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From films like The Outsiders to St. Elmo’s Fire, actor Rob Lowe was the ultimate 80s heartthrob. His talent extended beyond being a pretty face as he has continued to act in movies and television well into his 50s.

Rob Lowe at Limelight
Rob Lowe at Limelight | Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

But he admits the concept of being an objectified teen idol never sat well with him. He mused about the past on the Life is Short with Justin Long podcast, admitting the designation is always two-sided.

“Well, there’s two sides of it, really,” he said. “One is just even the conversation of it makes me roll my eyes and go, ‘It’s my f**king face.’ It is, what it is. I don’t know anything different.” He and host Justin Long agree there is no real way to address the topic without sounding “somewhat douchey.” But they attack the notion of being objectified especially as a male in the industry.

Male actors get objectified too

“My take away midlife of all of this is, is objectification,” Lowe said. “I love that you use that word because that really is what it is.” He admits the concept is usually the other way around where it is men objectifying women.

“And I don’t know how many guys get objectified, like a walk down the street,” Lowe continued. “It’s like I’ve been the person who’s walked down the street and had the construction workers whistling. It’s like you go it’s flattering right up into the minute, it’s not flattering.”

He recalls being uncomfortable with the feeling of being objectified when he was younger. “When I was a teen idol, I was always unsettled by it and I could never really figure out why it was so unsettling,” he admitted. “And it wasn’t until years of therapy and getting sober and doing all the work on myself that I’ve done over the past 30 years that I realized it was the objectification. You realize like it has nothing to do with you.”

Society will always have the ‘teen idol’

While Lowe and actors like Matt Dillon and Tom Cruise were teen idols in the 1980s, he acknowledges that the concept is a mainstay in pop culture.

“You just happen to be the guy who is occupying a place in the Zeitgeist at that moment for every hormonal teenage girl,” he said. “And when they outgrow you or you outgrow it, there’ll be somebody else. There about what’s been going on Donovan and Elvis and Bieber and Leo and it’s going to go on and on and on. And you just happen to have a spot on the conveyor belt and half the time, they don’t even know why they like you.”

Rob Lowe getting directions in his convertible in a scene from the film 'Oxford Blues'
Rob Lowe getting directions in his convertible in a scene from the film ‘Oxford Blues’ |Photo by MGM-UA/Getty Images

Rob Lowe Wouldn’t Have Made It in Hollywood Without ‘The West Wing’

Lowe said his teen idol status occurred before he made The Outsiders, which ultimately thrust him into the spotlight. “It actually happened even before that because I did a network TV series when I was 15 and there were like three networks then,” he recalled. “And we were the lowest-rated show, like all of television, with horrible ratings, and I looked back at the ratings, and I think we had 50 million people and it was a disaster.”

The series banked several episodes before it rolled out. “They introduced me and the place went so crazy that they instituted a rule that nobody under the age of 20 would be allowed into the audience again,” he said. But, “I’m still the same guy, nothing has changed.”