With all the outrage, we watched the Netflix movie “Cuties“. Something that causes that much outrage, I'm going to want to watch for myself. It was played up as the poster-film for kiddie porn. I wouldn't recommend it as it wasn't very "good", but it wasn't quite as bad as it's made out to be. I went in expecting to hate it, and get confirmation bias that Netflix was run by assholes, and left thinking, "not a great foreign film", and reasons for complaints... but not the end of civilization. And the Streisand effect will probably help it more than hurt it.
What was it about?11 year old Senegalese girl, going through tween angst, culture clash, and trying to find new friends/place in a foreign land, while not fitting in with her old culture. She turns to copying older girls to fit in, and a sexualized dancing to win a contest and get attention.
Is it a good movie?Nope. But to be fair, if you just watch the story, it’s not horrible. It does try to tell a bigger story, and the inappropriate dancing is a part of that story.
Is it worthy of the outrage it’s getting? Maybe. I'll leave that to each viewer to decide for themselves.
It does sexualize children. And that’s something to be outraged about. And it does show poor judgement to make the movie. But other than some twerking moves (and other bad choices) in a bad dance movie, it isn’t child pornography, and it's not as bad as other drek that didn't produce the same outrage. Nor do I think it'll be single handedly responsible for the fall of civilization. But it isn't exactly raising humanity in any way either.
I give it a little leeway for few reasons:
- It’s French... you judge France by French standards. And I’m not shocked that the French would sexualize children. They have a long history of doing so.
- pedophelia is in the eye of the beholder. As an adult not attracted to kids, all it meant to my wife and I was little girls acting shockingly inappropriately to fit in. But that’s what little girls do. To creeps, it’ll be fap material. But to them, watching schoolgirls cross the street could do that. So I don’t know we can do anything to stop perverts from being perverts. As a non-perv, it was little girls not fully getting the consequences of what they were doing while trying to get attention. I wasn't titillated, but you can understand how people would think it was titillating to pedophiles.
- This topic isn't even that new: Lolita, Pretty Baby, American Beauty -- there's a whole category of "Nymphette" movies by Hollywood and Foreign Films that sensationalize teen sexuality. This felt less overtly sexual than most of those even if she was a year younger than 12 year old Brooke Shields playing a prostitute in Pretty Baby. So as there seemed to be worse from the industry in the past, the outrage over this one seems outsized.
- I don‘t feel like the message was glorifying her action, as in the end our protagonist finds herself rejecting both extremes in her life, and trying to find a middle road being French.
My impression:. Looking at it from a French view, it felt more about a Islamic girl going overboard backlashing against her cultures chastity/propriety, and then figuring out how to fit in as a french French “woman” of 12. Thus the loudest notes in the movie weren't glorifying twerking, it was French racism (cultural superiority) and a lecture to Muslims girls about how to fit in and not be as “backwards” as the cultures she came from. Moral: Loosen up, be liberated, take pride in your body... but know the limits and don't becoming a little skank. (The end was her dressing too mature for her age, but not with the immodesty of most teens). So it felt more directed at Muslim immigrants, and they should be the most pissed.
It got an 89/3 Reviewer/Viewer split on Rotten Tomatoes. This is like the Piss Christ of films. Reviewers rated it positively (and it won an award at Sundance), while viewers did not like it. As usual, movie reviewers/critics are often pretentious assholes that are out of touch with their audience. As "art" it was trying to push boundaries and make people uncomfortable. Which it does. But society and most viewers don't watch for "art" or shock value, but entertainment. So just because it pushes boundaries doesn't make it good. But you can understand Netflix decision to share an "Award winner" with their viewership... even if it wasn't a good film.
So in the end, others can be outraged if they want. There was shock value injected in the movie to create controversy. And I wouldn’t recommend it as a "good" movie. But I’m not outraged myself. It was a failed attempt at art. It isn’t a good idea to titillate pedophiles. But I dislike a lot of Netflix choices in their political messages and spin making movies/series. So this just isn’t the worst choice from them. They get an almost pass for not falling below my exceedingly low expectations.
The mob has valid complaints against the film... but an 11 year old sexualizing herself for attention in dance (and maybe regretting it) seems less "icky" versus early teens sexual discovery with adult partners -- at least to me. But YMMV (Your milage may vary). So it's bad, but it doesn't feel like the worst movie on the topic, or the worst out of a country that harbored Roman Polanski from justice for many decades.