Actress Mischa Barton did a personal essay for Harper’s Bazaar UK where she spoke about her time in Hollywood as a young actress published on Friday. She spoke about the amount of oversexualization she experienced as young as 13 and how she felt pressured into losing her virginity at an early age. Then there’s the constant taunting she received by the media at a young age. As someone who had a life similar to that of Britney Spears in the early 2000s, she said she greatly related to Britney in the Framing Britney Spears documentary that came out earlier this year.
Barton said the pandemic helped her “reflect upon the trauma” she kept private out of fear of rejection or victim blaming. “The truth is that sexuality has always been a component of my career. Even from a young age, I was sexualised,” she wrote. She pointed out how her debut film Lawn Dogs had adult themes and her 1999 film Pups also had mature content.
“Two years later, I did Pups with Burt Reynolds,” wrote Barton. “Lead roles in coming-of-age films are always directly tied to sex and sexuality, and this was a prime example. It was for Pups that I had my first kiss on screen and in real life, in front of an entire crew. My character had her first period in one scene, something I hadn’t even experienced in life yet.” She continued: “The movie blew up in Asia, and I became a strange sex symbol over there. I was 13.”
Her role as Marissa Cooper on The O.C. caused her to feel “pressured into meeting needs, demands and goals set by people twice my age or older.” She said she felt like a “fraud” for not being sexually active like the role she played on television.
“Here, I was playing a confident character who was fast and loose and yet I was still a virgin,” wrote Barton. “The kids in the show were quintessential rich, privileged American teenagers drinking, taking drugs, and of course having sex. I knew it was important to get this thing – my virginity – that was looming over me, the elephant in the room if you will, out of the way.” She added: “I started to really worry that I couldn’t play this character if I didn’t hurry up and mature a little.” Barton said she was pursued by “older men in their thirties” and eventually “did the deed. I feel a little guilty because I let it happen. I felt so much pressure to have sex, not just from him, but society in general,” wrote Barton.
She talked about the media frenzy around her brand and how it contributed to her mental health resulting in panic attacks and PTSD. “In the years afterwards, cameras would bother me; any noises that sounded like a shutter would give me a panic attack and make me extremely paranoid,” wrote Barton. And she finished acknowledging the MeToo era saying, “The more we talk about what we’ve done to generations past, whether it be Britney Spears, who was so poorly treated by the press, or Natalie Portman talking about how she felt overly sexualised as a child, the sooner we can protect our young women and learn from our mistakes as a society.”
Barton has made numerous hot mess and train wreck lists over the years and it has to do with what many other child stars have experienced, early pressures they’re trying to keep up. Personally, I’m the same age as Barton, about 2 weeks apart to be exact and recall watching her growing up and the subsequent media hounding she received. She certainly made tabloids a lot of money and seeing her go into an involuntary mental health hold and reports of her spiraling into drugs have been hard to watch. She’s a good example of the industry using and spitting someone out.
Regarding Framing Britney Spears, she said, “I felt all the feels when I watched the Britney doc because I was there at those clubs and those parties and down the street when all of that was happening,” Barton told E! News in a May 2021 phone interview. ” [I] literally would’ve been in the background, but not quite.” She continued, saying that she felt “so sorry” for Britney Spears at the time despite having the same thing “happening to” her. “I remember thinking, ‘Jesus, this poor girl,’” Barton said. “And her getting sucked into the wrong people pretending to want to be her friend—that happened to me too. A lot of that weirdness.”