I saw the ‘Cuties’ trailer before the film was released and then I saw the film myself. What did I think? It was far worse than I thought it would be. Deeper than disturbing. Here’s a section from the original article I wrote:

“The hypersexualization of children in adult costumes, choreography and music divorces sex from personhood(humanity). It parades children as objects instead of embodied human beings with a dignity that integrates mind, body and spirit. Then come horrific outcomes from the APA research:  feelings of shame, appearance anxiety, eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression & anxiety, harmful beliefs about consent, relational disfunction, and many others.” 

Beyond the published remarks about Cuties in September 2020, there was a tsunami of media discussion about the film released by Netflix.  From online petitions to international news releases, ‘Cuties’ unleashed a critical dive into cultural reflection because it placed prepubescent girls in adult sexual material. To be clear, many adults didn’t understand why the film provoked such a big deal. Let me educate you:

The filming of 10 and 11 year old girls in the film met the criteria for hypersexualization from the APA definition:

    1. She is valued only for her sexual appeal or behavior
    2. Her physical attractiveness is equated with being sexy
    3. She is treated as a sexual object
    4. Sexuality is inappropriately imposed on her.

Children need adults to protect their age-appropriate innocence.

In an article published by the NY Times in 1983 titled The Loss of Childhood, the on-going research revealed the negative cultural changes about the attitudes about raising children.

“We have seen, in an amazingly short span of time, a transformation of society’s most fundamental attitudes toward children. Where parents once felt obliged to shelter their children from life’s vicissitudes, today, great numbers of them have come to operate according to a new belief: that children must be exposed early to adult experience in order to survive in an increasingly uncontrollable world. The Age of Protection has ended. An Age of Preparation has set in. And children have suffered a loss. As they are integrated at a young age into the adult world, in every way their lives have become more difficult, more confusing – in short, more like adult lives.”  The research found that exposing children to adult topics before they were developmentally            ready did more harm than good. Children are not mini-adults.

Research(Source 1; Source 2) shows that there is a connection between people of color and sexual exploitation.

Did you know that 2 characters, including the lead in ‘Cuties’, were black?

I read all of the film reviews on ‘Cuties’ from national film critics. Unbelievably, none of them raised the issue of REAL 10 and 11 year old girls that were hypersexualized as they were being filmed (this being different from research re: children & adults watching & copying movements in the film).

“Outlets like Rolling StoneL.A. TimesThe Telegraph and The New Yorker defended the film as “worth seeing” and a nice “coming-of-age” story, and condemned critics as crazies from the “right-wing” who are “afraid of child sexuality.” (newsbusters) How can the director believe that she is bringing light on the harmful issue of child hypersexualization when she allows the girls to be commodified in the film with numerous takes)? What about the girls who auditioned & were objectified for the film but were not chosen?

“In order to depict the sexualisation of young girls, more than 650 young girls were hyper-sexualised when they auditioned for film roles. Had the director chosen to show the dancing using silhouettes or blurred-out images to keep the girls safe, then the audience would have understood the gravity of having girls behave like this. It would not have glorified this behaviour but instead would have done what you claim it is doing: showed how horrific it is that girls in the inner city are at such risk.”

“The camera is constantly at an angle to exaggerate the girls’ bottoms, sexualise their lips and linger on the sexier parts of their fragile, prepubescent bodies. Their dancing sees them doing slut-drops, suggesting that they are sliding their young bodies over a penis, grabbing their crotches, pulling their fingers out of their mouths suggestively and writhing around on the floor as if they were having sex. The scene where they dance in front of the security guards lasts for far too long and adds nothing but tantalisation.”

We are programming girls to be objectified through ‘the male gaze’.

“The male gaze describes how cinema distinguishes between the male protagonist, who drives the plot, and the female spectacle, whose value to the film is more for her visual appeal than her contributions to the plot, what Mulvey calls her “to-be-looked-at-ness.” The male gaze isn’t only for men in the audience. It defines how the film is constructed so that everyone sees through its gendered perspective. Cinematic techniques from lighting to editing and camera work induce this voyeuristic and even sadistic gaze on the actress. When the girls dance in Cuties, the camera travels slowly down their bodies, lingering on their midriffs and crotches. There are quick cuts to close-ups on spread legs and gyrating bums. The girls are not clumsy or awkward, intensifying the male gaze with a dazzlingly flawless spectacle.”

For years, we have been accepting child sexualization when the negative outcomes have been proven and researched. Why have we done this?

Pediatricians are concerned.

Adults who allow this trend are complicit.

“Ultimately, children are threatened by both predators and a culture that does not hear them when they cry out for help.”

This issue goes beyond bipartisan politics.

“There’s absolutely nothing libertarian about the sexual exploitation of children. Those of us who believe in individual liberty must speak out against those who would take advantage of the most vulnerable individuals in society. If we want the role of government to be strictly limited in our society, we must be men and women of high moral standards. Denouncing pedophilia and child exploitation would undoubtedly fall under the responsibilities of a moral society. As John Adams so boldly stated, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

So how do we change the culture? Remember, we are the culture. We can teach others about this issue and change how they think. We can speak out within our relational circles of influence. And we can hold Netflix accountable for releasing ‘Cuties.’ We should insist on increased legislation motivated by the research behind the incredible value of loving relationships versus the horrific outcomes for children that are introduced to hypersexualization that grooms them for abuse.

As adults, we need to step up to the plate and protect children.

“Our task is to think about our sight proactively, even defensively, and perhaps more important, offensively, seeking out beauty to behold with a purpose. In terms of our sight, there is no other way to counteract all the bad things we will see. Still, there are certain sights that we should never behold, and the exploitation of children is one of them.”(Baltimore Sun)

“As adults, we should teach both boys and girls that the value of a person doesn’t lie in their sensuality or physical beauty, but rather in their intelligence, goodness at heart, ability to work as a team member, or in their willingness to help others.”(Dora Family Journal)

“‘Cuties’ clearly sexualizes children, and in particular, girls of color. The pornography industry is built on these stereotypes, and Netflix is taking a page from this playbook by featuring these children in such a manner. Netflix must stop this practice immediately.”(First things)

Cuties is a social critique on what happens when we allow misogynistic, violent, exhibitionist internet culture to ravage girls – training them to wield their immature bodies as currency. They imitate and role-play a pop-culture version of sexuality they have been led to believe is “normal”. These girls don’t even know what sex is. When they dance as they do, they are merely simulating their female hip hop idols who are wealthy and popular.” (Eternity News: Melinda Tankard-Reist of ‘Collective Shout’)

“So this is what pedophiles do, they groom their victims to say that they should be acting sexy as children, that they are sexual beings as children and should act out sexually. And pedophiles use that approach in order to get their victims to feel more. They’re trying to get them acclimated so that they can then abuse them.” (Daily Signal)

“Pedophilia is sexual interest in a child. Acting on pedophilia is sexually exploiting that child. That is what is happening. And these platforms—whether it is TikTok, or it is Instagram, or it’s Snapchat—are allowing a lot of pedophiles on their platforms to make unsolicited, and even if a word is solicited, it would be wrong to basically make advances on children. Netflix is basically sending the message through their film “Cuties” that this is normal for kids to act sexually, that it should be encouraged, and that it should be hidden from parents, and that’s the way it should be. That’s not the reality.”(Lifenews)

Let’s not minimize what our culture is allowing. So DA:NCE Team, take action………

  • Have courageous conversations with other adults. Share DA:NCE materials. Like us on facebook.
  • Let Netflix and its CEO Ted Sarandos know that you do not support the release of ‘Cuties. ’“Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos defended his firm’s decision to continue streaming the controversial movie ‘Cuties,’ and expressed his disapproval of censorship of storytelling after a Texas grand jury criminally indicted the streaming giant for depicting children in a lewd manner……
  • Support legislation on behalf of children. A grand jury in Texas indicted the streaming giant under a law that bars the “lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of an unclothed, partially clothed, or clothed child” and said the film had “no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
  • Sign the DA:NCE ‘Cuties’ petition to stop the hypersexualization of children in adult costumes, choreography and music.

It’s not cancel culture when it’s actual evil.