UPDATE: Sadie Sink has since clarified her comments from the Beyond Stranger Things episode discussed below. “I mean, of course I was nervous because it’s a first kiss, right? But I never objected to [it] or felt pushed into anything,” she told The Wrap. “I always felt comfortable and the Duffer Brothers, they do the best job. And always create a comfortable space. And if I felt uncomfortable with anything, I wouldn’t have done it.”
[Slight spoilers for Stranger Things 2 discussed below]
Beyond Stranger Things, Netflix’s behind-the-scenes look at the making of Stranger Things 2, is advertised to reveal “secrets from the Stranger Things 2 universe” through interviews with the cast and crew. But one clip seems to reveal something far creepier than a fictional monster: the Duffer brothers’ sexist glee in making 15-year-old actress Sadie Sink uncomfortable with an unscripted kiss.
There’s a tiny spoiler involved in this discussion, so fair warning. During the end-of-season Snow Ball dance, Lucas, played by Caleb McLaughlin, and Max, played by Sadie Sink, share a brief kiss. But it turns out the kiss wasn’t originally in the script, and was only added after Sink got “so freaked out” at the prospect of one that Ross Duffer thought, “I gotta make her do it now…”
What the hell?
When host Jim Rash asks about shooting the kiss, Sink initially points accusingly at the two Duffer brothers. “You didn’t…Ugh!”
“This is all your fault, though,” Ross Duffer protests.
“It is not my fault!…It was not written in the script. The kiss was not written in the script,” Sink insists in the above video. She then describes how, on the first day of filming the Snow Ball, “one of you – I think it was you, Ross – you say, ‘Ooh, Sadie, you ready for the kiss?’ I’m like, ‘What?! No! That’s not in the script… that’s not happening.'”
“And so the whole day I was, like, stressed out,” she continues. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, wait, am I gonna have to…?’ And it didn’t happen that day, but on the second day of filming the Snow Ball.”
Duffer then cuts in. “You reacted so strongly to this—I was just joking—and you were so freaked out that I was like, ‘Well, I gotta make her do it now.'”
“Oh, that’s why it’s my fault?” Sadie says sardonically.
“That’s why I’m saying it’s your fault,” Duffer agrees. “Anyways, it’s great. I can’t imagine it without it.”
It’s your fault? Seriously?
McLaughlin also talked about how it was his first kiss, and while he at least knew the kiss was coming on that second day, he was also “feeling weird.” As the kiss was approaching, he “heard big applause. They’re like, ‘You’re next!’ I’m like, ‘What?'”
“Yeah,” Sink added, “Our first kiss was in front of like 200 extras, and their parents, and the crew, and my mom.”
This whole story is just…Ugh. This is exactly the sort of experience which tells girls that their comfort, and their bodily autonomy, are not important. Their discomfort and stress are something to be laughed off, or even actively mined for jokes. It is not funny to add a scene specifically to make an actress uncomfortable at any age, and it’s definitely not funny to add one for a fifteen-year-old. This is not how grown-ass men should treat an actress who’s a minor.
Now, it’s possible that they actually did talk it out with her in a real discussion, and that they’re leaving that part out of the After Stranger Things segment because they think it would detract from the anecdote. I hope they treated her with more respect than it sounds like. But even if they did, the fact that they think this is a “funny” story about production, rather than a deeply uncomfortable one, is still creepy.
As the entertainment industry looks at its predators, it also has to look at its culture. Casual interactions like this one teach young actresses and actors some very weird messages about their right to a safe and respectful working environment. Of course teenagers are going to feel weird about a kissing scene; that part of this story, at least, is a humorous and natural part of being young. But the adult reaction to their discomfort shouldn’t be bewildering cheers and applause at McLaughlin and smirking dismissal of Sink’s feelings. The kids’ discomfort, rather than being the inspiration for some sort of pranking scene edits, should be acknowledged, honored, and talked through.
Sink’s body is still her own, and McLaughin’s is still his. Just because these kids signed up to be actors doesn’t mean that they signed away their right to be taken seriously when they’re freaked out by something. Even if Sink was eventually fine with the scene, and even if she’s proud of her work in it now, her initial fears should have been addressed with decency instead of giggles.
Girls deserve to be taken seriously when they say they’re freaked out. Period.
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