By Siobhan Brew
Media personality Paris Hilton has recently been criticised over leaving a comment on actress Millie Bobby Brown’s picture. Brown is best known for her role as ‘Eleven’ in the Netflix show Stranger Things and has a total of 30.3 million followers on Instagram. She is 15, but by no means the youngest on the platform, nor in the industry. She can easily be idolised for her talents and success and is a role model for any young actor with the dream of Hollywood lights. Not living the typical teenage life, the red-carpet photos and selfies in full glam, a person could easily get the expression that Brown is not as young as she is, which can be problematic. It brings into question the danger of putting such young people in the limelight. Brown’s account is on public because of the industry she finds herself in, but it leaves her susceptible to unwelcomed comments.
The actress uploaded a photo that shows her in a thin strapped pink and black dress with the caption “same dress but v different day”, which has over 6.6 million likes. Just as with any other post, the comments are filled with compliments from fans and alike towards the actress; model Elle MacPherson commented “Belle” while fan account @milliesmonster commented “you’re UNREAL”. Amongst the top comments is from Paris Hilton, commenting “That’s hot”, which people were quick to attack, including actress Evan Rachel Wood reminding Hilton that “she’s 15”.
Wood was not the only one with an opinion. People expressed their disbelief at the comment and reminded her of Brown’s age before telling her to “calm down”. Another commenter warned Hilton about her compliment, explaining that Brown is “not one of your mature friends”. Others recognised the words to be Hilton’s catchphrase from her reality star past, telling people to “chill”.
One comment in particular stood out: “now imagine a guy saying this”. In 2018, Lake Schatz at Consequence of Sound wrote about the friendship between Brown and rapper Drake. 14 at the time, Brown talked how they would text regularly and that she loved him, calling him “a great friend and a great role model”. However, people felt uncomfortable with the age gap and felt the friendship was inappropriate, especially because Drake has had a history with dating younger women.
Brown is not the only one to gain unwelcome attention. In 2017, her Stranger Things co-star Finn Wolfhard was the subject of American model Ali Michael’s Instagram story. According to Maya Oppenheim of Independent, the 27-year-old posted a picture of then 14-year-old Wolfhard with the caption “not to be weird but hit me up in four years”. The caption also received extreme backlash, including some addressing the age gap and asking what would happen if a man of Michael’s age had said that about a 14-year-old girl, and the model apologised, having understood the response.
Another case is 17-year-old Billie Eilish, who is easily identified for her wearing of oversized baggy clothes. In her Calvin Klein ad in 2019, Eilish says she wears baggy clothes so people cannot have an opinion on her body “because they haven’t seen what’s underneath”, combating the sexualisation of people in the industry. When a picture of her in a tank top went viral, she talked about the unhealthy obsession towards the image and the idea of women’s bodies being objectified, telling Hannah Gold of The Cut that it makes her mad that she was being slut-shamed for her body, stating: “I’m gonna be a woman. I wanna show my body.”
While it is great to see young people living a dream life and support them in doing so, it is important to be respectful. Finding themselves in such industries forces them to grow up just a little quicker, but they are still young teenagers at the end of the day. It is also important to remember it is not the fault of Brown for her choice in clothing or makeup, nor Eilish for her body. A comment like Hilton’s, though a compliment, could have easily been rephrased to hold less connotations, and with all the negativity she faces now, it is good to see that people are not willing to take these comments towards minors as ‘normal’.