TV should not sexualize underage characters

Hollywood should not sexualize underage characters

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

People often joke about how teenagers in TV shows and movies don’t actually look like teenagers. Because of child labor laws limiting work hours, sometimes people over 18 to play high school-aged characters. However, this should not give TV an excuse to over sexualize its underage characters. 

It is sometimes debated as to whether they’re necessary to feature sex scenes in media or not. Sometimes a sex scene may be important to the plot or to character development, but that doesn’t mean an actress’ breasts have to be shown onscreen. 

In the HBO show “Euphoria,” Sydney Sweeney’s chest is shown multiple times when her character is in high school. Many actors, even if they are over 18, still look very young and so it can feel very uncomfortable to see what is supposed to be a minor naked.

These scenes also show these characters in a sexual manner, making the audience look at a fictional minor in a sexual view, which is just strange. 

It’s obviously not a crime but it brings up the question of why. Some filmmakers like “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson may need to ask themselves if every breast shot is necessary. 

In fact, Sweeney has spoken up about how she has had to tell Levinson that some nude scenes are unnecessary. Thankfully, she claims he doesn’t pressure her, but it does beg the question of why he writes so many nude scenes for her character.

Several actresses from “Euphoria” have talked about feeling uncomfortable with some of the nudity on the show. This isn’t surprising as many of them, while over 18, are still young. While young actors may agree to something, they may not feel empowered to stand up for themselves. 

Many actors from the show “Skins” were very young when they were cast and while of legal age, barely over 18, they were still very young while having to do sex scenes. Some of the actors feel traumatized due to the sexual content they were supposed to portray at a young age. 

This is the case with many actors like Emilia Clarke who has spoken about bad experiences with nude scenes on set during “Game of Thrones.” Clarke, who was in her early 20s felt like she couldn’t speak up about her needs on set. 

It is because of situations like Clarke’s that HBO began hiring intimacy coordinators. In fact, intimacy coordinators are becoming a new standard in television productions. Intimacy coordinators act as advocates for actors when it comes to nudity and sex scenes. They choreograph intimacy, assure that sets are closed for these sensitive scenes and overall just make sure actors are comfortable. 

It’s good that studios are using intimacy coordinators now as this can prevent actors from traumatizing experiences. However, when characters are underage there usually doesn’t need to be a bunch of simulated sex scenes. 

It’s very possible to convey that two characters are having sex without showing a bunch of their body parts. At the end of the day, a lot of nudity and sex scenes of underage characters are unnecessary. 

If a show wants to show a lot of nudity and gratuitous sex scenes, it can be about adults. Writing a show about teenagers and having a bunch of sex scenes brings up the question of why one wants to show sixteen-year-olds in that light. 

To preserve young actors’ safety and avoid the audience looking at teenagers in a sexual light, television should stop sexualizing underage characters onscreen. 

Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]

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