Actor Cole Sprouse says female Disney Channel stars were “heavily sexualized” by the network when he was growing up in the industry as a child actor.
As a child actor, Cole Sprouse — along with his twin brother Dylan — has starred in various projects in the late-1990s and early-2000s, including Big Daddy (alongside actor Adam Sandler), Friends (as Ross’ son), and the Disney Channel hit series, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
“My brother and I used to get quite a bit of, ‘Oh, you made it out! Oh, you’re unscathed!’ No. The young women on the channel we were on [Disney Channel] were so heavily sexualized from such an earlier age than my brother and I that there’s absolutely no way that we could compare our experiences,” Sprouse told the New York Times.
The actor was asked if he believed it was possible for a child actors to come out of Hollywood “unscathed,” given that former child stars are often talked about “in this dichotomy of either they spiral out of control or, somehow, ‘come out OK.’”
“Every single person going through that trauma has a unique experience,” Sprouse continued. “When we talk about child stars going nuts, what we’re not actually talking about is how fame is a trauma.”
“So I’m violently defensive against people who mock some of the young women who were on the channel when I was younger because I don’t feel like it adequately comprehends the humanity of that experience and what it takes to recover,” he added.
“To be quite honest, as I have now gone through a second big round of this fame game as an adult, I’ve noticed the same psychological effects that fame yields upon a group of young adults as I did when I was a child,” Sprouse said. “I just think people have an easier time hiding it when they’re older.”
Disney has spent years on the wrong side of headlines and police investigations connected to the sexualization of young children. Last month, four Disney employees were arrested for human trafficking.
4 Disney employees arrested for human trafficking, deputies say https://t.co/Nc8RZiGTpF
— KLFY NEWS 10 (@KLFY) March 16, 2022
Additionally, the company has recently come out against anti-grooming laws, such as Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which says that teachers may not provide classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in Kindergarten through third grade.
But Disney is not alone. Hollywood in general is known for being plagued with sex scandals.