Child star Mara Wilson has opened up about her treatment by fans and the media in a new op-ed.
Wilson, who memorably starred in classic family films like Mrs Doubtfire, Matilda, and Miracle on 34th Street, wrote in The New York Times how pressured she’d felt to “seem to be as normal as possible – whatever it took to avoid my inevitable downfall”.
The actor then connected her experience to Britney Spears’ in the 2000s, which people are closely reevaluating in the wake of the widely discussed documentary Framing Britney Spears, which explores the pop singer’s rise to fame, her problematic treatment by the media, the legal conservatorship overseen by her father, and the growing #FreeBritney movement.
“The way people talked about Britney Spears was terrifying to me then, and it still is now,” Wilson wrote. “Her story is a striking example of a phenomenon I’ve witnessed for years: Our culture builds these girls up just to destroy them. Fortunately people are becoming aware of what we did to Ms Spears and starting to apologize to her. But we’re still living with the scars.”
Recalling how she, too, had been sexualised at a very young age, Wilson wrote, “I had already been sexualized anyway, and I hated it. I mostly acted in family movies – the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, Matilda, Mrs Doubtfire. I never appeared in anything more revealing than a knee-length sundress.
“This was all intentional: My parents thought I would be safer that way. But it didn’t work. People had been asking me, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ in interviews since I was six. Reporters asked me who I thought the sexiest actor was and about Hugh Grant’s arrest for soliciting a prostitute. 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. Every time, I felt ashamed.
“Hollywood has resolved to tackle harassment in the industry, but I was never sexually harassed on a film set,” Wilson continued. “My sexual harassment always came at the hands of the media and the public.”
Framing Britney Spears is available to watch now on FX in the US. A UK release date has not been announced.