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Conflicted about Cuties

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Netflix released a movie this week titled Cuties, and it’s causing a lot of uproar about its content.

The French film centers around the lives of four 11- and 12-year-old girls who are competing to enter a dance contest. The main character is a girl growing up in a Muslim home who is rebelling against that culture. She does so by engaging in the very behavior she knows her family will despise.

Ironically, in some Muslim cultures, females are frequently flogged and even executed for exhibiting that type of behavior. But, the movie portrays the activity as normal.

The movie drew controversy a few weeks ago when Netflix released an image to promote the upcoming release, and quickly pulled it down after so many people claimed it was an inappropriate sexualization of children. The company replaced the offensive image with one of four typical teens having a good time shopping.

The firm has since replaced that photo with a black-and-white image of a conservatively-dressed girl staring into the camera. That depiction is far from the movie’s reality.

Netflix apologized and blamed the problem on an overzealous marketing staffer. The company claimed it really was a good film depicting the struggles of adolescent girls today. After all, the critics at Rotten Tomatoes gave the award-winning film a score of 80 percent.

So, I was willing to give Netflix the benefit of the doubt. I watched the movie a few nights ago, and its content is far, far worse than I could have imagined.

I have viewed an enormous amount of pornography over the years, and even wrote a book about how lust works to kill faith, steal joy and destroy lives. I can unequivocally say that Cuties is the closest thing to non-nude child pornography that we have ever seen on a mainstream entertainment venue.

Here are just a few of the troubling scenes:

  • Older teens hold down one of the 12-year-olds during a fight and forcibly remove her pants, then take video of the girl in her underwear and post it online.
  • The same girl, who stole someone else’s phone, when confronted by the owner, locked herself in the bathroom. Then she proceeded to remove her pants and underwear, spread her legs and take close-up photos of her genitals to post online. You don’t see body parts, but it’s not hard to understand what’s going on.
  • The girls dance repeatedly in very suggestive clothing in ways that simulate they are having sex.
  • The youngsters are filmed rubbing their hands over their own buttocks, breasts and crotches, as well as those of each other.
  • During the competition itself, in front of a live audience of people of all ages, the girls are again simulating having sex on stage. At one point they each simulate having sex with three men at once — vaginal sex while receiving anal sex while masturbating a male.

I can see why people are outraged that this film is shown on Netflix where it can be accessed by children of all ages. I can also understand why people who viewed the film vehemently disagreed with critics by giving it a score of just 5 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The only redeeming value of the film is found in the final 150 seconds when the main character has a change of heart, runs home, puts on decent clothing and goes outside to engage other teens in typical childhood games.

A right to be outraged

Christians should be outraged at this movie. It is wholly inappropriate for adults and children to watch, and it should be illegal to even make films like that, especially for mainstream consumption.

It is puzzling to me why Netflix thought it wise to release Cuties during a time of heightened awareness worldwide to the epidemic of child exploitation and trafficking.

People wonder why child exploitation is on the rise. Well, look no further than Cuties to understand why that’s the case.

The Bible warns, in James 1:14-15, “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The problem with Cuties is that it is a gateway to child pornography. Men who would never consider seeking out pornographic images of preteens, may very well be enticed to do exactly that after viewing this film.

The movie entices people to linger on the images, and leads to the assumption that all girls this age act like that and are not only ready for sexual relationships, but actively pursuing them.

The more men dwell on this desire, it gives birth to sin and they seek more of the same type of imagery.

The first look is forgivable because someone may have unintentionally stumbled upon it. It’s the second look where an evil desire is birthed.

For years, I have said that pornography will take people to places they do not want to go, from where it is very difficult to return.

In my book, Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life, one of the chapters explores the slippery slope concept. People start out viewing images like those depicted in Cuties, but soon become bored.

So, they advance down the slippery slope to softcore nude images, then hardcore videos, then live shows or inappropriate physical relationships. As one stage fails to offer the same level of excitement it once did, they fall to another level.

At the bottom of the slippery slope, we find the worst types of sexual deviancy – child pornography, rape and “snuff” videos where females are sexually tortured while being murdered.

That’s why movies like Cuties are so dangerous, as are the nude selfies and videos taken and shared by teens and preteens themselves. When youngsters start experimenting in pornography with child porn, it is not likely that they move up that very dangerous slippery slope.

Where’s my conflict?

You would think that all the above would be ample justification for me to join the #CancelNetflix movement that is sweeping the nation this week. One report noted the company has lost $9 billion since that hashtag went viral.

However, I so despise the cancel culture that the idea of participating in it myself is causing personal conflict.

I really do want to send Netflix a strong message that its decision to make Cuties available on that platform is wrong on multiple levels. I sincerely hope that senior executives at the company come to their senses, admit the errors they made, apologize and voluntarily remove that movie from the Netflix website.

More importantly, I would hope they’d learn from that mistake and never attempt to do it again.

However, I also know that nothing spurs interest in something faster or more effectively than seeking to ban it. That action generally works only to draw much more attention to a book or video than it would likely have received if nobody talked about it.

I readily admit that I wouldn’t have sought out and viewed Cuties if there was not so much fuss about the movie.

The cancel culture is way out of control. Christians are upset about Cuties – one film – and are willing to cancel their subscriptions to Netflix, which also offers nearly 4,000 other shows for viewing at any time. Many of them are family-friendly.

On the other hand, non-Christians get upset with a pastor proclaiming support for traditional marriage and seek to get him fired, have his platforms removed, his books withdrawn for sale and even threaten his life.

When does it end?

If Netflix voluntarily does the right thing, I am far more inclined to keep my membership active. I have been a Netflix subscriber since 1997 when the company mailed DVDs to members, who mailed them back in order to get more movies.

But, if the company holds to the position that Cuties is a good, relevant film and refuses to remove it from its inventory, then I’m facing a real dilemma.

Because I know where the type of pornographic imagery depicted in Cuties can lead people, I am more inclined to cancel my Netflix subscription and return to viewing physical DVDs for entertainment.

After all, I certainly don’t want to be enticed to watch Cuties again myself.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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