When not-so-little-anymore Mackenzie Rosman, 23, posed for the cover of Maxim magazine it seemed the internet said a collective — "Ruthie Camden!" This might be because when 7th Heaven was cancelled Ruthie was starting to grow up but nothing like what we saw in the pages of Maxim.
That's because teen stars looked like teenagers. Imagine if little Ruthie looked like Kylie and Kendall Jenner.
The 2013 Teen Choice Awards on Sunday was hosted by Lucy Hale and Darren Criss, and featuring an array of the well-known stars for teens today including Selena Gomez, Abigail Breslin, The Wanted and Chloe Grace Moretz — and featured performances by Demi Lovato, One Direction, Paramore and Florida Georgia Line, we are reminded of what the '90s teen idols used to be and what being a teen queen or king today has become.
Let's consider the ultimate '90s teen star Britney Spears. From her school girl romp in "Hit Me Baby One More Time" to "Oops, I Did It Again" Britney became a sex symbol while still (mostly) fully clothed.
And even she has been the focus of study on female hypersexualization and how it affects girls as they mature. And got spit up and chewed out by the teen pop star machine, having to reinvent herself (and shave her head) a few times in order to reach a level of relevancy outside her former teen status. Same with Christina Aguilera and Mandy Moore (except for the shaving head part).
Take a look at a group of TV high schoolers in the '90s with Saved By the Bell … and then look at the expectations of a cool group of high schoolers in modern day with Gossip Girl. Tiffani Amber Thiessen, who also starred in another '90s teenage pinnacle of television Beverly Hills, 90210, looked her age then and grew into a talented actress starring now on the white-hot USA Network series White Collar.
Before it used to be big news with teen stars came out with a sexy photo shoot after already being 18. Take Jessica Biel's controversial Gear photoshoot back in 2000. Now at 18, the scandals are about nude pictures (a la Vanessa Hudgens), oversexualized Annie Lebovitz photoshoots at 15 (looking at you Miley Cyrus) and sometimes even too-mature lyrical content in songs about summer flings at 12 (c'mon Willow Smith, you know some of that innuendo was a little mature for someone your age).
Churning out oversexualized teen stars, stars that are expected to act more mature than their ages merit, leads to the Lindsay Lohans and Amanda Bynes' of the world, where we all watched their rise, enjoyed their various movies, read all the "Insert Name Here All Grown Up" posts and then stood on the sidelines while they fell from grace and before a judge in a courtroom wondering how it all happened.