There are times when I think that my sensitivity towards the commercialization and sexualization in the media boarders on paranoia, am I reading into things? Am I seeing things that aren’t there? Am I creating them to prove a point? It is possible. Sometimes things just are what they are and as times change, so do our perceptions and relationships to those things. That having been stated when I came across this article on the Huffington Post I had reason to take pause. I watched the videos, even went to took a gander at the other photos and was still left with an icky feeling, of something isn’t quite right here. Let me explain.
This is 10 year old french model Thylane Loubry Blondeau, she is the daughter of soccer player Patrick Blondeau and reporter-turned-fashion designer, so she has one degree of separation from the industry by birth. ok. A truly gorgeous little girl– Little Girl she is 10 years old. This is Tyhlane modeling in Vogue Paris (a spread featuring other young girls)
These and other images have caused a stir and raised the question as to is this an appropriate image for a 10 year old, even is if is for Art or Fashion sake? I get the concept of little girls playing dress up but there is something in the eyes and body positioning, the come hither look of these photos that, I have to admit is a bit disturbing. It is throwing me back to the controversy of a 13 year old Brooke Shields in the film Pretty Baby where she played a child prostitute. (*I am not saying that Little Thylane is a Prostitute I am saying that the seductive nature of the photos calls that to mind) There was great backlash to that film, to Shields and her mother/manager. Granted it was a character in a film and so it had relevant context but it was still shocking to the masses, especially the nudity and bathtub scene.
What I am glad for is that a spread like this has raised a question, and in today’s day and age that says something. At least we have to think about it whether or not this is firstly, appropriate (in any context) and secondly, if it gives the correct information to both children and adults for that matter. When we as a world society are battling things the sexual exploitation of children from being the targets of pedophiles, being sold into prostitution (seemingly extreme examples but relevant but valid to the topic) or the reality that today children are more sexually aware and sexually active earlier or are being confronted with their sexuality earlier than ever before, and being the objects of adult desires, and even making sexual advances towards adults (yes, that does happen let’s be honest) we have to wonder if images like this don’t in some way contribute, or inflame those issues. The question of how young is too young to put/present a child in sexualized context becomes necessary to discuss? And perhaps more importantly why are adults capitalizing on the sexualization of young children?
It also makes me think that culturally we can be so hypocritical, on one had we say, “Protect the children” on the other we take photos, create television shows, and movies where children are seen as sexual objects, oftentimes emulating behaviors that of adults (whether with characters of their own age or with adults) and basically provide them a hand book on sex, seduction and despicable behavior look at some of the scripted television shows that have “tweens” as their demographic- Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl the too hot for American TV defunct English adaptation of Skins, even the original Beverly Hills 90210 had teen characters jumping in and out of bed with one another. I cannot begin to list the numerous reality series that show young people (barely legal) engaged in questionable behavior-(sex, alcohol, physical violence) all marketed at young adults. What message are we as adults sending to our children when we put this visual diet of images before them? I don’t have the answer, any answers I think I have lead me to more questions, but I do have a feeling and it’s not a good one. I think these photos are beautiful, I think the child is beautiful, but I have never been a fan of, or understood the appeal of making a child look like an adult and certainly not in a sexual context. What do you think?