by Alia Arafeh
Like many of my peers, I consume a lot of media on a daily basis, and doing so, have noticed a trend in shows and movies targeted towards teenagers. Often, these productions cast older people as underage teens and depict what could be considered pedophilia. As these ideas become normalized on the shows we consume, they will also become ingrained in the way we think and act. This needs to stop.
One incredibly popular movie that serves as an example of being romanticized by the media is Call Me by Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino and based on the novel by André Aciman. While it is true that the age of consent in Italy is only 14, the movie and book are targeted towards an American audience and are incredibly popular in the States. Whether or not the intention was to depict pedophilia, the author still does so. The story is about Elio, a 17-year-old boy on summer vacation in Italy who falls in love with 24-year-old Oliver, who works with Elio’s dad. This movie is highly acclaimed for its beautifully told love story and Italian scenery, but what people often overlook is the fact that Elio is ultimately groomed by a man much older than he is.
Due to the cast and cinematography of the film, fans seem to forget the true nature of the story. Ignoring problematic aspects of films such as this one allows these depictions to become normalized both in entertainment and in real life. Elio is shown to fall in love with Oliver, and when kids are taught that this is love and not manipulation, it may cause them to be more easily manipulated themselves.
Another example that comes to mind is Euphoria, an HBO original that deals with drug abuse, love, and coming of age. This show casts actors who are over 18 years old as high school students and frequently show them having sex, undressing, and doing drugs. While the actors themselves are legally old enough to be filming the show, their characters are still meant to be high schoolers. This promotes a culture of frequent pedophilia that allows attraction to younger girls.
One particular scene that depicts this harmful trend is when Jules, a 16-year-old girl played by 22-year-old Hunter Schafer, sleeps with a man three times her age. While this scene was not meant to promote her actions, it still depicts her naked with the man. By including these scenes and including adult actresses playing young girls, it allows people to get away with pedophilia in a subtle, yet harmful, way. Many teens do relate to Euphoria and connect with the issues represented; however, the show should focus on criticizing these issues and providing an alternative rather than simply depicting them.
The two examples provided are not nearly the end of the pedophilia seen in the media. It is becoming more and more popular for show producers to cast older actors and actresses simply to depict scenes that underage kids legally cannot film.
In addition, just because a show or movie is well-produced and entertaining, this does not excuse it from being problematic. It is okay to consume such media, but only if the problems are acknowledged and addressed. We cannot cast a blind eye on certain shows and movies just because we like them or we like the actors who are in them.
Photo courtesy Flare.com