Gaten Matarazzo in a scene from Stranger Things

Gaten Matarazzo Shares Extremely Troubling Interaction With Older Fan

When Stranger Things first came out, featuring as it did a very young cast, multiple corners of the internet got together and said, “People had better not be creeps about those children.” Unfortunately, people very much were creeps about those children, and though those actors are now all adults, the stories remain horrifying.

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Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, recently came forward with a particularly unpleasant anecdote about a fan encounter. A grown woman saw fit to tell Matarazzo how attractive she’d found him as a child … while her own daughter was standing next to her.

Speaking on the Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum podcast, Matarazzo said on the subject of fan encounters, “…this woman in her 40s said straight up, ‘I’ve had a crush on you since you were 13.'” Mararazzo’s first reaction was, he said, “That’s upsetting.” He attempted to give her the benefit of the doubt, rationalizing, “I’m sure she just meant, ‘Aw, this kid’s cute.'” But then, he said, she “doubled down.”

“She was like, ‘I’m aware of the age difference.'” Matarazzo went on. “And her daughter was with her, and her daughter goes, ‘Mom, what the f***?’ I swear to God.”

“Mom, what the f***?” is a perfectly valid reaction to learning your mother had a crush on a 13-old-boy—and, even worse, that she felt it was acceptable to share that information with the person in question. Matarazzo also said on the podcast that he’d been subjected to fans grabbing his butt at times, another thing that’s very much not OK. It’s hugely disappointing to see how deeply the Stranger Things kids have been failed.

A pattern of creepy behavior

The child actors in Stranger Things were sexualized at a young age and it’s not okay. Millie Bobbie Brown was especially subjected to this. For example, W magazine once included her then-13-year-old self in a list of stars headlined, “Why TV Is Sexier Than Ever.” And that’s not even getting into her inappropriate relationship with the much older Drake.

Brown spoke out about this when she turned 18 in 2022, saying that what happened to her was “a good representation of what’s going on in the world and how young girls are sexualized.” There was a time when Brown was deliberately made to look older than she was in photoshoots and on red carpets; she seemingly went from small child to “adult” overnight. It was hard to watch then, and it’s now painful to remember.

Finn Wolfhard was another cast member who faced sexualization as a young teen. People used to leave messages on his Instagram account with comments about his age, and model Ali Michael once tagged him and wrote, “Not to be weird but hit me up in four years.” She deservedly found out that what she said was in fact very weird, and had to apologize. Add that to Brown’s and Matarazzo’s experiences and it’s clear we need to do more to protect child actors.

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Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.