OPINION: Follow-up, Texas grand jury indicts Netflix over “Cuties” again completely missing the point
This is a brief follow-up to a longer article discussing the controversy around “Cuties” published on 10/06/20. Read the full story here.
On Oct. 7, a grand jury in Texas indicted streaming platform Netflix for promoting its film “Cuties." The movie was subject to a number of claims that it sexualized children, some going as far as to call it child pornography. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting the U.S. Department of Justice investigate Netflix over the film.
What the people criticizing “Cuties” have failed to understand is that the film wasn’t intended to sexualize children or spread child pornography. In an article written for the Washington Post after the initial outrage over the film, “Cuties” director Maïmouna Doucouré explained that she made the film to detail the pressures adolescent girls face in the world today. The movie was intended to start a constructive conversation about ending the sexualization of children, and Doucouré felt that an example based on her observations of girls in Paris would help drive home the importance of her message.
The people who are calling "Cuties" pornography of a pedophile’s dream seemed to have skipped watching the movie, or they didn’t understand it. Either way, the continued calls for Netflix to be punished or the movie to be removed present far more of a problem than the ignorance itself. Those in power shouldn’t be attempting to censor viscerally disturbing content aimed at exposing an enormous problem. They should be embracing the reality of girlhood that “Cuties” documents and striving to foster a conversation about the risks society and social media in particular create. Along with the criticism of the film’s content — or at least the single poster that seemed to be all most of those criticizing the movie had seen of it — some on the right sought to target the Obamas over the film. The Obamas have nothing to do with “Cuties” – the criticism was based on the fact that the Obamas have worked with Netflix on other projects.
The most troubling part of the indictment came in the statement by the grand jury that the movie holds “no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." This claim is blatantly false and points to a troubling notion that the discomfort caused by the images in question in “Cuties” is sufficient reason not to confront the problems the movie is about. And, remember, the goal of the movie was to make people feel uncomfortable — young girls being sexualized so they can fit in to society's cookie-cutter ideals of what a woman should be should make everyone feel uncomfortable. For the sake of young girls everywhere that face the same pressures and sexualization depicted in “Cuties," we can’t turn away from the uncomfortable scenes, we can’t allow the right to use the film as ammunition for baseless political attacks and we can’t allow the misguided decision by the grand jury in Texas to define the film on a national level.
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Aidan Rhodes is a journalism major from Flagstaff, Arizona. He is a passionate chef, athlete and writer.