Five years ago Paul Walker, star of the “Fast and Furious” movie franchise, died in a car crash on Nov. 30, 2013. The loss was felt by fans of the franchise and car enthusiasts worldwide. Now, every year as the date of his death approaches, fans gather to mourn and celebrate the life of Walker. The problem is that, as documentaries about his life get made, and fans gather to hold tributes, Walker is being remembered as a great man, a hero. Someone to look up to.
In reality, he was anything but. Brushed over by the media and buried deep in the back alleys of Hollywood is the fact that Paul Walker may have entered into sexual relationships with minors.
California, where Walker lived, has an age of consent of 18 years old. If someone engages in a sexual relationship with a person who is under 18, that is considered a criminal offense. If the older individual’s age is within three years of the age of their partner, their relationship is a misdemeanor offense. More than three years is a felony. This is important because at the time of Walker’s death his girlfriend, Jasmine Pilchard-Gosnell, was 23 years old while Walker was 40.
An age gap between lovers that wide isn’t uncommon, but what makes it troubling is what age both were when they started dating. Walker and Pilchard-Gosnell had been together for years at this point, but at the time they had met she was only 16 years old. Do the math and you can conclude that Walker would have been 33 at that time, more than twice her age.
While there is no proof that the two of them had a sexual relationship at that point, it’s no stretch to imagine that two people dating would move in that direction pretty fast. Should that be the case, then it’s very likely that Walker would have been found guilty of statutory rape, had charges ever been brought against him. The size of the gap also means that the situation would have warranted felony charges rather than a simple misdemeanor.
This wasn’t the first time that Walker had dated an underage girl either. The “Fast and the Furious” actor also dated Aubrianna Atwell, whom Walker met several years before Pilchard-Gosnell, when Atwell was only 16. This time Walker was 28, but the age gap still is much more than the State of California allows. If charges had been brought against the star, he would likely have been accused of felony statutory rape yet again.
Neither girlfriend, nor their families, ever brought charges against Walker, which leaves everybody to wonder what would have happened if these situations had not been swept under the rug. Hollywood is a massive machine designed to make money, and at his peak, Walker made companies a lot of cash. It’s no surprise that the creepy nature of Walker’s relationships went ignored.
The Hollywood machine is so efficient in fact, that, at the time of his death, large media outlets like Daily Mail and InTouch Weekly, went so far as to mention Walker’s relationships without batting an eye. There were no outcries of disgust, no discussions about whether what he had done was wrong or not. Each outlet mentioned the age gap, when they had met and moved on. It was business as usual.
The only news outlets to make any sort of a fuss are the much smaller, lesser-known ones. Organizations like Rooster, Alloy and The Gloss made it a focus to point out and condemn Walker’s actions, expressing shock, anger and disgust at the facts of each case. It was clear to them that what Walker had done was deeply troubling. Some went as far as describing the girls as “children.” They weren’t far off.
Make no mistake, the actions that Walker took are those of a predator. Everybody in the world knew who he was. At the time of his death, Walker was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He was also good-looking, rich and could have gotten any woman in the world to date him. Showing up around high school girls and asking them out on dates must have been a dream come true for them. How would they ever say no?
Whether he did it consciously or not, the fact is that Walker was taking advantage of his looks, his wealth and his stardom to possibly seduce teenage girls. Had he been some random guy off the street, most of those girls wouldn’t have batted an eye as they turned him down. It’s also not a stretch to say he could have been looking for and targeting younger women. How else could you argue against that? What other 30-year-old man do you know that “accidentally” dated two different teenagers? None that I can think of.
If you’ve read some of my other pieces, you know that I have argued against speaking ill of the dead. In the case of John Bain, a popular YouTube star, people came out and began to tear his character apart — many expressing happiness that he was gone — a few hours after his death. It was horrifying to see, and I argued against those people, saying that hate should die when the person is gone. Taking your anger out on somebody who is no longer there to receive it only harms the people around him. This is different.
Whatever you can say about Bain, there were never accusations of him dating underage girls. Every action that Bain made was well documented, and if he made a mistake the public was quick to point it out and judge him for it. Despite not being as famous as Walker, Bain was always under a microscope of far greater focus.
Nothing like that ever happened with Walker. When news of his death came out, people mourned. They celebrated his life, felt empathy for his family and quietly brushed all of his shortcomings to the side. Nobody cared about the bad he had done. Even now, his actions are not widely known in the world. Each year the anniversary of his death rolls around, he is remembered as a great man who loved his family. Nobody mentions that he was dating minors for a part of his life.
That none of this was brought to light in his life or his death is a failing of us all. It speaks to the way the country idolizes movie stars and the willingness that society has to forgive people who are attractive. There is something wrong in this entire situation, and it’s time to consider why nobody seems to care.
So, think fondly of Walker if you want to. Remember his films and the good he did in life, but don’t turn the man into a hero. Dating women who are almost half your age should cast a cloud over anything else he did, and above all, it should never be forgotten. Hold memorials for him if you want to, but know who you are celebrating.