Idol Chatter

When strategically cropped nude photos of Daniel Radcliffe from the play “Equus” first surfaced on the web, the first thought that ran through my mind was: Oh no, et tu, Daniel?

It seems that child actors these days are trying too hard to grow up, shed their innocent “baby fat” image, and mark their increasing maturity by doing the one thing usually reserved for adult actors: baring some skin (or all of it, in Radcliffes’s case).

Recently, Dakota Fanning raised eyebrows with her new Sundance film, “Hounddog,” where she wriggles her hips suggestively and is raped by an older teenager. Even though only Fanning’s face is shown during the rape scene, some critics declared the film child pornography, a role with a subject matter too sensitive for a 12-going-on-13-year-old to portray. Yes, Dakota is never shown without clothes, but the idea of rape (a brutal physical act with nudity) is what frightens fans still eager to see Dakota’s luminosity better used in “Charlotte’s Web“-type roles.

There is something jarring about seeing a young actor or actress usually associated with bubblegum transform into bombshell by appearing in sensual photo spreads or movies. Think: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Biel, Anne Hathaway, and Lindsay Lohan. Although Lohan was quoted as saying she would never do a nude scene in 2005, a year later she was quoted as saying a nude scene might be a possibility if it could lead to an Oscar. Some young actresses have never been pigeonholed in “innocent” roles, making their transition into adulthood easier (Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightley, Mandy Moore), but even Scarlett and Keira (in their early 20s) raised eyebrows upon deciding to appear sans clothes for a Vanity Fair cover.

As for Daniel Radcliffe, despite being male, in the minds of devoted Harry Potter fans who watched him grow up onscreen playing the heroic, non-sexual “Boy Who Lived,” the thought of him consciously choosing to grow up and dealing with sensuality and sexuality is discouraging. For me, a huge follower of Harry Potter, it feels like Daniel is beginning to check items off his “How I Can Show the World I’m More Than Harry” list. In addition to “Equus,” Radcliffe will soon be appearing in “December Boys,” a PG-13 film where he portrays an orphan who discovers romance.

Personally, I know it’s inevitable that child actors (Daniel and Dakota included) need to grow up, but it’s still frightening to think they want to tackle adulthood while the word “teen” is still attached to their age. It’s understandable child actors want to gain respectibility (and perhaps an Oscar) by showing the world their range, but as my colleague Dilshad asks, what’s wrong with waiting? Perhaps there will never be an easy transition–it’s either do or die, with hopes that the audience comes along for the ride anyway.

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