Dispelling the #CancelNetflix Movement Around Cuties

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I woke up this morning to see #CancelNetflix trending on Twitter and decided to see what this was about. Unsurprisingly, the film Cuties is once again bringing the top streaming service a ton of backlash. If there’s anything that will bring the left and right together, it’s the topic of being against pedophilia. But the story around Cuties and #CancelNetflix is much more nuanced, and it really sheds a light on the veil many of us willfully pull over our eyes.

If you’re wondering what people are saying about Cuties on Twitter, look no further than right-wing loud mouths like Ben “Racism Doesn’t Exist” Shapiro, ex-Info Wars b-team member Paul Joseph Watson and conservative convert Tim Pool:

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It’s no secret that we live in a world of headline readers, and it’s really interesting to me how many movies, TV shows, books, and other forms of entertainment receive backlash before anyone has even witnessed them. From the outside, it’s easy to intuitively believe that this movie is abhorrent and that people should boycott netflix for allowing it on their platform.

But what is this movie actually about? Recently, NPR wrote an article about the controversy and included quotes from the creator:

The French film, Cuties, is being praised for its critique of the hyper sexualization of young girls — and the consequences of that — as they rush to become adults in the age of social media.

It began several years ago when filmmaker Maimouna Doucouré was at a neighborhood gathering and her jaw dropped. A group of young girls in revealing outfits came out on a stage and performed a choreographed routine.

Doucouré says they couldn’t have been more than 11 years old.

“And they were dancing very sensually, sexually and I was very disturbed about what I was seeing.”

But instead of passing judgment, the self-taught writer and filmmaker says she wanted to understand what she was seeing. She dove into research, interviewing more than one hundred adolescent girls over the course of a year and a half.

“It’s a period [that’s] very specific,” Doucouré says, “where you are not any more totally a child and you are not an adult. You are looking for yourself and everything is changing very fast.”

So, on the surface, this movie looks like the twisted fantasy of someone who is attracted to children, but it’s more of a commentary on a massive issue we face today in the age of social media. Look no further than young creators like Danielle Cohn who have been sexualized since they were twelve, or just flip through TikTok for 5 minutes, and you’ll see kids trying to become the next rich and famous influencer.

I don’t think people necessarily have a problem with the film. I believe they have a problem with a reality that we’re refusing to face as a culture. And that reality is that for years, we’ve been glamorizing an industry that takes advantage of children, and often times it’s to the benefit of the parents.

If you need further proof of industries that sexualize young women and turn a blind eye, recall the story of Larry Nassar. Nassar was sentenced to over 300 years in federal prison, and these were for his disgusting crimes against young gymnasts for years.

The story of Nassar is complex, and I can’t do the victims justice in this short piece by explaining all of the people who neglected to help these young women. But, in short, this doctor of young, female, Olympic gymnasts spent years molesting these young women. When you hear a story of how a monster like this got away with it for so long, you can’t help but ask, “How much was ignored because the parents wanted their daughter to help them get rich and famous?”

As much as people want to signal to the world that they’re against Netflix hosting the movie Cuties, the culture as a whole looks extremely hypocritical. The show Dance Moms premiered in 2011, and it’s so successful that it’s been on for 8 seasons. This is a reality show about real young women in the industry the writer and director Maimouna Doucouré is trying to shed some light on.

What people don’t want to admit is that Cuties isn’t a fictional story. As mentioned in the NPR piece, Doucouré interviewed more than 100 young girls and researched this industry thoroughly. This is less of a movie and more of a documentary.

This is a prime example of the analogy, “never see how the sausage is made”. When you understand the truth about the industry, you can no longer enjoy it. This movie puts a spotlight on the shows we glamorize like Dance Moms, and young women like JoJo Siwa who grew up in that industry.

Since the dawn of Hollywood, parents have been using their kids as cash cows and as a means to impress their friends. The reality is that this isn’t pretty, and Drew Barrymore has very publicly discussed how she started drinking, smoking weed, and snorting coke by the age of 12.

Today, in a world where any kid with a cell phone can get famous, and a vast majority of kids want that, we should be grateful for a movie like Cuties. As a father, I know that I’d much rather know what’s going on in the world of child exploitation than pretend it’s the fun world of Dance Moms.

It’s a whole lot easier for us to get outraged at a movie on Netflix than it is to face the reality that there are more Larry Nassar’s out there. By focusing our energy on trivial things like Netflix movies, we don’t have to face the reality that people like Larry Nassar were able to get away with their heinous acts right under our noses.

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