The Big Debate: Too much too young? Fashion & the sexualisation of children.
It was the 15-page spread in a French Vogue issue, guest-edited by fashion designer Tom Ford back in January that added fuel to the flame in the debate on the over-sexualisation of children. Wearing heavy make-up and gold stilettos, Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau at the tender age of just 10 years old, sprawls seductively on leopard print bed covers.
10-year-old Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau in the Tom Ford-edited January issue of French Vogue
“[The photos] clearly create an image of the girl as an adult woman, both in the clothing, the postures and emotional content of the images,” Paul Miller, associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University in Phoenix, has said of the Vogue spread. “The message is that very young girls can be dressed and viewed as young adult women.”
Dr Emma Gray of the British CBT & Counselling Service (www.thebritishcbtcounsellingservice.co.uk) added that ‘this picture is the antithesis of what childhood in our society should be.’
Experts have warned about the psychological implications of such young children being involved in the modelling industry
Thylane Blondeau, though perhaps the most shocking recent example of young girls in the world of high fashion, is not alone. Hollywood child actresses Elle Fanning, 13, and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld have both recently signed modelling deals with Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu respectively. Now however, Marc Jacob’s Oh, Lola! advert starring Dakota Fanning (17) has been put under fire.
The Advertising Standards Authority received several complaints after seeing 17-year-old actress Dakota Fanning posing with an oversize bottle of the scent between her legs. The makers of Oh, Lola! responded by saying that they did not believe the ad suggested the model was underage and that the giant perfume bottle was “provoking, but not indecent”.
Dakota Fanning’s Oh, Lola! advert for Marc Jacobs
Given that Fanning actually looks about 14 years old in the image, this statement released by Coty seems a little off the mark. In addition, designer Marc Jacobs himself has if anything celebrated the provocative undertones of the ad, recently describing the new fragrance as: “sensual” and “more of a Lolita than a Lola”. (For those of you that don’t know – Lolita is a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov, notable for its controversial subject: middle-aged literature professor Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he then becomes sexually involved after she becomes his stepdaughter. His private nickname for Dolores is Lolita.)
14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu; Does childhood not exist anymore?
Of course, those that disagree with such images do so out of concern for society, and the increasing emphasis that has been placed on appearances and retaining youth. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard to ignore the many ordinary young girls that slap on the make up, dress like women twice their age, pose like glamour models and then post the images to Facebook.
One of my good friends (he has a 15 year old sister) calls it the ‘iPod generation’. Too much, too fast, too young. Or is it just another sign that girls can’t go 10 minutes without thinking about their looks? Little Thylane’s Vogue shoot will arguably only push the tyranny of the pressure to look “hot” to ever-younger ages. Every parents worst nightmare with cases of pedophilia increasingly in the press?
But it hasn’t just affected the young. Has anyone else noticed how all women seem to aspire, whether they’re 10, 30 or 50, to look 21? Alongside young girls posing as young adults, magazines feature middle-aged models (air brushed/surgically enhanced) posed in the same way as the teens and tweens.
Madonna, 53, looks as youthful as protégé Andrea Riseborough, 30
It seems the damage has already been done. And what next?