There is no context in which sexualizing children is acceptable. If you believe that, you will also consider the French movie Cuties to be unacceptable. This moral objection is obvious and straightforward and has nothing whatsoever to do with the filmmaker’s noble intentions or any other artistic merit the movie may possess. Yet there are some commentators (as Alexandra DeSanctis has pointed out) claiming that only wacky right-wing conspiracy theorists or those trying to undermine children of color, would hold this view. Two recent interventions suggest otherwise.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) released an open letter on the movie, explaining:
On many occasions, the entertainment industry has played a valuable role by offering constructive social commentary and highlighting the many threats facing our children. However, regardless of intent, any portrayal of a child that objectifies them or depicts them in an indecent or exploitative way is cause for great concern. We encourage people to learn more about the true harm of child sexual exploitation from NCMEC and other organizations dedicated to the protection of children.
Lina Nealon of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation also offered clear-sighted analysis:
While we commend Maïmouna Doucouré for exposing the very real threats to young girls having unfettered access to social media and the internet, we cannot condone the hypersexualization and exploitation of the young actresses themselves in order to make her point.
The NCSE went further, arguing that there is merit to the Twitter movement, “#CancelNetflix.” Nealon suggested that to absolve itself, the streaming service “could and should insist that the particularly sexually-exploitative scenes are cut from the film, or stop hosting this film at all.” She’s right, of course. So why hasn’t Netflix done this?