Written by Melissa Henson | Published September 24, 2020
The calls to #CancelNetflix since the film “Cuties” debuted on the streaming service is clearly working, as the number of people dropping the service has increased significantly since the film was released.
People of all political stripes are speaking out about Netflix’s decision to distribute and profit from the film that sexually exploits children – countering the media’s narrative that only conservatives are speaking out against this film. And people across the globe are taking a stand against child sexual exploitation in the media.
We hope that these cancellations serve as a wake-up call for the streamer, that Netflix will turn over a new leaf, and pledge to be a more responsible corporate citizen going forward. We can hope, but I won’t be holding my breath.
You see, “Cuties” didn’t happen in a vacuum. This isn’t some kind of programming anomaly. This is a pattern of behavior on the part of Netflix. Which is why Netflix’s statement in defense of “Cuties” is so laughable.
Netflix says, “’Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children… 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.”
“Social commentary against the sexualization of young children?” Maybe Netflix needs to remove the log from its own eye, first.
Briefly, “Cuties” follows 11-year-old Amy, the daughter of devout Senegalese Muslims, who has just moved to France with her mother and two younger brothers. Amy is torn between a desire to fit-in with the sexualized western popular culture embraced by her peers, and her traditional, conservative upbringing; between a culture that she feels empowers women and a culture that treats women as second-class citizens.
But Amy takes her embrace of sexualized western culture too far – she hungrily seeks out examples of sexualized dancing and behavior to emulate so she can fit in. She learns how to “twerk” – a dance move that originated in strip clubs before making its way to night clubs – from watching music videos, and teaches these strip club dance moves to her friends.
In addition to being coached and trained in highly sexualized dance routines, these girls use foul, vulgar language like “f*ck,” “b*tch,” and “t*ts.” They are made to wear revealing clothing.
Amy is shown pulling her pants and underpants down so she can photograph her genitals. In another scene Amy attempts to seduce a grown man – a family member, no less -- to get out of trouble for stealing his cell phone.
This child actress, in a scene with a grown man, removes her jacket and begins to remove her pants before being pushed away. These girls are shown thrusting their pelvises to simulate sex, and “humping” the floor.
None of this was necessary to show to critique the sexualization of children.
But as I said, this is par for the course for Netflix.
The Netflix original series “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” featured an orgy scene with half a dozen scantily-clad teens. Netflix streamed an Argentinian film called “Desire” which included a scene of a nine- or ten-year-old girl self-stimulating to climax. Netflix acquired a series called “Baby,” about 16-year-old prostitutes. Netflix airs “Sex Education,” which contains explicit depictions of sex and nudity -- including male genitalia – mostly involving high school-aged characters.
The Netflix original animated series “Big Mouth” is particularly vile in its attempts to sexualize pubescent children. According to the show’s IMDB page, episodes have contained “full screen closeup of a 13-year-old’s penis and testicles; a girl talking to her vagina about her life -- the vulva and clitoris and labia are shown in graphic close up for extended periods of time; a middle-school student’s bare breasts are drawn; two 12-year-old and 2 high schoolers play a game where they face each other in competition to see who can ejaculate on a cracker the fastest.
If Netflix truly cares about the sexualization of children – why are they one of the lead offenders? For years Netflix been desensitizing viewers to the exploitation of child-aged characters and child actors – and asking audiences to be entertained by this exploitation.
We’ve asked Netflix repeatedly to pull this kind of content from their platform – and repeatedly they’ve defended it, stood behind it, excused it, justified it – but never have they acted to remove programs that sexualize children from their streaming service.
Netflix’s defenders are also quick to dismiss concerns about “Cuties” by attempting to tie criticisms of the film to Q-Anon conspiracy theories, but here’s the brutal reality: U.S. Marshals recently rescued 72 missing children who were at risk for abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. The danger to children is real.
But we are supposed to believe that airing “Cuties” is some kind of public service. Sorry Netflix. Not buying it.