I think some parents might choose to watch the movie and allow it to open their eyes.
I have to warn you, the movie is troubling at moments and fathers/men may be more sensitive to these images. So if you don’t want to watch it, don’t.
I’m writing this today from a park where I often come to work out or write. On a few occasions here, I’ve seen some pre-teen girls filming TikTok videos. Most of what I see out here is innocent. If your child goes to school, has friends, TikTok, snap chat, Instagram, or any social media for that matter, then chances are they’ve probably already seen and been exposed to things that are inappropriate. This movie shows the product of the kind of messaging young girls are given about their value and how it is rooted in how sexually entertaining they are perceived to be. Young girls have been and will be exploited regardless of if movies like this exist. It’s everyone’s job to do their part to protect children and youth, and the best way to do that is by being aware and having candid non- judgemental conversations with your child. Figure out how much your child knows or decide what is important for them to know for their age.
Ask questions about things that keep coming up. When I don’t understand something (which is often) or I hear about something new I look it up or I ask. I’m not up to date on all that’s going on, but I do my best. You don’t have to be an expert on youth culture to be involved in your child or youth’s life, you just need to practice having those non-judgmental conversations. I’m still working on this, but kids and youth are very forgiving you will be surprised.
Important things to note that are shocking and uncomfortable; Sadly, some kids start getting involved in various forms of sexual activity as early as eleven. Some even earlier depending on what they’ve been exposed to. Elementary school and Junior high is filled with kids coming from so many difficult backgrounds experiences. Find out from your young person what’s going on at school or in your home. If you want to protect, you must pay attention and educate.
Back to the reality of the movie: I think there were some things that were done well and some things that were unrealistic. The movie couldn’t possibly cover everything, after all, it’s a movie, not a documentary.
Cuties did a good job showing the disconnect between the girls’ ages, innocence, and the sexualized way they were acting. The girls seemed to genuinely feel that they were bringing art to life with their dance. Their ignorance and confusion were characteristic of girls who try to act older than they are and think they understand more about life than they actually do.
The movie highlighted cell phone and social media addiction. The main character Amy was so unhappy in her real life that she became obsessed with being liked, fitting in and achieving online status. This is where we are as a society. Young girls sometimes value what their peers are thinking more than what their parents are teaching them. Depending on how early one is introduced to social media, online life can take on greater importance and weight than real life.
Another important point to highlight is how Amy makes a connection with her growing and changing body to the sexualizing of her body. She is obsessed with dancing and music videos and these seem to tell her what she is supposed to do with her body.
How many young girls are learning in the same way what society expects of them? Without open discussions with your daughters, this can become a reality for them. The movie showed how easy it is for girls to fall through the cracks if no one is paying attention to what they are doing.
Cuties demonstrates that just because you raise a child in religion or with faith it doesn’t mean they will be shielded from having to make their own decisions about what they will do in life. Sheltering kids without true knowledge and discussions with them is a dangerous way to parent. It’s important to not merely tell them your expectations but prepare them for the different perspectives they will encounter. Amy doesn’t outright reject her faith but you can see there is a huge disconnect between what she hears and what she’s doing.
The movie showed real-life reactions to what would happen among peer groups when girls are deemed to have gone too far in their actions. At one point in the movie, there is a lot of social disproval among Amy’s friends for something that she does. The girls are also booed during a performance for acting too sexual although they don’t seem to understand why they are being booed.
Something I think that is worth noting is that there was a lot of disgust from older boys who are confronted with how old the girls actually were. I don’t know if that is realistic but I’m sure some boys would behave this way. One older security guard seems entertained by the main character’s dancing to get out of trouble. Ironically the girls call the security guard that tries to call the police on them a pedophile while entertaining his creepy associate enough to be let free. The girls demonstrated knowledge of the possibility of their exploitation but did not care that they were exploiting themselves in that moment.
I think realistically there would be more sexual abuse situations that would result from this behaviour as well as sexual abuse situations that would lead to this behaviour. That wasn’t brought up in the movie but it is a very real scenario. The girls seem to move freely throughout their town without being accosted which I don’t think would be the case in real life.
I think it’s safe to say this movie on its own is a problem for many people and people would prefer that it didn’t exist and that’s ok. But let’s be clear on something. Pedophiles don’t need this movie to be emboldened, they already are and they don’t need this movie to have access to kids. They already do. I think sometime last year I watched this video of a mom that was weeping because the police contacted her to inform her that a sex offender in their area had online access to her daughter. He knew the school she went to, her address, and when she was walking to school. He’d been sending her inappropriate pictures and messaging her through email. The girl was about thirteen I think. She didn’t know how to deal with what was happening so she hadn’t told anyone. Thankfully the police intercepted the predator. When I heard that I decided to have a talk with a few kids I know about privacy on their social media accounts and who they accept as friends. One young girl was shocked that her friend didn’t have those privacy controls set up yet. As a parent, you can’t protect your child if you don’t even know what they are up to. Communication is key.
This movie is just one puzzle piece to an intricate system that normalizes the sexualization of children. Boycott the movie and ban Netflix if you want. It won’t change what’s happening around you- It will only ensure that you know nothing about it. A friend of mine made a good point to help me understand people’s outrage with only the movie. “People don’t care about the dancing or the twerking- or the effectiveness of canceling their Netflix subs- they care about the visual sexual exploitation in the movie- and their rage is guiding them.” That made a lot of sense to me, that people are only upset about how the movie was filmed, not the clear message. That is fine- but there is so much more than that.
Banning the movie can be a false finish line. The movie can get banned and the issues can still be there glaring at us in the face. If you’ve joined the fight to get rid of the movie I’m not saying you’re wrong I’m just saying don’t think the one movie is the only problem. There is more to look out for and speaking up about. There are a lot of things that we can focus on getting rid of in our society that are even more harmful. I’ve spoken about them in previous blogs, but it’s impossible to get rid of everything. The best way to protect your children is to speak to them openly and help them to think critically about things that they will be exposed to when you are not there.
We need to speak to boys about their reactions to things they see as well as have conversations with them about why they do what they do. We need to speak to girls about how they should be treated and why they want to do the things they want to do. Kids need tools on how to deal with the world around them, friends, images and situations. This is a large problem, it is not just for some. It is a work that everyone who cares about children needs to be active and involved in- whenever it comes up.
Alicia A Berberich
Thanks for standing up, speaking up, and showing up with a hard message that needs to be said. It’s especially important that the boys see this too and realize they can make a difference by treating girls with respect. Respect. A seven letter word that makes all the difference.