To say that Netflix’s new movie about an underage girls dance group is provocative is like looking up at the sky and mentioning how blue it is — which is to say nothing on the uproar the film’s caused around the world.
What’s especially interesting is the rave reviews it’s gotten from those in the film industry, who have applauded it for a “nuanced and challenging portrayal of what it’s like to be a girl today”.
There’s no question that Cuties pushes the envelope, or that it’s a challenging movie, but even as someone who values films that aren’t afraid to do or be those things, I have to wonder about the value the film itself serves.
In a lot of ways there are parallels with Joker — public outcry over each film’s content, concerns on how it could empower more unscrupulous individuals, calls for streaming platforms or content creators to restrict or outright ban viewings, all amidst an all too real-world setting.
But there’s something distinct that sets Joker apart from Cuties, which is the root of one movie will be reviled while the former is lauded.
It’s how Joker deals with problems that exist in the real world while deliberately separating itself from reality, whereas Cuties is trying to provide an uncompromising snapshot of the world we’re living in right now.
So why is that so much of a problem?
Why are we more comfortable with the story of a mentally distrubed mass murderer living in a made up city rather than being confronted with a very serious problem that affects our young girls?
Pushing against the rules of what’s acceptable in society is essential to drive change–it’s how we got the world we live in today, for better or worse, and if people weren’t willing to promote what they see as necessary changes, we could still have segregated drinking fountains.
At the same time, it’s important to be aware of the lines which shouldn’t be crossed, particularly when it comes to children. It helps us as people to distinguish ourselves from animals by adhering to a moral standard.
So in this predicament, I have to admit that I’m torn: on one hand, I’m a person who values the freedom to explore artistic expression that provocatively challenges social norms, and on the other, I’m someone that values the innocence of children and wants them to be able to just be kids.
But then that creates a whole slew of questions, particularly when you remember political figures have thrown their hats in the ring: how far do we take this outrage? Do we ban the movie? Other movies and media similar to it? What do we consider to be similar?
Censorship is an awfully slippery slope, especially once authority becomes involved, and while I’d be in favour of removing this film from its platform, it would set a far-reaching precedent, which could easily be seized by a more opportunistic individual for potentially less-than-noble purposes.
Now I’ll admit I don’t have kids and I’m probably a long ways off from having any, but I do understand why people are up in arms over this movie.
The fact that this “challenging content” is being championed, while deliberately included to induce feelings of discomfort to offer an uncompromising look at reality, is quite simply gross, and knowing there’s almost certainly a “certain kind” of person out there watching it makes my skin crawl.
I’ll be optimistic and say that maybe the director of Cuties didn’t set out to make a movie that would appeal to pedophiles, and genuinely wanted to create a piece of art that provided a look into the struggles little girls face today.
But the thing about art is that creators surrender ownership of “what it’s saying” once what they’ve made is put out into the public, whatever “it” is.
For example, based on public interpretation Fahrenheit 451 is about the censorship of information and destroying dissenting idea, but according to its author, Ray Bradbury, it’s actually about how mass media reduces interest in literature.
Who’s right, the creator or the consumer?
Regardless, what Cuties was meant to be versus what it’s become are two different things, and what it’s perceived as is something wrong and vile.
Remember, it’s essential to “think of the children”.