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Italian bishops’ newspaper defends Netflix film ‘Cuties’ accused of being ‘child porn’

Contrary to the evidence, an author in Avvenire writes that there is "no explanation for the campaign against Netflix: there is no ‘scandalous sexualisation of teenagers'"
Thu Sep 17, 2020 - 5:42 pm EST
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Scene from Cuties. Netflix / YouTube

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WARNING: The following report contains graphic descriptions of a sexual nature that are not suitable for all audiences. 

ITALY, September 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The daily national newspaper of the Italian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has published an article in defense of the recently released Netflix film “Cuties” which shows girls as young as 11 performing sexualized dance acts that critics have described as child pornography and as a promotion of pedophilia.

“There is no explanation for the campaign against Netflix: there is no ‘scandalous sexualisation of teenagers’ as some of the 600,000 signatories of a petition have written,” the byline the article published in Avvenire reads. The article was authored by Andrea Fagioli. 

The article contends that those who are objecting to the film “either didn't view it or really limited themselves to the poster.”   

“Otherwise they did not understand it or they have watched it through an incorrect viewpoint,” the article continues. 

The French film “Cuties” (titled “Mignonnes” in French) follows the story of 11-year-old Amy, a Senegalese Muslim girl who lives in a poor neighborhood in France. She joins a group of other young girls who perform hyper-sexualized dance routines, including imitating an adult “twerking dance crew.”

Last month Netflix changed the poster and description advertising the film after a wave of online criticism.

Clips from the film released last week on social media provoked increased outrage online, with many saying the film is promoting pedophilia. 

IMDb’s guide for parents for the film has been updated a number of times since the film has been released. Last week, one detail outlined that in one scene “A pair of tight leather pants on an 11 year old girl are forcefully pulled down in the midst of a scuffle; the camera glances at her underwear exposed bum.”

Below is a list of scene descriptions from the film which all currently appear in IMDb’s guide for parents.

  • When caught with her cousin's phone, an 11-year-old girl locks herself in the bathroom, pulls down her pants and snaps a picture of her private area before publishing it online. No nudity is actually shown. However, The camera focuses on the child removing her jeans and her underwear and spreading her legs.
  • Frequent scenes of 11-year-old girls dancing lewdly where the camera pans in and zooms in on the children's buttocks and midsections (both still in skin-tight clothes) Close up shots of children dancing with their leg spread above their head while camera focus on crotch area.
  • The little 11-year-old girls are slapping each other's buttocks in the film, kissing their hands and then touching their crotches, and rubbing their buttocks together, and making seductive faces while sticking their fingers in their mouth seducing the camera as well as people watching them.
  • 11 year-old-girl gets in fight with older girl and during process of fight the older girl starts to pull off the younger girls pants down to her knees as her friends try to pull her away.
  • Frequent close up/slow shots of underage girls midsections, crotch, buttocks, while dancing provocatively (twerking, humping ground, on all fours, legs spread, bending over) and in minimal skin tight clothing or underwear.
  • One child is doused with water while wearing a tiny tank top and teeny underwear that expose her butt cheeks.... child bounces as camera focuses on breasts and child gets on all fours and grinds pelvis into floor and twerks while camera films from behind with an up angle on child's mostly bare bottom and underwear in crack.
  • In one scene, two grown men watch a child dance suggestively while other children encourage her...men look at her body and don't tell her to stop.
  • A dance on a staircase shows little girls in full face makeup licking their fingers, spreading their legs (with barely there shorts) twerking and grinding while the camera films as if at a strip club.
  • In one dance scene, a child lifts her top exposing her bare breast
  • Little girl does laundry with black leather pants on and teeny shirt as she dances suggestively, flips her hair, and is filmed from behind while the camera has a field day with the child's bottom.
  • In the schoolyard, two little girls physically fight while others cheer and they remove a little girls (sic) pants exposing her bottom and tiny underwear - especially troublesome is the camera focuses on her bottom and people take pictures of her bottom.

When the film was first released, the text which previously appeared on IMDb’s website included the following:

Parental Warning : During one of the many highly sexualized & erotic dance scenes that purposefully exploit & objectify numerous scantily clad under age girls, one of the female child dancers lifts up her cropped top to fully display her bare breast. This is lawfully defined as pedophilia and can be extremely distressing to many viewers.

Trigger Warning : An 11 year old girl watches a female rap music video where naked women role play through dance both heterosexual & lesbian sex acts. An 11 year old female dance group then mimics these sexual moves via on themselves and on each other while the camera zooms in on their sexual body parts as they erotically writher. This can be highly distressing to many viewers.

Female breast nudity of a minor during an erotic dance scene and lengthy & excessive closeup shots of breasts, bums and spread crotches of scantily clad 11 year old girls during numerous sexualized dance routines.

Texas legislator Matt Schaefer has called for an investigation into the film. 

Shaefer announced on social media last week that he is asking the state’s Attorney General’s Office to “investigate the Netflix film ‘Cuties’ for possible violations of child exploitation and child pornography laws.” 

A number of US politicians have also condemned the film. 

Senator Ted Cruz from Texas urged Attorney General Bill Barr in a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr that the Department of Justice must “investigate the production and distribution of this film to determine whether Netflix, its executives, or the individuals involved in the filming and production of ‘Cuties’ violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.”

Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas, in a statement provided to The Daily Caller, said, “There’s no excuse for the sexualization of children, and Netflix’s decision to promote the film ‘Cuties’ is disgusting at best and a serious crime at worst.”

Like Cruz, Cotton urged “the Department of Justice to take action against Netflix for their role in pushing explicit depictions of children into American homes.”

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote a separate letter to Netflix. “While I have concerns with the movie’s young actresses’ influence on other young girls, my larger concern is with the possibility that the inappropriate scenes might encourage the sexual exploitation of young girls by adults.”

Robby Starbuck, a director and producer, said, “The whole team behind Cuties needs to be investigated.”

Starbuck highlighted a January interview with Cuties director Maïmouna Doucouré in which she says that “more than 700 young girls” had auditioned for the film, “none of whom had ever done theatre before coming on set.”

“As a director I call [sic] tell you it’s not normal to audition 700 little girls with no acting experience,” Starbuck posted to Twitter. “What were they told to do during auditions? They preyed on inexperienced people starstruck by Hollywood.”

Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, has posted a series of tweets making the case that the filmmakers have broken U.S. law on “child porn” because the film “blatantly zooms in on sexual parts of little girls as they dance suggestively, partially clothed, for adult audiences, as explicit sexual ‘exploration.’”

Writing last week in an article for LifeSiteNews, Dr. Joseph Shaw, an Oxford University philosophy teacher and father of eight children, argued that the “producers of the series are themselves sexualizing and exploiting the child actors, and serving up their sexualized performances for consumption by male critics like themselves.”

“If there is a power dynamic going on here, the consumers are at the top, Netflix as pimp or enabler is in the middle, and these poor children are at the bottom,” Shaw writes.

“The real story here is not about girls spontaneously organizing a twerking troupe in order to stick to ‘the man’; no, that is a made-up story. What is happening in the real world is ‘the man’ corralling girls into a twerking troupe to tickle the jaded appetites of Netflix subscribers.”

Nevertheless, according to the article in Avvenire the film “does not revolve around a ‘scandalous sexualisation of teenagers’ nor obviously ‘promotes paedophilia’, instead of how some of the more than 600,000 signatories of a petition have written, against the colossus of the distribution of films and TV series through the internet.”  

Fagioli claims that “the director absolutely does not force her hand on the sensual aspect at all.” 

“[O]n the contrary,” he continues, “she tries to highlight, even if in a contradictable viewpoint, their innocence, the fact that they are children (one is ugly, one is fat, one has pimples...) who do things out of their reach, that they never manage to arrive at the extreme consequences.” 

The director of the film, Maimouna Doucouré, says that she was prompted to make the film after attending a local party and seeing “a group of young girls aged around 11 years old, going up on stage and dancing in a very sensual way while wearing very revealing clothes.” 

Reflecting on that event in an interview with Cineuropa, Doucouré says: “I was rather shocked and I wondered if they were aware of the image of sexual availability that they were projecting.” 

The director says that the film was part of her effort to prompt debate about the growing trend of young girls attracting large numbers of social media followers by posting sexualized photos of themselves online.

“I saw that some very young girls were followed by 400,000 people on social media and I tried to understand why. There were no particular reasons, besides the fact that they had posted sexy or at least revealing pictures: that is what had brought them this ‘fame’,” Doucouré said.

“Today, the sexier and the more objectified a woman is, the more value she has in the eyes of social media. And when you’re 11, you don’t really understand all these mechanisms, but you tend to mimic, to do the same thing as others in order to get a similar result. I think it is urgent that we talk about it, that a debate be had on the subject.”

But Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America and father of a six-year-old daughter, told CNA last month that attempting to start a debate by producing a film sexualising young children “is a rationale that only Jeffrey Epstein could love.” 

“I was utterly shocked to see young girls just a bit older than my daughter in sexually suggestive poses,”  Pecknold said.

“But my moral revulsion at what can only be the normalization of pedophilia only increased when I realized the producers claim to be criticizing the sexualization of children by, in fact, sexualizing children.”

Prominent social and political commentator Ben Shapiro has said that he thinks "the actual message of the film is actually quite conservative.”

“I have some complex thoughts about this film ‘Cuties’,” Shapiro says before beginning his analysis of the film.

“Okay so the point of the movie is that France has basically broken down into a society where because of its multicultural ethos it tolerates radical fundamentalist Islam in which people are shipping in second wives from Senegal on the one hand and on the other hand is providing as a lived alternative the secular hedonistic lifestyle that over-sexualizes children and that there's bleed over effect from that sexual, that over-sexualized lifestyle from adults to children,” he said during his show aired last week.

“So that's a pretty conservative message,” he continued. “Like the actual message of the film is actually quite conservative."

In his Avvenire article, Fagioli even claims that “if it is read correctly and presented well, Mignonnes can become an educational film.” 

Catholic priest Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, in a post on his popular blog, says Fagioli’s article is typical of what he says is the frequent demand of liberals “that you deny the facts right in front of your eyes.”

“This is what liberal obsession about understanding ‘nuance’ produces: dung for brains,” Zuhlsdorf writes.

“The Italian Bishops’ newspaper defends “Cuties”. What does that tell you?” Zuhlsdorf concludes.

Contact information:

A full list of contact details for the Avvenire newspaper can be found here.

Avennire is a newspaper of the National Office For Social Communications Of The Italian Episcopal Conference, whose director is named Corrado Dott. Vincenzo.

Address: Circonvallazione Aurelia, 50 - 00165 Rome RM
Telephone: 06 66398209
E-mail: [email protected]

Related: 

Vatican archbishop defends posting image of naked adults with naked children. Twitter censors image


  avvenire, child porn, child pornography, cuties, italian bishops' conference, netflix, pedophilia, pornography

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