Cuties

by Lon Casler Bixby about a month ago in review

Saying that Cuties promotes pedophilia is like saying the movie Twelve Years a Slave promotes slavery. It doesn’t.

Cuties
Netflix (used for review purposes)

Wow! Where to begin? For weeks, before the feature film “Cuties” had been released, I was seeing lots of triggered “Karens & Kens” freaking out over the description of the movie and its trailer; a movie they haven’t even seen yet; a movie they probably will not see for themselves; a movie where they base their rants solely on the rambling opinions of others; a movie that they have already made up their minds is the worst thing on God’s green earth; a movie that… Well, you get the idea.

I’m not a sheep, nor a lemming, and I’m not one to get my shorts all in a bunch based on hearsay, the media, and/or the biased musings of internet trolls with an agenda – whether they be the radical left or the righteous right. I do like to make up my own mind and form my own opinions using my eyes, my ears, and my fingers to do my own internet research.

A coming-of-age movie about preteen girls is definitely not the type of film that interests me. Not in the least. But with all the hubbub of Cuties plastered all over every social-media platform that I frequent, my interest was piqued. Begrudgingly so.

I watched the trailer.

I was shocked! I was appalled! Oh, my God! How could… No, seriously. It’s a trailer. The movie looked boring, and I didn’t see what all the commotion was about. The trailer looked no worse, and no better than any other trailer involving preteens that I’ve seen. Maybe I’m not seeing what everybody else is seeing. Or, maybe there’s really nothing to see. Regardless, I lost all interest.

Cuties is pure child porn.” “It’s promoting pedophilia.” “It sexually exploits children.” The public’s outrage and fury grew as the onslaught of attention grabbing cut & paste rhetoric and soundbites continued to invade Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even Instagram. I couldn’t avoid it.

Fine! Now, because of the extensive public outcry, I have to see the movie. I really don’t want to, but I decided to watch Cuties just so I can make up my own mind and see if there’s any merit to the movie, the claims against it, and the supposed forthcoming criminal investigations and complaints into everybody involved with the production and distribution of the film.

I watched the movie.

It’s none of those things people are claiming. It’s not child pornography. It doesn’t promote pedophilia. And it doesn’t sexually exploit children.* And, I think those who say it does are just fear-mongering for attention, likes, and retweets.

“What? How can you say that? You’re a disgusting pervert!”

Okay Karen, take a breath. Right about now I’m sure you’re seeing red, you’re not thinking clearly, you’ve jumped to conclusions, and your holier-than-thou brain is already made up about me, my sexual preferences, my sexual orientation, my religion, my politics, my skin color, my gender, my opinion, and anything else that you can use against me that doesn’t fall within your own narrowmindedness.

Are you still reading? Good.

If you haven’t seen the movie with your own unbiased eyes and ears, then you have no dog in this fight, you have no leg to stand on, your thoughts are not your own, and you absolutely have no reason to be all bent out of shape over something that you have not witnessed for yourself.

But, if you have seen the movie, can rationally form your own conclusions, have an open mind to other people’s opinions, and most importantly… are still reading my unjaded point of view on this subject, then let me continue by stating…

I am very against any type of child porn – I hate it with a passion. I’m against sexualizing children. And I think that pedophiles are the scum of the earth. I don’t know how I can make my views on that any more clear. But there they are, in print. So don’t get me wrong about how I feel on those subjects.

Cuties is a story about preteen girls rebelling against their parents and their cultures by emulating the world around them. Just like every one of us have done. Maybe not in the way these girls do it, but we’ve all rebelled against our upbringing in one way or another. It’s part of growing up.

These girls are just a mirror to what they see and what they are bombarded with at every turn – society! The society that we have built. The society that we have created for them. And in our society the culture of sex is rampant. There’s no escaping it. Everywhere we look – sex. Of course, sex is appealing, it’s taboo, it’s attractive, it’s attention getting. And that’s what these little girls are trying to do – get attention. Get attention by replicating what they see. By doing what we as a society have Okayed for them to view and imitate.

Most of the uproar about Cuties sounds like it’s coming from somebody who’s visiting the internet for the very first time. Oh, come on! You know it’s true. Decadent behavior has been going on for eons and we, as a society have not only let it go on, we have put our stamp of approval on it.

In the 70s the movie Pretty Baby was about a 12 year old prostitute having sex with older men. Brook Shields starred in the movie as the lead. At the time, she was 12 years of age and appeared nude. How about Blue Lagoon? Again with Brook Shields (now 14), again nude, and having sex. Sorry, Brooke, I don’t mean to be picking on you, it’s just the only movies from back then that I could think of at the moment… There are so many others.

At least in Cuties there’s no nudity and the girls don’t have sex.

In the 80s Madonna was singing about sex and grabbing her breasts and crotch every time she performed. Young girls everywhere imitated her and wanted to be her.

In Cuties, acting like all kids do, the girls see sex on their phone, and laugh and giggle, and wonder what the people are doing. It’s all part of growing up. You don’t like that? Don’t make sex so readily available for kids to watch.

More recently, Miley Cyrus performing at an awards show – rubbing her lady-parts, twerking, and dry-humping Robin Thicke like they were behind closed doors. But they weren’t. They were in front of impressionable children, and we as a society put them on a pedestal and broadcast their performance to anyone that wanted to see it (and probably lots that didn’t).

And what about Cardi B and her widely popular #1 music video – WAP? With her breasts and butt hanging out for all the world to see she seductively dances, humps, twerks, and sings about her Wet Ass Pu*sy. Yes, I understand that she’s an adult. But who’s watching the video? Young girls. And when their parents aren’t around, these girls are in their rooms, imitating Cardi B, dancing, twerking, and singing about their WAPs.

The girls in Cuties are just doing the same thing that young girls everywhere are doing. I’m not saying I approve of it, I’m just stating a fact.

But throughout the movie, the girls are told that what they’re doing is wrong. The filmmakers are not promoting naughty dancing, nor their style of clothes… They’re quite disapproving of it – over and over again.

I.e. When Amy (the lead girl) tries to seduce her cousin for the use of his cell phone, he pushes her away and says, “What are you doing? What’s wrong with you?” I’m paraphrasing, that may not be an exact quote.

Furthermore, Amy’s Auntie tells her she’s wrong, her mother tells her she’s wrong, and when she goes too far and snaps a photo of her vagina and posts it, even her friends tell her it’s wrong, and they disown her for it.

FYI: No, we the movie viewers, do not see her private parts when she takes the picture.

Then during their big dance finale, their only performance in front of an audience, the entire audience shows their disapproval of the dance that they’re doing. So much so that Amy finally realizes it’s wrong and runs off the stage in tears.

The filmmakers are not saying come f*ck little girls. Just the opposite, they’re continually making it well known that how the girls are behaving and what they’re doing is not right and not acceptable.

But how did all this alarmist backlash and overreaction start? Probably some perverted hypocrite watched the trailer and got a chubby. Then feeling guilty about it he decided that the only way to deal with his own sexual shortcomings and perversions was to lash out at the trailer that made him stain his shorts. That’s all conjecture, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

And soon afterwards, others with nothing better to do followed suit and the faux controversy went into a feeding frenzy – feeding on its own moral hysteria.

Cuties is a little film, if it wasn’t for the “controversy” very few people would’ve ever seen it. It would have just quietly disappeared into the annals of forgotten films. But now, since the uproar, everybody has seen it and pushed it into being a top-viewed movie. Well, I would venture to guess that the majority of people complaining about it haven’t actually seen it, but they certainly know about it and have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon – blowing it completely out of proportion and missing the entire message of the movie.

In reading some of the negative reviews and Tweets regarding Cuties, it’s clearly obvious that most of the Tweeters have not seen the film, or if they did, they saw it with preconceived notions, and their minds were already made up about it before they pressed play.

I.e. One Tweeter was irate that the girls in the film were playing with condoms. Seriously? Talk about taking things out of context. What actually happened is that one of the girls found a condom and thought it was a balloon. She had no idea what it was, so of course she blew it up. One of the other girls realized what it was and they were all horrified. And the very next scene was the girls washing the first girl’s mouth out with soap. How is that the girls playing with condoms? Rhetorical question.

Another Tweeter complained that the girls showed breasts over a video chat. She must have been watching a different movie than me, because that never happened. There is no nudity in the movie. Oh wait, I have to rephrase that. There is no nudity in the movie involving the actors themselves. And don’t forget, the girls in the movie are just actors just playing a part.

Back to what I was saying. The only nudity in the movie was when the girls were watching a video of a group of dancers and one of the dancers in the clip had a nip-slip – showing her breast for a fraction of a second. That was it.

Oh, and this Tweet really gets to me. The Tweeter was disgusted because Amy’s Auntie told Amy that she was “a woman now.” The Tweet made it sound like the Auntie meant that because Amy was wearing slutty clothes and twerking that she was now a woman. When in fact, if the Tweeter actually saw the movie he would have realized that Amy had started her first period and that her Auntie was referring to that. Just like in many cultures, the first menstruation is the start of womanhood. Her being a woman now had nothing to do with twerking. Idiot!

I’m not a fan of the dance scenes in Cuties, not at all. Actually, I found them quite boring, too long, and unnecessary. I feel the same way about pretty much any dance movie. But, it’s a dance movie and a dance movie needs scenes of dancing. And the scenes were no worse than the young girl dance teams gracing the videos of YouTube. Some of those are pretty explicit. Where’s the outrage?

Go to YouTube and search “Girls Dance Group”. The first thing that pops up (one of very many) is a video with 38 million views of a group of 8 year old girls dressed in skimpy provocative outfits performing at a dance competition, and guess what?… They’re doing the same type of raunchy dance moves as the girls in Cuties. But you know what the difference is?... In the real dance competition, the crowd is cheering the little girls on, while in the movie, the crowd is not, they’re booing and they let the girls know that what they’re doing is inappropriate. So, you have to ask yourselves… How is Cuties promoting the sexualization of children?

The answer is… It’s not. Well, not intentionally anyway.

*Regarding my asterisk thingy above – everything can be sexualized. Sexualization is in the eye of the beholder and some people will sexualize any and everything. In the eyes of many viewers, the movie is sexually exploiting children. But is it really? Or is it using sexuality to make the point of what our society has become?

As I have already mentioned, I really didn’t care for the dancing in the movie, I understand it’s a vehicle to drive the movie forward, but it’s pointless and I feel that it would’ve been a much better movie without it.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the Cuties was the home life of Amy. She comes from a loving Muslim family, but with strict traditions. She’s going through puberty. She’s living in a new neighborhood with new friends. She’s rebelling. She’s dealing with the fact that her father is taking a second wife and she and her mother are unhappy about it. But it’s part of their culture and Amy’s mother makes the decision to accept it. It’s just the way it is, and Amy has to accept that fact as well.

I found this storyline to be the best part of the movie. It’s a look into Muslim life that we, here in the Western world, seldom see. It was interesting, and I learned a few things. And for me, that made the movie worth watching.

Even though we have created a society (movies, television, advertisements, fashion, music videos, video games, et al) that approves and promotes derogatory behavior, dance and dress, I personally do not think young girls should be dressing like that, nor be doing those types of suggestive dances. It’s definitely not age appropriate. But, with that being said, I also do not think the movie Cuties constitutes as child pornography, and it certainly does not promote pedophilia.

Saying that Cuties promotes pedophilia is like saying the movie Twelve Years a Slave promotes slavery. It doesn’t.

What I do think Cuties is?… It’s a wake-up call. It’s a message being presented right in our faces, saying, “Hey, society. This is what you’ve created. This is the seeds you’ve sown. Reap what you sow.”

***

Cuties is a French Foreign Language Film and is the feature film directorial debut of a Maïmouna Doucouré. She’s a Senegalese-French film director and screenwriter. The movie has taken honors at Sundance – winning the Global Filmmaking Award and the Directing Jury Award. It was released by Netflix in September, 2020.

review
Lon Casler Bixby
Lon Casler Bixby
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Lon Casler Bixby

Lon Casler Bixby is a published author: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, & Comic Books. He's also an award-winning photographer whose work has been featured in magazines, art & coffee table books, & in Art Galleries throughout the world.

See all posts by Lon Casler Bixby