Is nothing sacred?
After seeing how 14-year-old Finn Wolfhard, a star of the most adored and dissected series on any screen right now, was just treated by so-called "fans," the answer to that is a resounding no.
Honestly, can the boy get a break? And we do mean boy.
We can see how people might forget for a second that Wolfhard and his partners in criminally rad paranormal investigation on Stranger Things are between the ages of 13 and 16, or that Millie Bobby Brown, a Kiernan Shipka-level fashion plate in the making, is only 13, seeing as how half their lives are currently devoted to photo shoots, interviews and posing on red carpets in snazzy outfits.
But really...is it that hard to then quickly remember that, wait, they are just children?
For starters, Brown, Wolfhard, 13-year-old Noah Schnapp, 16-year-old Caleb McLaughlin and 15-year-old Gaten Matarazzo are all playing kid-kids—12 in the first season, set in 1983, and now, logically, 13 in 1984. Moreover, they aren't doing anything particularly un-kid-like, such as dispatching their foes with swords or feeding their enemies man-meat pies.
So there's really no actual reason to mistake the child stars of Stranger Things for grown-up celebrities who owe you high fives, handshakes, selfies, autographs and hugs whenever you come across one of them. (Then again, don't pester Winona Ryder and David Harbour for those things, either.)
After taking a crash course in the fundamentals of celebrity over the past year, Wolfhard was recently re-apprised of just how fickle a star's fan base—or the group of super-helpful observers known as "Twitter users"—can be after someone shot video of the teen walking into his hotel and posted the video online, prompting the twitterverse to rake Finn over the virtual coals for...
"Okay, no. No actor is under any obligation to stop for anyone," Shannon Purser, at 20 a veteran of scripted teen hell as Stranger Things' Barb and Riverdale's Ethel, tweeted yesterdat in Wolfhard's defense. "Finn is an incredibly kind human. But he's human and he needs breaks too.
"I experience this on a significantly smaller scale, obviously, but I've had people waiting for me in hotel lobbies, at my airport gate, etc...And I'm an adult. I can't imagine being inundated with all this attention at his age. It's intimidating. So, from one big sister to the world, don't you DARE make young actors feel guilty or indebted to you because they couldn't say hi," she continued. "They give you their art. They love their fans. Don't take advantage of that. And if you can't handle them needing space, stay away."
Schnapp chimed in, "So true. we really love the fans. Finn is the nicest guy u will ever know. we all work so hard, and need a break sometimes. #Compassion."
Aw. How can you hear those words, thinking of those faces, and write things like, "Me and my friend hate Finn and want him to kill himself, how do we get him to do that?? Could you tell him to?? Please."
Which is a real tweet someone sent to Brown in August, to which the teenage class act replied, "Finn is one of my closest friends and it upsets me that you feel like that! Hopefully some positive vibes come through to you soon!"
No matter how much the person who sent that tweet probably didn't actually mean it (the handle was @finshoulddie, so they're majorly bored at best), what in the heck is wrong with people? What sort of thing is that to write, to real live humans, about a 14-year-old boy?
The newest addition to the club, 15-year-old Sadie Sink, was also the target of all sorts of fan ire before season two premiered. Meaning, she was being judged and picked on before anyone had even seen her on the show. "Fans have got the wrong idea," Sink, like Brown an impressively calm and classy customer, told NME last month. "They think I'm going to be a bad guy or something, but they just need to chill and wait. I think she's cool."
And, as it turns out, Max is cool.
But even when the subject at hand isn't vile comments, the worship and well-intentioned intrusiveness can get out of hand as well. Moreover, not everybody on the bandwagon is age-appropriate.
"I just love the fact that our fans take the time out to say 'you did great,'" McLaughlin told Teen Vogue in October 2016, just months after Stranger Things first premiered on Netflix and changed his and his young co-stars' lives practically overnight. "They come up to me and say my full name and say they love my work."
"For me it's sort of surreal," Wolfhard added. "My Twitter followers went up and my Instagram followers went up, and I'm getting recognized on the street, which is also very weird for me."
A month later, Wolfhard told Dazed, "I realized, it's cool if it's a 13-year-old [screaming my name]. If they actually watch the show and they respect it—that's cool. But when it's grown men in a line, spending their day screaming at children... that's really scary for me."
Describing his newfound mega-fame, he called it "weird and new and scary."
A year later, with Stranger Things a smash and having also starred in It, Wolfhard sounded like an old pro at this showbiz game.
"I think that if you are worried about how many Instagram followers you have, and how much money you are going to get on your next job then you've got to re-evaluate your career because that's not what acting is about," he told one of his hometown papers, the Vancouver Sun, in October. "I think being as self aware as possible is really where you need to be."
But with wisdom has not come the desire to grow up too fast, no matter how much odd behavior they've witnessed—and will witness in the future—from people who are excited just to be near them.
"We're kids," Matarazzo noted last month to NME. "We can't grow up too fast. We gotta remember how old we are and where we come from, so our heads don't get bigger than our bodies."
Wolfhard said that he enjoyed the "sense of reality" that came with being back in middle school, where after an initially uptick in attention, he felt he was being treated relatively normally. Yet even in high school, Matarazzo said, fellow students still ask him for selfies and offer him the head of the lunch line.
"That made me want to go to the back of the line," the 15-year-old admitted. "I don't get why people think that we deserve more than them."
So Gaten Matarazzo may be the reigning most down-to-earth celebrity in the rightside-up. And that's all the more reason why it's a shame to see any of the young cast picked on—in person or on social media—for doing as little as attempting to walk down the street without being bothered.
Or even if the kids, being as nice as they are, would never refer to being harassed as being "bothered," let them not have to work for a rare moment. Because ultimately, that's what the fan interaction is, as much as showing up to the set, learning their lines, behaving themselves and promoting the show is. It may be, hopefully, a pleasant part of the job, but it's still part of the job.
Yet at the same time, it is not these kids' job to satisfy the whims of every fan—or to tolerate screaming, aggression or online abuse because it's a "hazard of being famous."
Sophie Turner, who's now 21 but who started on Game of Thrones when she was just 15, offered her own heartfelt reaction to the criticism directed at Wolfhard.
"Damn... seeing fully grown adults wait outside the Stranger Things kids' hotels etc , and then abuse them when they don't stop for them...Is super weird A. What adult in their right mind waits for a CHILD outside their hotel and B is then is offended when the CHILD doesn't stop," she tweeted Monday.
"It doesn't matter if they are an actor... they are kids first. Give them the space they need in order to grow without feeling like they owe Anyone anything for living their childhood dreams. Oh and ps. Imagine.. you, a parent, walking with your 13 year old son/daughter and seeing a fully grown adult pointing their camera phone .. .. at your kid. You would do anything you could to delete that persons photograph, and remove your child from that situation as soon as..... you could. It doesn't matter if that child happens to be an actor and consented to a professional film crew capturing their moves when.... in character.. That does NOT mean that this child consented to being followed around with a camera in their face. I don't care if it 'Comes with the job'. It doesn't.
"And how dare you shun and demean that child when they don't pose for an adult strangers photograph or walk over and talk to them when they.... take that NOT CONSENTED FOR photo . Doesn't that go against everything we teach our children anyway? Pshhhh. Some people man."
Sounds as though she speaks from experience.
"I guess I need to get used to it," Wolfhard told Dazed in October, trying to shrug off some previous disturbing encounters. "Some things just aren't cool. Like, a person came up to me on a train just because she'd seen someone take a picture of me.
"It's awesome that you're showing support, but I'd love you to do something more creative. If you really love me, write a song about me! I don't want you to be stuck on me. Because I'm just a person."
So when you see the under-18 Stranger Kids stars living it up at award shows, posing for endless pictures with their favorite celebrities who inevitably were the ones who came up to them for introductions in the first place, remember that you're still watching kids at play. They've had no choice but to try to figure out the fame game, but they should be free to enjoy their childhoods for as long as possible.
Luckily, they have each other.