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Culture > Entertainment

The Problems with Casting Adults as Teenagers

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Tulane chapter.

In the world of movies and television shows depicting the lives of teenagers, the actors and actresses filling these roles are often adults who are no longer teenagers. Glee, Pretty Little Liars, Euphoria, Riverdale, Grease, Gossip Girl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and many others have people in their mid-to-late 20s portraying characters between the ages of fourteen to eighteen. For instance, Cole Sprouse played the character of 15-year-old Jughead on the TV show Riverdale, but he was a decade older than his character at the age of 25. The average age gap between an actor’s actual age and the character’s age is eight years.

One of the main reasons for casting legal adults in these roles surrounds the extra burdens that labor laws place on hiring minors within the film and television industry. Children can only work approximately eight hours a day, including time allocated for schooling and other breaks. This stipulation makes it harder to schedule filming time for younger actors in a timely and cost-efficient way. So, this becomes a significant challenge when the main characters are all supposed to be teenagers.

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A key concern regarding this casting trend revolves around the potential for teens to generate unrealistic beauty standards. The adults representing these teenage characters have gone through puberty and have increased access to advancements in beauty and fashion. Teenaged characters with washboard abs, completely clear skin, and fully developed bodies misrepresent the grueling experience that teenagers often endure. This phenomenon misidentifies the realities of going through puberty as a teenager. Puberty, when a child’s body becomes an adult’s body, is physically and emotionally hard for teenagers. Viewing these characters that look like adults likely influences the young audience to believe this is how they should look as well. Teenagers often struggle with social comparisons, which entails connecting one’s self-esteem to comparisons with others. Those comparisons to adult actors and actresses can damage the self-esteem of their teenage audience.

Nearly all teenaged to young adult media programs romanticize their characters to their audience, especially as a strong marketing approach. These heartthrob characters are meant to be adored by their fans. It is understandable to see how these characters, including the actors and actresses who represent them, become the celebrity crushes of their teenage audience. In many ways, the increasing presence of teenagers being infatuated with adults six to ten years older than them could additionally harm the already fragile emotional development of teenagers.

Hi! My name is Morgan McBride, and I'm a senior at Tulane from New York. I am majoring in communications with minors in management and political science. I am so excited to be writing for Her Campus!