Some viewers of the Sex and the City spinoff And Just Like That are erupting in outrage over a scene in which women in their 50s admiringly ogle a teenage character in a high school hallway.
Such outrage reflects today’s protective climate of righteous indignation and condemnation over sexualizing children.
As Yahoo News reported, some viewers were unhappy about the scene on the show, whose second season is streaming now on Max (formerly HBO Max).
“Um…did they just oogle (sic) a teenage boy,” one person asked on Twitter.
The actor who played the “kid” is Wes Williams, whose age could not be found online but looks like he could be 20 or even older.
Though the character he plays is a high school teen, the character clearly is not 16 or younger, which makes him above the age of consent laws in New York, where the show is set, as well as in Texas.
Even so, having the student appear to be past the age of consent doesn’t forgive the women in And Just Like That for showing poor taste by ogling him. But the show itself acknowledged that in the episode.
First, the women evinced ambivalence, if not regret, about considering the teen “hot.” And, as reported by The Daily Mail, the women are later called out for their behavior by the school principal, who announces during an assembly that “a group of mothers were overheard objectifying a male student in the hallway.”
In effect, the show itself was shaming them. As one viewer wrote, “Thankfully they get called out for it in the same episode.”
Yet the realities of age considerations and in-episode shaming weren’t enough for some viewers, whose online condemnations were swift.
One reader commented to The Daily Mail by asking if the show was supporting adult attraction to children, adding, “He’s a damn kid!”
Another reader called the scene a “disgusting” way to “normalize” adults being attracted to kids.
But as another viewer commented to The Daily Mail, “I’ve taught high school since the late ‘70s. Boys looking like the guy portrayed in the show don’t exist in high school hallways. If they do, I’ve never met them.”
Another viewer wrote, “The guy is hardly a ‘little boy,’ and ‘schoolboy’ is misleading. He’s not a child.”
Older actors tend to play high schoolers
Casting older actors in fictional teen roles is nothing new. When seeking performers to play high schoolers, film and TV casting directors for decades have commonly hired actors who have had time to gain experience and mature physically into their 20s—and whose characters were hardly presented as “children.”
The 1978 film Grease, an enormous hit, had John Travolta, then 24, and Olivia Newton-John, then 30, playing teen high schoolers.
The teen characters of the Fox series Glee, which aired for 6 seasons ending in 2015, were played by actors who were in their early to mid-20s at the time.
And in the hit 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the real-life husband of And Just Like That’s Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, played a teen high schooler when the actor himself was 24.
Outrage can be disproportionate
While it’s understandable that adults want to protect children from being sexualized, the incident in And Just Like That seems to be stoking disproportionate outrage that discounts the apparent realities of the scene.
The ogled student—who, in fact, created a lustful list of older women whom he craved—was not a child, was not harmed and was not going to be. And the character and the actor who played him both seem to be at least 18, as many high schoolers are, and thus not minors. Nor was any crime committed.
Yet outrage erupted among some viewers.
Such outrage helps explain why sex crime laws’ punishments in cases involving children can be far more harsh than the punishments for sex crimes involving only adults.
Children are far more vulnerable and need protection, including the hoped-for deterrent of having extreme punishments for adults who commit sex crimes against them. And lawmakers don’t want to appear lenient or “soft” on such crimes.
But that can lead to punishment extremes, even for first-time offenders, and such extremes may not be justifiable.
How tough are Texas sex crime laws involving minors?
When a sex crime charge involves a child or minor, punishments in Texas can be extremely severe.
For instance, indecency with a child by exposure is a third-degree felony, with punishments ranging up to as many as 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
In addition, indecency with a child by contact, which does not involve penetration, is a second-degree felony in Texas, and punishments can include as many as 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Even being falsely accused or charged but not convicted of such an offense can be life-changing. An innocent person may lose their job over such an accusation while also having their reputation and social relationships irreparably damaged.
Get a Houston defense lawyer for your case
In such cases, it’s vital to have a knowledgeable Houston sex crime defense lawyer to protect your legal rights and fight for true justice.
If you or a family member in the Houston area faces a claim, an accusation or a charge of a sex crime, contact the award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm today to arrange a private consultation.
The stakes—and the potential punishments—are high, which means your legal defense must be ready. The Neal Davis Law Firm stands ready to defend your legal rights.