An Open Letter to Whoever the Hell Keeps Casting People in Their Twenties as High Schoolers
Author: Christina Giuggio
Enough is enough.
I turned a blind eye to Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls. I bit my tongue for the first three seasons of Glee. But if I turn on my TV and see another 27 year old showing up to history class, I’m going to lose my mind.
Let me preface by saying this isn’t borne out of some personal vendetta against the older generations. I’m not one of those teens who thinks people shrivel up and die the moment they turn 30. But it is tremendously unclear to me how you expected anyone to buy that Jacob Elordi is below the legal drinking age.
Did any of these actors even go to high school? Did you? Did you go to some kind of weird school where everyone was six feet tall and looked like they could be homeowners? I’m intrigued.
I can understand that you face some challenges in your work that are tough to navigate. Sure, it’s hard to find young people who are already established in the acting world. Of course, working with minors can leave you in the extremely difficult and financially challenging position of abiding by child labour laws. And I recognize that it would be problematic for you to continue sexualizing 15 year olds in your shows if your actors were, or bore a shred of resemblance to, actual 15 year olds. But it’s a little weird for you to be sexualizing 15 year olds in the first place, no?
Surely there must be some other way to portray teens on TV that doesn’t involve screwing with the self-perception of an entire generation of young people. It’s not all that surprising that teenagers don’t flourish when constantly comparing themselves to confident, developed adult bodies during the most awkward and insecure years of their lives. And it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that these depictions affect others’ conceptions of how young people look and behave. How many times can we hear grown-ass adults justify their “involvements” with minors because “they looked old for their age” for it to click that something’s not quite right about how we view our teens?
I know this is probably a lot to take in, and it may be tempting to go on casting KJ Apa as a sophomore and pretending all is well. But know — just because something is convenient or familiar does not make it right. There’s a place for people approaching their quarter-life crisis in the acting world, and it isn’t in the roles of high schoolers.
If you decide to take the first step in trying to better the media’s representation of teenagers, I applaud you. Feel free to use these questions as a reference when working on your future projects:
Did any of these actors have a MySpace account?
Are any of these actors older than Google?
If you insist on casting full-blown adults, could the setting of the show change from high school to college without affecting the script at all? Does the script actually make more sense now?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these items, it would probably be best to reevaluate your creative decisions up until this point. The teens of the world will thank you.
Tired Young TV Viewers
Credited to Actual teen vs adult teen https://actualteenadultteen.tumblr.com/tagged/actual-teen-pics
Rachel McAdams in high school vs. 25-year-old Rachel McAdams as 16-year-old Regina George in Mean Girls
21-year-old Andrew Garfield as Tom in Sugar Rush vs. 27-year-old Andrew Garfield as 17-year-old Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man
15-year-old Penn Badgley as 14-year-old Joel Larsen in Do Over vs. 23-year-old Penn Badgley as teenaged Todd in Easy A
Harry Shum Jr in high school vs. 27-year-old Harry Shum Jr as teenaged Mike Chang in Glee
Jacob Elordi at 15 years old vs. 21-year-old Jacob Elordi as 17-year-old Nate Jacobs in Euphoria