion. In part as the result of Movieguide®’s Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry the major studios are learning sex does not sell as well in theaters as was once so strongly believed. There are  exceptions such as FIFTY SHADES OF GREY that create controversy, gain free publicity and attract an audience, but for the most part sex scenes reduce box office in stories with more to offer than naked bodies.

Sadly, that’s not the full story. Internet pornography is pervasive and privacy is preferred when seeking sexual stimulation.

It is best to check Movieguide® for such content when trying to protect children. Such imagery can have a strong demonic appeal.