AnnaSophia Robb isn’t oblivious about gender inequality; it’s just that female resistance is all she’s ever known. The 25-year-old grew up with both her mom and dad wearing the pants in the family, and came of age on-screen in the 2008 indie film Sleepwalking, alongside the “powerful and commanding” Charlize Theron. She also remembers being 6 years old and dressing up as Britney Spears for Halloween, at a time when the pop star found power in owning her sexuality. Then, at just 19 and 20 years old, Robb also challenged patriarchal standards when she starred as feminist icon and budding sexpert Carrie Bradshaw in The Carrie Diaries.
“There’s a disassociation we make with people who are disabled. We strip them of their sexuality and sexual desires,” Robb explains. “I think Lacey is guilty of that as well, and that’s part of the reveal and the tragedy. A woman coming of age and exploring her sexuality is innate [throughout the series]. That’s part of maturing. The Act shows what can happen when that is repressed.”
“Lacey saw Gypsy as quiet and without friends,” says Robb, who's also known for starring in films like Soul Surfer and Race to Witch Mountain. “Then we see Lacey in high school surrounded by her friends, smoking pot, getting a tattoo. She’s doing all the things that a ‘normal’ high school student would do. The dichotomy is really important because Gypsy’s watching Lacey do all these things that she’s not allowed to do. Then you watch that shift throughout the series.”
The world throws a lot of opinions at you, and you have to be able to discern what's true. There needs to be room to make mistakes and figure out what you want to stand for.
Though social media has warped how both women view sexuality, it gives Gypsy a power she didn’t have before to find the man of her dreams—no matter how delusional that may be. For a psychologically stunted girl like Gypsy, it gives her the opportunity to turn her love of cosplay into sexual role-play where she is dominant.
The trajectory for both characters highlights the often transactional relationship between sexuality and freedom, amplifying it in the era of social media when impressionable girls are struggling to find their own voices and determine their images. Robb sees the pros and cons of an Instagram-obsessed world. “It’s complicated,” she says. “Beyoncé is amazing and so empowering. I cry when I listen to her sometimes. I think pop stars and public people have a responsibility. We have some really great role models, but we also have some really shitty ones. It makes me sad that people try to look like the Kardashians because they’re not real. It’s a lot of plastic surgery.”
Still, Robb credits social media for being a valuable tool for impressionable young women like Lacey and Gypsy to come of age in a healthy way and challenge traditional principles. “I think having these spaces to talk and ask questions is important for developing our psyches and what we believe about ourselves,” she says. “The world throws a lot of opinions at you, and you have to be able to discern what’s true. I think there needs to be room to make mistakes and figure out what you want to stand for.”