When You’re A Tween Starlet, Everyone Wants You To Have Sex

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So apparently Disney is on the hunt for a new batch of tweens to fill the vacant slots left by Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato who have aged out of the demographic. This piece by The New York Times profiles one 12-year-old who is itching for the shot but the article speaks more about everything China Anne McClain will have to overcome than her talents. The narrative of a wholesome little girl going stripper in the public eye is a popular one, but a lot of this piece suggests that it’s also something that we culturally expect. So why is it that we accept little girl performers going from one extreme to another? Because we want them to.

For all the most successful tween stars, purity and an angelic demeanor are what’s made them marketable. Twelve-year-old girls seeming as twelve-year-old girls is what gets them in the door. Loyalty, beauty, and an all American sweetness are just as important as talent observes The New York Times:

Good looks are a must, but so is a certain blandness. Tween viewers gravitate toward actresses who they think have best-friend potential; the slightest mean-girl whiff can prevent a star-in-the-making from reaching the stratosphere.

But as girls begin to get further into their teens,”blandness” and “best-friend potential” eventually get exaggerated to a point of fetishization. As their bodies change and they begin to exhibit a slightly older disposition, audiences must be assured that their childish innocence has been retained. Despite the natural onset of puberty, viewers must be promised that a simple bra and a little bit of makeup haven’t changed this “good” girl. It’s about this time that she adopts a purity ring or talks about how she would never ever do anything that her Daddy would disapprove of.

Being “pure” becomes just as sexualized as being outwardly sexual, as every time she smiles and says that she would never have sex — everyone is waiting for the day that she does. The press monitors the length of her skirts and the height of her heels questioning if such an outfit is indicative that she has, in fact, gone astray. Everyone counts down until her 18th birthday so that shots of her underpants can flood the interwebs and no one can feel like a pedophile. But the obsession with a 14-year-old girl’s sexuality, regardless of if she’s having sex or not, is pedophilia.

The inevitable “downfall” as some would call it is what audiences are hoping for from the moment she gets her first slot on Disney. The minute that she is upheld as a paradigm of chastity and virtue, audiences want nothing more than to see her stumble home drunk. And while the press has a tendency to blame the girls themselves for being such train wrecks (see Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, and most recently Miley Cyrus), the very thin line that these young girls have to walk as performers often goes ignored.

After all, their behavior is only translated to the masses as that of an angel or a whore. And if adults in the media don’t even know how to locate a middle ground, how is a star hungry 12-year-old supposed to?