Earlier this week, John looked into the horror show that is the Netflix movie “Cuties,” asking (somewhat sarcastically) if the film has just “been misjudged.” He went through a couple of different reviews offering different takes on the film’s relative merits or lack thereof. I will disclose at the start here that I haven’t watched the film myself and don’t have any intention of doing so. But it does seem to have struck a chord.
What I took away from John’s analysis was that this film appears to be whatever the viewer wants it to represent. Perhaps we do tend to see what we expect to see in the world around us. For example, he cited one review of the film from the Telegraph which described it as “a provocative powder-keg for an age terrified of child sexuality.” If that’s what you saw in Cuties, then you are somehow arguing that people who are offended by the sexualization of prepubescent children are somehow the problem and everyone needs to loosen up a bit. I don’t even know what to say to anyone thinking such things.
But others insisted that the film was sending a warning signal, depicting the erotic displays as a sign of something going wrong in our society. I suppose that’s a more palatable explanation than the idea of normalizing such “entertainment” but it still leaves many questions and much to be desired. Still others, like Jeff B. from NRO, decried it as nothing other than thinly veiled child porn dressed up to look like some sort of social commentary.
We now have an English translation of an interview the director gave to the press. In the interest of fairness, I’ll include a bit of what she claims she was trying to do. (WaPo)
We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society. I wanted to open people’s eyes to what’s truly happening in schools and on social media, forcing them to confront images of young girls made up, dressed up and dancing suggestively to imitate their favorite pop icon. I wanted adults to spend 96 minutes seeing the world through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, as she lives 24 hours a day. These scenes can be hard to watch but are no less true as a result.
Like most 11- and 12-year-olds, our actors in the film had already seen these types of dances and more. Despite this, during filming we were extremely mindful of their age. A trained counselor was present on set. There was no nudity except for a one-second shot in which the main characters see the exposed breast of an actress over 18 while watching a video of a dance routine on a grainy mobile screen. The project was even approved by the French government’s child protection authorities.
The director describes how she watched an actual performance by young girls of that age group who were dancing and twerking in provocative costumes. This prompted her to interview more than 100 such girls, learning that they were imitating the behavior they saw from older internet “influencers” in an effort to gain a larger following and more “likes.” And that was supposedly the motivation for her to make the film. She wanted to demonstrate the corrosive nature of our online culture and the negative impact it has on young girls who don’t know any better.
Okay. Just for the sake of argument, I’m going to say that this is a plausible explanation. The phenomenon in question is clearly a very real problem and it’s very disturbing. But even if we accept that premise as the starting point, why did she have to include the lengthy dance scenes with the scantily clad children? If you want to make a documentary about the shocking increase in gang violence we’ve seen in our nation’s cities, you can definitely do that without literally filming young gang members being gunned down in the streets with their blood flowing into a storm drain.
This film could have been made using clips of older (18+) internet “influencer” women performing these dance maneuvers. Those scenes could have been interspersed with interviews with both young girls talking about imitating them and their shocked parents expressing dismay over the road their children were following. With apologies, I simply can’t buy the director’s excuse. Those dance scenes were put in the film specifically to shock people if not to draw the attention of any pedophiles who might drive up the film’s clickthrough rate on Netflix. It should be pulled and, at a minimum reshot without those scenes if not abandoned entirely.