There has been no shortage of uproar over the release of the movie Cuties on Netflix, and for good reason. The film is being blasted for the gratuitous sexualizing of 11-year-old girls, which is beyond vile. I won’t embed the video, but I have linked to the lewd portion highlighted on Twitter here; viewer discretion is obviously advised. Many have come to the defense of the film by arguing it is a critique of the very thing people are outraged over—the sexualization of little girls. Fans of the movie have labeled critics fundamentalists and right-wingers, and truthfully, if that’s what makes me a fundamentalist right-winger, I’m perfectly o.k. with this, especially when you see something like this utterly morally bankrupt, inept, and vapid piece that extols the film’s virtues.
Don’t misunderstand me—I do believe there is a critique to be lobbied against our world’s deviance and sexual anarchy—especially in consideration to how these things shape youths through the medium of social media. As Rod Dreher points out, if anything, this movie undoubtedly serves as a gut-wrenching warning to those extolling a child’s need for a smartphone. Undeniably, we live in an uncomfortable world where the exploitation and sexualization of children is virtually everywhere these days—and especially in the palms of children whose primary guardian and mentor is a phone. Yet the problem goes well beyond what children are taught via social media and the like. Simply look at the clothing options available to young girls and even young women. It is difficult to buy pre-pubescent girls items of clothing that don’t cut low on their non-existent chests, and hike up their butts. This is a twisted thing that I had no understanding of prior to being a father—yet my wife has assured me this has long been an issue.
Yet I digress. Where Cuties aims at critiquing the sexualization of children, again, a conversation that needs to happen in our world, especially considering the modern-day practice of slavery is alive and well through child trafficking, it grandly fails. The reality is that Cuties is damnably offensive. It really is—I have no aim to minimize this in any sense. I cannot possibly see how one can rationalize and accept this in any fashion, even under the auspices of a four-star, artful critique of the very thing Roger Ebert claims conservatives are [sic] clutching their pearls over. It is a disgusting exploitation of the children who were in the movie, who have unwittingly been thrust before the eyes of millions upon millions of people—including the perverts who enjoy this sort of thing.
It is not an artistic critique of child-sexualization, but a participatory reveling in the hyper-sexualized culture our world has embraced without qualms. It is the fruit of a culture’s debauchery that has reveled in sexual licentiousness in virtually every form it can—and the exploitation of children in this regard is simply the final frontier of a consistent trajectory of wicked sexual expression. It is abominable. It is reprehensible. But the one thing we cannot say of it is that it is somehow something that is not consistent with the world’s continued mockery of the marriage bed, which is to remain undefiled. No, it is a blatant defiling of the marriage bed, but with children, no less—but it is consistent.
We have been inundated with the virtues of drag-queen story time, LGTBQ+ inclusive Disney movies, cartoons, and more. We’ve seen little boys get gyrated on in pride rallies across the nation, children being encouraged to become transgender and subsequently ripped from the arms of their parents when they’ve had the basic required sanity to say no, and even the newly minted woke standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science under which Cuties would undoubtedly qualify. Yet it was also not too long ago that the brutal rape of a woman was portrayed in shows like Game of Thrones—a show many a Christian defended with an incredible ferocity that left me wondering how so few could connect the dots between what people find themselves entertained by and the god of this age.
If Christians can’t even have the basic decency to decry the wrongful sexualization of adults, what moral authority do they have to decry things like Cuties? I don’t ask this tongue-in-cheek. I genuinely mean it. If a person can’t condemn licentiousness broadly, how does one somehow think they can condemn it narrowly? I’ve been accused in the past of going after low-hanging fruit with regard to what we amuse ourselves with, but I believe this has a much greater correlation to things than most are willing to admit. The reason for this is relatively simple, in that what we find amusing reveals the state of the heart in things that people would otherwise stand opposed to if it were personally applied. What I mean by that is that no good Christian would want their daughter to watch something, or better yet, act in something, that glorifies the sexual exploitation women—yet they find themselves contented in watching it because they view it as a matter of Christian liberty.
I made this statement three years ago, and it bears repeating here:
There is a fundamental difference between the one thrust into the reality of a sinful world where he/she must battle against the things presented before them – and the one who willingly invests their time and money into things which are simply not fit for one bearing the name “Christian”. I just wonder in this discussion: at what point? At what point will Christians stop trying to find the line to toe and simply make the decision that even if there are filtering devices, the ability to fast-forward and/or avert the eyes, etc., there are some things worth abstaining from altogether? At what point will we seek the sacrifice instead of the gratification—even in the “small” things?
I would add to it now that based on what we are continuing to see pumped out under the auspices of entertainment that genuine Christians will not be able to participate in much of anything coming from filmmakers and artists. Much of what has come out of the motion picture industry is a bedazzled, subversive worldview wrapped up in cutesy animation, comic book hero exploits, and the like—yet I find many Christians are utterly inconsistent with applying Paul’s admonition that we do not participate in the revelry of things which are sexually immoral, sensual, or impure. He even calls these deeds of the flesh obvious, yet how many Christians—theologically astute ones, no less—make this an issue of obscurity wherever they can in order to justify their viewing habits?
This leads me to my final point, which is that we have three essential choices before us:
- We abstain, either by rejecting the entertainment industry altogether, or taking the time to properly vet appropriate titles, not only for visually abhorrent things, but philosophically and theologically abhorrent worldviews.
- We simply ignore the pangs of conscience and watch whatever the heck we want, and forfeit any meaningful right to speak into people’s lives about the gospel. We likewise end up hobbling our children who will inevitably go out into the world with little discernment with what is worthy of the Christian’s pursuits when it comes to things like leisure and recreation.
- We create our own meaningful, beautiful works of art and tell good stories that captivate people’s hearts, minds, and souls, to the glory of God. We likewise recapture an objective understanding of things like beauty and how they can be properly used and powerfully harnessed by the church.
The second choice should be patently absurd, as all it will serve to do is bring future generations toward reveling in things like Cuties, as if it is the height of art and an appropriate means of critiquing the world they have spent years laying a foundation for. The best route I can see ahead is a quasi-mixture of the first and third choices, in that we can both appreciate genuine art for what it is, yet create our own art in a world that has lost its mores. People have long claimed the church is not friendly towards the arts, and in many cases this has been true throughout her history. In many other cases, the church as produced some of the most influential and beautiful pieces of art the world has ever seen. Regardless of this, it ought to be clear that we are living in a time where much of what the broader culture believes constitutes as art is simply a thinly veiled guise for proselytizing an ugly worldview, yet in such a way that they try to say it is truly beautiful.
For the Christian, my advice is simple: you need to build a consistently biblical worldview that leaves space for things like objective beauty and art, yet you likewise just need to be found obedient to some of the most basic moral principles of Scripture concerning lewdness. Part of this brings about the undeniable reality that just as there are appropriate times for good ol’ fashioned book-burning (Acts 19:19), there are things worthy of canceling. Perhaps this is a time to re-evaluate where your time and money is spent and if your viewing choices have contributed to a culture that can produce things like Cuties.
Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer
Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey