The film's critics complained that it endorsed the sexualization of children. They're wrong.


Cuties, an award-winning French film available on Netflix, portrays 11-year-old girls who practice and perform raunchy routines for a dance competition. Critics of the movie, many of whom admitted they had not seen it, argued that it was illegal and complained that it endorsed the sexualization of children. They were wrong on both counts.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) urged the Justice Department to "investigate the production of 'Cuties' and Netflix's distribution of the film" to determine whether either violated the federal ban on child pornography. But no investigation was necessary, since Cuties clearly does not fit the legal definition of child pornography: a "visual depiction" of "sexually explicit conduct" involving minors.

That definition includes "simulated sexual intercourse." But as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained in a 2008 case, the phrase applies only to depictions that would "cause a reasonable viewer to believe that the actors actually engaged in that conduct on camera." Nothing in Cuties fits that description.

Furthermore (spoiler alert), the film is consistent with director Maïmouna Doucouré's avowed intent and with Netflix's description of Cuties as "a social commentary against the sexualization of young children." The audience at the dance competition is visibly and audibly appalled by the tween twerking. The protagonist, Amy, tearfully realizes that she is trying to grow up too fast and has been too quick to reject the culture and values of her family, Muslim immigrants from Senegal. She runs home, hugs her mother, and changes out of her skimpy outfit.

The last image in the film is Amy joyfully jumping rope with kids in her neighborhood. It is an unmistakable sign that she has decided to remain a child a while longer rather than mimicking the risqué behavior of the adult performers she sees on social media.

NEXT: Time

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  2. Yeah, that cover picture of Cuties doesn’t sexualize pre-teen girls at all.

    1. Jacob Sullum needs that cunny honey.

  3. Ah yes, an 11 year old shows the world how wise how has become.

    Kinda reminds me of Scooby Do. The adults there are really stupid too.

    1. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was approximately 11 years old and that fact is hardly controversial. Some young women just mature more quick and are ready for a sexual relationship at a younger age. No age is “illegal” and no love is “illegal”. As libertarians, we should support the freedom of children to exercise their sexual rights.

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      2. Au contraire, Rabbi. You’ve got the age wrong, the lovely daughter of Abu Bakr was not eleven. Don’t cast aspersions on Islam and it’s prophet (pbuh).

        The hadiths say “that the Prophet (pubh) married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old.”

        Aisha was not some washed up old tart in double digits like these “Cuties” strumpets.

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  5. The film’s critics complained that it endorsed the sexualization of children. They’re wrong.

    Well I’m glad that’s all cleared up. I guess I’ll see the movie now because you know I’m all about movies with kids singing and dancing, can’t get enough of them. Who the hell wants to watch a movie with Clint Eastwood or Mel Gibson or Robert Duvall when you can watch kids dance and sing in impromptu production numbers!

    1. How will FBI agents know what child pornography looks like if they don’t research, analyze, and store the images on their personal computers?

      1. Rumor says the average federal employee spends 4-5 hours a day gazing at internet pron….so they can state “we know what it is when we see it.”

        1. I have as much contempt for “the average federal employee” as anyone, but that’s quite a rumor! Haha.

  6. “a social commentary against the sexualization of young children.”

    But it DID sexualize young children. They used one of the worst scenes in the movie as their original movie poster (without context). Why?

    Because they knew when people saw little girls dressed like that it would draw a huge controversy. Nobody would know about the movie if not for that. So, yes, they were exploiting little girls sexually so they could get publicity. To provide cover, they wrapped what they were doing in a storyline saying the very thing they were doing was wrong.

    And the other question: how many pedophiles have a Cuties promo poster hanging on their walls? Probably a lot…

    1. It’s not supporting sexualization of children, it uses scenes of sexualization of children to show that sexualization of children is bad. It’s just like movies sometimes contain murder but they’re not “supporting” murder.

      And of course marketing people always choose the most controversial options so they get attention. That’s their job for better or worse. The filmmaker probably had no say in that.

      1. The sexualized the children playing the roles in order to be against sexualizing children. People do not actually get murdered in movies. There are people in the sex industry who thought this movie crossed lines that should not be crossed and was very uncomfortable to watch.

      2. I think you’re missing the point they’re trying to make:

        They’re not talking about the movie, or the plot, or the social message the director intended – they’re talking about the actual human girls that a bunch of adults dressed up in skimpy clothing and taught to twerk on camera. THAT exploitation, for money, is the concern.

        Those young actresses have lives. They have the experience of being told to study this sexualized behavior and mimic it. For money, for fame, because their parent/agents told them to. Their actual childhoods – being child actors or no – forever will have the entire production of this movie in it.

        That’s the objectionable part. Not what the movie says about other children who might or might not be exploited, but the actual children actually sexualized to make money for adults.

        1. Those children are actresses. They are used to wearing various costumes, and performing various actions in them. I’m sure they already knew what twerking was too. They weren’t actually neuter beings until some adult “sexualized” them.

          1. Yeah, it’s not like there isn’t a history of child sexual abuse in the entertainment industry or anything like that.

            1. Ever heard of the phrase “casting couch”? Given how bad this movie was, many parents were up in arms, thinking that there might have been one for this movie.

      3. Children can not consent. Even if we want to pretend its different in a movie somehow because “art”

      4. It’s not supporting sexualization of children, it uses scenes of sexualization of children to show that sexualization of children is bad.

        Really? Which specific scenes have the characters saying at least some variation of, “Hey, this shit is fucked up and shouldn’t be accepted by society at large” and not be mocked for it?

    2. In the movie, The Brown Bunny, actress Chloe Sevigney gives actor Vincent Gallo an actual, on-screen blowjob. The scene was quite controversial. Gallo, in an interview about the movie, mused that this scene was garnering massive attention, but was only ~30 seconds of the film. Then he laughed that his marketing team used a still from the scene as a promotional poster.

      I’m not that up in arms about cuties. Seems like a tempest in a teapot. But… yes, the people who HAVE seen the movie seemed to think that yes, while the director was attempting to tell us how awful the sexualization of children was, he also seemed to be winking and nudging his viewers at the same time about how sexy these young girls are.

      I haven’t seen it, so I can’t comment… but on the poster alone, I’m going to say that the marketing department pulled the same stunt that was used for The Brown Bunny. Make of that what you will.

    3. I am reminded of nothing more than Victorian-era “confessional” stories that were little more than an excuse to print pornography in the guise of cautionary tales.

      “Do not do this cool thing?” also comes to mind.

      If it was animated, I might accept the arguments of the article. However, they took real little girls, put them in extensive sexually exploitative situations, which if rumors are correct even included partial nudity.

  7. If Trump or someone else you didn’t want to defend had pictures of little girls on their hard drive like in the movie, you would be cheering as the feds hauled him off to prison.

    1. How dare you talk about my brother like that!

  8. Look at all those movies from the sixties and early seventies that showed the dangers of drugs and free love…lots of nudity. I mean LOTS.
    Of course, these were also aimed at the guardians of morality, so they were OK.

  9. They sexualized actual children while crying crocodile tears of how terrible it is to sexualize children. The movie is at best a mixed message that many people found cringeworthy.

  10. The film’s critics complained that it endorsed the sexualization of children.

    No, they didn’t, you moral midget.

    They complained that the film actually sexualized children.

    Which it very blatantly did, with every single twerk.

    It’s the difference between claiming a film endorsed murder, and claiming that filmmakers actually committed a murder to make their film. Nobody condemning filmmakers for committing a murder to make a film gives a rat’s ass about the message of the film they murdered to create; they’re pissed off about the actual murder.

    And saying that the film’s message is anti-murder isn’t a defense to the charge that they committed murder. It’s an admission that committing a murder is reprehensible and should be condemned.

    If you defend Cuties, you are defending the actual sexualization of actual children, the actresses that appeared in the film.

    If your defense is based on the claim that the movie sends an anti-sexualization message, then you are saying that the making of the film was reprehensible, and thus you are defending actions that you believe are reprehensible, which is obviously incoherent.

    This is not hard to understand, and it’s been laid out quite clearly by critics of Cuties multiple times. So the only explanation of making that defense at this point is that you, personally, believe that the sexualization of children is fine, but you don’t dare defend your position.

    So, the very fact of making the “it’s anti-sexualization of children” argument is proof that that 1) you have no objection to the sexualization of children, and 2) you are a simpering hypocrite.

    1. Yeah, the movie sexualized children. Reason magazine ENDORSED sexualizing children. See the difference now?

    2. It’s such blatant gaslighting that Sullum should be embarrassed about it. You’d think he’d try being more subtle in that regard.

    3. But hey, he beat the crap out of that dummy crafted of straw!

  11. If children can’t consent to being sexualized by grubby icky creepy loser pedos, that fact doesn’t change just because its a famous, sophisticated filmmaker in a slick, artistic movie setting. Grow a damn conscience.

    1. Have you seen the movie? Did you even read this whole article?

      1. I wish I had never even heard of it, unfortunately I have been subjected to the trailer and screenshots.

        Do you know what a movie trailer is for?

    2. If children can’t consent to being sexualized by grubby icky creepy loser pedos, that fact doesn’t change just because its a famous, sophisticated filmmaker in a slick, artistic movie setting.

      I’d check with Roman Polansky on that one.

      1. He actually did cross my mind after I wrote that. He ended up in France too, didn’t he?

        1. Remember during BJ-Gate, when Bill Clinton’s supporters reproached Puritanical Americans for not being as sexually sophisticated as the French?

  12. So I guess it would be OK if all the tween roles were played by actors over 18. Maybe make that over 30.

    And in the spirit of preventing exploitation of the down-trodden, all roles should be played by men. White men. Old white men. From the 1%.

    Can’t wait to see the New Netflix.

  13. Critics of the movie, many of whom admitted they had not seen it…

    Just look at this very comment section for examples.

    1. Don’t need to see trash to know it is garbage. Some things are just a cultural ghetto.

      I’m not going to defend anything sent straight to Netflix.

    2. Thanks for confirming your pedophilia.

    3. Defenders of statutory rape laws, many of whom admit they have never fucked a prepubescent girl…

    4. Would I have to attend your execution first in order to oppose it?

      1. “All these people protesting rape. Have they been raped? Then where the fuck do they get off?” — some guy

  14. ANOTHER article on this movie? I wouldn’t have even given the movie a second thought, but writers are spending an awful lot of time defending it.

    1. What with Hunter’s laptop, Epstein’s client list and a media-proclaimed president-elect who’s on video being inappropriate with many little girls, I think we’re gearing up for a top-down societal reexamining of kiddie diddling.

      It’s become pretty obvious over the last month that Sullum is now the in-house DNC propaganda officer, ergo this article.

      1. The left hates “pedos” too. It is politically expedient. They’re the first group which will be rounded up into camps for extermination. Would you stand up for them?

        1. Well, of course the left hates pedos. They hate everybody, and pedos are part of everybody, aren’t they?

    2. Welcome to the twisted, fucked up new “libertarianism” where children no longer have any rights or protections at all.

      1. One of the points of libertarianism has always been that rights and “protections” are often at odds with each other.

    3. I’m just surprised that statists read openly Libertarian publications. Please continue, by the way. It can only help.

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  16. Hey Pervert! Sexualizing little girls is wrong, so I’m going to sexualize these little girls to show you that it’s bad and you better not whack off to it!”

    This show, and its defenders, remind me of the old Exploitation films, where they added an educational or moral message to legitimize all the sex and drugs they were showing. “It okay that he’s sniffing coke off her ass while getting a BJ, ’cause they’re showing us it’s wrong”.
    I Am Curious (Yellow) even added in an interview with the actual Swedish Prime Minister to turn it into educational material rather than the just a porn flick.

  17. If I paid a bunch of 11 year old girls to come to my place and do what they did in that movie I’d rightfully be hauled off to jail for it.

    Is setting up a camera and calling it art all it takes to excuse this kind of thing?

    1. No, you’d need to do it in France, too.

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  19. You dopes already tried normalizing this shit a couple months ago. Re-posting a slightly revised version of the same article doesn’t make the argument any more compelling or factual.

  20. Sullum, you should totally write another 2 dozen articles on this movie. Your total and complete obsession over a 6 month period with a movie about 11 year olds masturbating and performing dance numbers nearly nude really becomes you as a 60 year old really becomes you and isn’t creepy as fuck at all.

  21. dude. no. don’t be fucking disgusting to prove you’re disgusting.

  22. This sort of thing in our culture has been around since the 70’s when Nadia Comanici got her perfect tens at the Olympics. Why is it that gymnastics is the one sport where the women are way ahead of the men in terms of endorsements, publicity, and exposure? Young adolescent girls prancing around in tights is a huge draw; that’s the reality,like it or not. More subtle than what’s in this movie, but it’s there. I don’t think it was necessary to make a movie to display it more graphically.

  23. Reason had several articles about this movie a few months ago. Why another one now?

    1. Slow season. Nothing else going on, so they’re going to beat this dead horse, to put it indelicately.

    2. Because Sullum the 60 year old confirmed bachelor is really, really, really obsessed with a movie about 11 year old girls masturbating and dancing in small outfits for completely normal and not all creepy as fuck reasons.

    3. One of Reason’s more bizarre “things” is to constantly downplay pedophilia and the sex trafficking of minors to the point of basically claiming they never happen at all and nobody should be at all concerned about them.

      I used to think this was strictly one of Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s personal insanities, but it has become pretty clear over the last several months that this is now a high up “libertarian” agenda item for the entire outfit. These are some sick, twisted mofos.

      1. open borders, abortion and pedo..the mantra of the cosmo woke libertarians these days…oh and Ron Paul was a bad guy…

      2. Nothing is as perverse as an open discussion about a sacred and forbidden holy cow of the present aristocracy. Heavens forbid that you cannot use a threat of physical violence to buttress your argument which covers even more thinly than any of these actresses’ dancing outfits. Go on, continue your ad hominem claims that whoever disagrees with you is a pervert whose speech the state or vigilantes should punish.

        1. You sound like a sad former client of Jeffrey Epstein’s.

          1. So in other words, I am a pervert whose speech the state or vigilantes should punish, and therefore my argument is invalid?

            My, my.

  24. Do they include a “Smoking” warning with the “Sexuality, Violence, Language” warnings at the beginning? Kids smoking would be true exploitation.

  25. The premise of this entire conversation is diametrically opposed to any internally consistent libertarian ideology. Promotion, and especially discussion, of child sexuality cannot constitute grounds for the initiation of force in any free society.

  26. Edgy…right…

  27. OK, I’m gonna take it to hyperbole mode:

    This is Sullum enabling his inner Obama.

    There are those who say that making a film that is critical of sexualizing children is wrong. But let me be clear.. I do not support sexualizing children. This film makes it clear that sexualizing children is wrong. We will not bow to those who would stop us from spreading this message! Sexualizing children is clearly wrong, and those who would oppose this film will not succeed in stopping us from making that point to the people!”

  28. Enough already, Solum. Didn’t you get enough credit with the pedophilia lobby for the first time around?

    What’s next, excusing snuff films because they claim they made it to show that murder is bad?

    1. I’m sure these actresses’ lives are simply destroyed because they starred in a world-famous film and did stupid dance moves for five minutes.

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  30. “been too quick to reject the culture and values of her family, Muslim immigrants from Senegal. She runs home, hugs her mother, and changes out of her skimpy outfit.”

    Oh, great, those are the alternatives? Twerking for creepy men or following the lead of “Muslim immigrants from Senegal”?

  31. I’ll grant that the goal of the show was to show that sexualization of children is bad. However, to do that, they actually sexualized children by filming them in those clothes and with those dances. If a movie with the message that murder is wrong actually murdered people while filming, we’d all condemn the film. Whatever their motives, that practice would be evil. Same with this movie.

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  33. The fact that Sullum has returned to this well so long after the initial controversy makes me think he is unduly “excited” by this move, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

  34. seems like Sullum really like to Poke the proverbial Bear of Social Media Outrage

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