Caution: this piece tackles the subjects of grooming, and to some degree, rape and pedophilia.
The subject of child abuse in the entertainment industry is an important one that should be discussed and properly investigated. It is deplorably a topic that has been hushed and swept under the rug by many influential personalities and often discarded as platonic dynamics. The Affinity Magazine team will never condemn any of the behaviors discussed in this article nor stand behind any form of abuse.
Child grooming is defined as the act of influencing children or young teenagers to befriend and trust an adult, for sexual manipulation later in the future. For sexual abusers, child grooming is incredibly common and is a typical part of the sexual abuse cycle.
Corey Feldman, who starred in Stand By Me, and Goonies in the 1980s, claimed in 2011 that:
“The No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia. That’s the biggest problem for children in this industry… It’s the big secret,”
For the general public, there is a certain disconnect between perceived severity and the actual severity of child grooming. The concept of becoming an adult at 18 has led to disturbing assumptions about the maturity of 18-year-olds and there’s this strange idea is that when you are allowed to do something by the law, you will also be mentally prepared and equipped to do that same thing and face its consequences.
Some treat the age of 18 as this magic number, crossing a bridge that would immediately transform 17 years old into fully matured adults. More precisely, the alluring aspect of that age is that 18 years old is suddenly available and ready for sex.
Teenage girls are the main targets of that phenomenon in Hollywood, grown adults patiently waiting for them to turn 18. This could be said for the superstar Billie Eilish who rose to stardom at the age of 13; Various radio stations and youtube channels put in place a countdown to her 18th birthday, not with the tender intention of wishing the singer a happy birthday but in anticipation of being able to sexualize her without facing any legal consequences. The only barrier that separates predators from being up-front with their sexual inuendos is the sheer legal consequences they would face if they went through with them.
In January 2018, Natalie Portman attended a women’s march in Los Angeles, where she shared her own deeply personal story about the first time she realized that she lived in a rape culture that would objectify and abuse her. This experience went back to when she turned 13, shortly after Leon: The Professional was released, the very first fan mail she ever received was written by an adult man sharing his fantasy of raping her:
“I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy a man had written me. A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday, euphemistically the day I would be legal to sleep with.”
Emma Watson, yet another young actress who rose to stardom after the release of the popular saga Harry Potter, claimed in an Interview that photographers were waiting, laying on the floor outside of her 18th birthday party, so they could take a picture of her underpants.
Withal, a then 13 years old Millie Bobby Brown was subject to numerous fans, critics, publications, and other sources sexualizing her. Amongst others, W magazine published a list of the sexiest TV stars, and her name was, oddly, on that list.
The entertainment industry has been no stranger to grooming. In a climate where 20 years age gaps did not seem to raise any brows or where the general public would turn a blind eye to obvious cases of child abuse, the scene seemed more than perfect to birth the infamous and alarming taste middle-aged men seemed to have for teenagers over the years.
The American singer and actor often dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley met Priscilla Presley in 1959 when he was 25 years old and she was only 14. Céline Dion was only 12 when René Angélil, 38 years old at that time, became her manager, and she was 19 when they went public with their relationship.
Brooke Shields was just 10 when photographer Gary Gross took photos of her posing nude in a bathtub in 1975 for Playboy-owned Sugar and Spice, (which was more toned-down than the true Playboy publication) and, in an off-putting chain of events, the child was cast to play the role of a prostitute in ‘Pretty Baby’ at the mere age of 12 years old. The harrowing synopsis reads as follows: Hattie (Susan Sarandon), a New Orleans hooker, meets a photographer named Bellocq (Keith Carradine) at her brothel one night and, after he photographs her, he befriends her 12-year-old daughter, Violet (Brooke Shields). When Violet is brought on as a working girl, she quickly loses her innocence and focuses on reuniting with Bellocq.
In 1993, an excited 12 years old Natalie Portman took on the role of Mathilda in Luc Besson’s ‘Léon: The Professional‘. Mathilda is a scarred and traumatized girl who falls in love with a 40-something-year-old man, disturbingly portrayed as being her savior and lover in the movie. There is a scene in the movie where Mathilda is in bed with Leon and as she leaves the bed, she’s pulling up her underwear in a way that implies she wasn’t wearing them before getting out of the sheets.
This leads us to our case study, which was especially brought to our attention following the tweet we posted on our Twitter page recently.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and wife Sam show off matching tattoos.
They met working on a film Sam was directing/casting. Aaron was 18 and she was 42. pic.twitter.com/v6rrrpRMcw
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) June 22, 2021
Aaron Perry Johnson is an English actor best known for his portrayal of the title character in Kick-Ass, the Marvel Comics character Pietro Maximoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and if you’re younger, for his role in Nickelodeon’s Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging.
The tweet afore mentioned showcased the actor’s matching tattoo with his wife, Sam Taylor-Wood, an English filmmaker most known for directing 50 Shades of Gray. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sam Taylor-Wood, who tied the knot in 2012, met during Aaron’s audition for the role of “John Lennon” in Nowhere Boy, a movie Taylor-Wood directed and conducted the casting auditions for in 2008 in her own personal house. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was 18 and Sam Taylor-Wood was 42. This age gap, not only highlights the alarming nature of their relationship but why would a woman, who was previously married to a man with whom she had two kids date a teenager? Much to her benefit, a teenager she told The Sunday Times UK she had “this intense connection,” with.
The magical number “18” seems to get handier for the general public to brush over the predatory aspect of their age gap, and the relation of power the two had at the time of their meeting, knowing that the woman essentially had the power to determine the success of his career.
The saying that “Probably every child actor has brushed shoulders with a pedophile in the industry,” proves itself to be not only true but be more obvious than it has been let to be, especially peaking at the ever so bizarre case of Dan Schneider.
Dan Schneider is a well-known American actor, screenwriter, and producer, best known for producing numerous Nickelodeon series including The Amanda Show, iCarly, Victorious, and many more until 2018, the year of his departure from the broadcaster. Dan and his collaborators, including Brian Peck, organized events that were attended by kids aged 13-22, such as pool parties at the men’s home, where the minors were not accompanied by parents. Brian Peck, with whom he organized these camps, had many reports of sexual assault on minors during the course of his career.
One of the earliest reporting of Dan Schneider grooming children was related to the American actress Amanda Bynes, one of Nickelodeon’s defining stars of the 90s and 00s and particularly known for being a bona fide child star. As time went on, she quickly shot to big-screen fame across several titles such as She’s the Man, Easy A, and What a Girl Wants. Unfortunately, her stardom dimmed after a mental health breakdown.
According to Republic World, Bynes fans claimed that Schneider behaved in an extremely “creepy & inappropriate” way towards Bynes and other young stars.
Jennette Mccurdy and Jamie Lynn Spears are two other actresses that fans believe fell victim to his eerie behavior at a young age and upon researching material to support our claims about Dan Schneider, we have (sadly) faced an overwhelming amount of reports and photos made against him. To fully grasp the gravity of his actions, the following video compiles the bare surface of his indecent behavior throughout the years:
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Dan Schneider addressed the backlash he’s received for inappropriate sexual innuendo in his Children’s TV shows, calling it “ridiculous”, gaslighting the upsetting effects he has had on the young talents he’s surrounded himself with for many years
Grooming in the entertainment industry is unmistakably not exclusive to directors and producers and the preeminence of older actors and artists going for younger women is a phenomenon that hasn’t shied itself from its coarseness. Namely, Leonardo Dicaprio, 46 years old, has been dating 24-year-old model, Camilla Morrone, since December of 2017. DiCaprio first met Morrone when she was 12 years old, which would have made DiCaprio 34 at the time. They met through his friend, Al Pacino, who refers to Morrone as his “step-daughter.”
In 2018, Drake announced that he was dating an 18-year-old model, Bella Harris. The pair met in 2016 when Harris freshly graduated from high school.
The liking grown adults in power have taken for teenagers and children is not new and will most definitely not disappear in the upcoming times. This essay is simply an attempt at shining a light on disturbing occurrences that should not be normalized nor regarded and discarded as healthy behaviors. Just because a child turns 18 doesn’t mean that they suddenly become fully-fledged adults, aware of romantic and sexual sentiments a person 20 years their senior would try to share with them.
And as Elijah Wood perfectly worded it:
‘’The victims can’t speak as loudly as the people in power, that’s the tragedy of attempting to reveal what is happening to innocent people: They can be squashed, but their lives have been irreparably damaged.”
Featured Image: © Dave M. Benett/Getty Images