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Cuties: Should We Only Be Mad With Netflix?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File

Netflix just released a movie titled Cuties. It is anything but cute.

Many feel the “film” is an absolute child-exploiting monstrosity and have joined in on the online conversation to #CancelNetflix.

Netflix removed a series of zombie movies a few years back after receiving a multitude of complaints. The complaints were warranted. In the zombie movie, a virus was transferred by rape but the outcry never reached the level of outrage we are seeing with Cuties

So, what will Netflix do with the public demands to cancel the streaming network as they parade the sexualization of underage girls?

Apparently nothing. 

“It’s an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up-and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie,” a Netflix spokesperson said recently.  

In order to form my own informed opinion, I decided to watch this latest testing of America’s taste for the abhorrent. My verdict: The trailer does not accurately portray the film. The film is much worse. 

French film director Maïmouna Doucouré claims the intention of this movie was to shed light on the challenges pre-teens face as they grow into womanhood. Doncoure aimed to show how the social media world heightens the hardships and confusion young girls face with sexuality. 

One of the opening scenes begins with 11-year-old Amy quickly captivated by a barely dressed young girl doing a provocative dance scene in a laundry room. Amy quickly realizes this young girl is a “Cutie” and joins their crew of dancers. 

The movie gets increasingly more risque and provocative. Think of the 1990 hit movie, Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts wherein Julia Roberts’ character, Vivian, finds her self-worth and leaves behind a world of prostitution. There was a clear message about how women, no matter one’s history or previous choices, have worth and value. It is never too late to claim it. Conversely, Cutie’s main character, Amy, played by young Fathia Youssouf Abdillahi, starts off as an innocent young girl ascribing to her family values. As the movie progresses Amy sheds her clothing and values showcasing her 11-year-old body in spandex-like clothing, one of which the film uses to show Amy getting her first period. 

The film is centered around dance which one would typically expect to include close angles of gyrating mid-sections, but when the topic of the film is pre-teen girls, viewers can expect to be not only uncomfortable, but appalled. With the exception of pedophiles, a natural reaction to seeing an 11-year-old (do you remember when you were 11?) blowing up a condom she finds on the ground, would be to rush to her rescue. Emotionally stable viewers will likely want to rescue these children not only from the vulgar language, provocative clothing and dance, but the equally disturbing scene where main character Amy ragefully tries to drown another child. 

I applaud the director’s stated effort to show the challenges young girls face today. Sadly, this film is more likely to encourage the sexualization of young girls. This not only adds to the lack of good role-modeling we have for young girls, it adds to the perception young boys are already struggling with in their same aged counterparts. Worse, it brings material some are calling soft porn involving children to a more mainstream, readily available outlet. 

Many are saying Doucoure’s insistence of wanting to “raise awareness on this issue” missed the mark and instead created more of an appetizer for pedophiles. Doucoure is not alone in missing the mark. Where are the parents of these young actresses?

Are they aware of the sex trade and trafficking of young girls their daughters’ age? I spoke with Sheriff Bill Wayburn of Tarrant County, Texas, the fourth largest county in the nation. Sadly, he is on call around the clock as he and his deputies fight sex trafficking in our country. “The scenes from this movie are a pedophile’s dream,” he shared. 

To his point, one of the more disturbing scenes in Cuties portrays the girls’ big dance competition. As they thrust on the dancefloor, the camera pans to the judges’ panel consisting of adult men and women appreciatively “oohing and aahing” the more provocatively the girls dance. 

One of the male judges implies sexual appreciation as his face conveys, “ohhhhh yea” in response to the children suggestively dancing. This reaction to children dancing in a sexual way normalizes the criminal mental illness that is pedophilia. 

One founder of The Exodus Road, a non-profit organization with operatives rescuing boys and girls who are being trafficked across the world, made this important point: “Children are the most vulnerable population we have. It is our job as a society and community to protect our children. This film violates that in many ways.”

Before filming, Cuties reportedly held auditions with hundreds of little children trying out with “sexy twerk dances”. What are parents, casting agents, and society telling these children when asking them to perform in such a way so they can be evaluated and “chosen”? 

I decided to look at the young actresses' personal Instagram accounts and was disappointed to see that their outfits didn’t differ much from what was featured in the film—provocative and suggestive. It is hard to not question, were they heavily influenced from this project?

I found myself feeling angered with the parents of these child actors and the executives at Netflix who approved this and decided to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. 

Should the focus really just be on Netflix?

Yes, I do believe Netflix needs to be held accountable. So do other online platforms, including TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and others. Sex trafficking touches all of them. 

Nude, violent, and borderline pornographic images, which are found on all of these platforms, play a huge role in the sex-trafficking of children.

“We recently rescued a girl being sold on Twitter,” one co-founder of The Exodus Road shared. 

The slave trade today is the largest it’s been in the history of man. The sex-slavery ring is the main contributor to the slave trade today. It continues to grow across the globe. Are we paying attention? Are we holding ourselves accountable?

While we might disagree on many things, particularly in 2020, I hold out hope that the overwhelming majority of us will agree: sexualizing children is inexcusable and must stop. 

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