Lest you be left behind in the latest thing to become enraged about, allow me to get you caught up so you can appear properly indignant when the subject turns to this week’s national furor over a low-budget but thoughtful movie called “Cuties.”
The nation’s Facebook pages are doing what they seem to do best: uniting people to tilt at windmills. This newest call to uninformed action urges you to cancel your Netflix service because it’s carrying the movie, which deals frankly but calmly with the social pressures on a group of 11-year old girls just entering adolescence to dress and act like the tarted-up celebrity trash they see on their cell phone videos.
These are the same issues, by the way, facing your own 11-year-old daughters, whether you chose to believe it or not.
Nevertheless, a foreign movie—French, no less!—dealing with such an issue probably never stood a chance against the typical head-in-the-sand, hair-trigger righteous anger of America’s ever-restless Facebook fault-finders. And wherever you find Facebook, you’ll find politicians eagerly playing the fan-the-flames game. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now urging an “investigation” into whether Netflix and the filmmakers broke any federal laws relating to child pornography.
Let me summarize the plot. Four pre-teen girls living in the slums of Paris must negotiate the Kardashian-trash, hip-hop, highly-sexualized culture into which they are entering, and they all have access to cell phones. Their parents are devoted, but have struggles of their own just providing food and shelter for their families. The result? More unsupervised time for their children than they would prefer.
This is not a situation unique to the slums of Paris, by the way.
So the young girls oscillate crazily between watching stupid twerking videos, and the more standard childhood fare of seeing how many gummi bears you can jam into your mouth at one time.
Conflicts ensue. The girls do their childish best to mimic the behavior their cell phones say is required for coolness. They make a mistake or two. They enter a dance contest to strut their stuff. It doesn’t go well. One of the girls—spoiler alert—finally realizes how stupid it all is and quits in the middle of their performance to go home and apologize to her mother. Honest tears flow. A bit of maturity is achieved. Roll credits.
Along the way, “Cuties” addresses every teen’s need for social acceptance, the eternal awkwardness of adolescence, and the parallel universe living in your child’s cellphone. If I had an 11-year-old daughter, I might want to watch it—without her in the room—as a stark reminder of the dangers lurking in that cell phone she says she can’t live without.
“Cuties” is not a recruiting tool for young hookers, or a gateway drug for wannabe pedophiles—all of whom have vastly more hardcore media at their immediate beck and call should they chose to indulge.
So here’s my point. You might find the premise of “Cuties” to be an interesting take on the challenges facing pre-pubescent girls in our highly sexualized culture. Or you might decide it’s just a stupid foreign movie with English subtitles. And, of course, you’re free to think subject matter is vile. If you do, here’s my recommendation: don’t watch it.
You won’t be alone. There’s lots of stuff on Netflix, and other video services, that I choose not to watch. I’ve never watched a single episode of “The Walking Dead.” Same with “Game of Thrones.” Too violent, too graphic for my tastes. But I’ve never started a Facebook campaign to amend the First Amendment to only include stuff I like.
Just like nobody is forcing you to watch something you feel might be objectionable.
Meanwhile, if you feel that even with all the porn channels out there, and with all the sadistic violence and simulated sex you find on just about every other channel loaded into your Roku—if you still want to urge others to avoid “Cuties,” then be my guest.
Just realize that, as often happens, your efforts will likely have the opposite effect of what you seek. On the day I watched it, “Cuties” was ranked “Number 7 in the USA” on Netflix.
Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in the Magic Valley. Connect with Chris on Facebook and Instagram at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.
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