The creepy conservative obsession with pedophilia is just bizarre. It reminds me of the feminist obsession with rape. Yes, sex offending is real, & it's awful. But imagine choosing to spend your time fixating on it..?
— Claire Lehmann (@clairlemon) September 17, 2020
The latest conservative triggering is over a French film called Cuties (Mignonnes). Having premiered this January without incident, it hit the limelight several days ago when Netflix released it to American audiences. Agitated moralists and boomers briefly pushed the hashtag #CancelNetflix to #1 on Twitter. (Imagine having a Netflix account to cancel in the first place). US lawmakers demanded a DoJ investigation. Conversely, this furore ensured that seems to have been a pretty marginal and ultimately mediocre European “arthouse” film will have been seen by millions more people than would have watched it otherwise. (Incidentally, this happens to describe myself, who watches about half a dozen movies a year, and a French film perhaps once a decade). I also suspect that many of the most agitated critics did not watch it, or watched some different movie, because I don’t think most observers will perceive it as the celebration of pedophilia that it has been presented as. Or perhaps conservatives simply no longer have any other avenue to express their dismay with liberal cultural hegemony beyond “But Think of the Children”, pedophilia being one of the very last aspects of human sexuality where moral outrage is not just still permitted but arguably more required than a generation ago (the onetime alliance of convenience between homosexuals and pedophiles having long been memoryholed by all handshakeworthy society). So, like Qanon, but for the more normie right-wingers.
So what is Cuties? It is a film about Amy, an 11 year old girl, clumsily trying to reconcile her Senegalese Muslim immigrant identity with the thrills and vapidities of life in secular France by joining an all-female dance troupe. Which is not to say her own family and community is not without its boorishness and hypocrisies; while her austere aunt preaches about Islamic values and how women should know their place, her obese single mother has to suffer the faithlessness of her polygamist husband. The “heroine” Amy is not herself a sympathetic character, engaging in serial petty theft and assault. As Richard Hanania observes on Twitter, the supreme irony of Cuties is that it is too politically incorrect, with its criticism of patriarchal Muslim culture and implicit (if inadvertent) HBD realism, to have been made in the United States.
On that note, it is important to note that the director was not some Hollywood Weinstein, but a French-Senegalese woman called Maïmouna Doucouré. She evidently draws on personal lived experienced – her own immigrant mother was tormented by a polygamist husband, and she explored this theme at length in her second short film Maman in 2015. But while she identifies as a Muslim herself, she has also defended Cuties on feminist grounds. This is just about the last demographic and personality type one that would expect to indulge in gratuitous loli fanservice, of which there is, in any case, virtually none. Even actual pedophiles seem to agree on that, at least if this /r/TheMotte comment from a throwaway account by a self-admitted pedophile is accurate (see right; click to enlarge).
The closest Cuties comes to something even mildly titillating is a cell phone recording of a music performance by another girl band, in which one of them briefly flashes one of her boobs. But contrary to Internet rumors and Ted Cruz, the actress in question was not even a minor. Otherwise, none of the “controversial” scenes in question were in the least erotic, ranging instead from slapstick to fan disservice. The most infamous scene, in which the troupe dances with age-inappropriate suggestiveness before a crowd of parents, is met with a pelter of disapproving boos. In another scene that tends more to the slapstick, one of the girl inadvertently picks up a discarded condom and blows it like a balloon, provoking the others to freak out and wash her mouth out with soap to clean out the AIDS. Many of the other scenes are on the cringe-comical spectrum, including two cases in which they tried to flirt with random guys, once IRL, once online (in both cases, the guys wisely bailed). In another scene, our heroines flash their Lolita cards, avoiding trespassing charge by loudly accusing the guard detaining them of pedophilia to pressure him into letting them make a getaway. Some of these are not particularly comfortable scenes. But they are “socially realistic.”
The cringe got dialed up to eleven when Amy assaulted a member of an opposing dance troupe, who punished her by pulling down her skirt and snapping a photo of her panties. They were plain panties, which is apparently no longer cool even in middle school, so to regain her social status she snapped a candid underskirt with a stolen phone and uploaded it to social media. This predictably had the opposite effect, with her being ejected from her dance troupe; in an inversion of the usual tropes, one of her former friends disgustedly told her that her mother would have sent her back to her village for that. The perils of trying to fit in without knowing the finer details of social conventions! Amy’s mother calls her a whore and tries to cleanse her off her demons, but the exorcism turns into a twerk at the end. They then called in a mullah to sort her out. But in another inversion of expectations, the old man explained that she didn’t have demons and walked away without taking a payment for his services. Maybe he was a chill mullah, or perhaps he was one of those mullahs dreaming of opening an LGBT-friendly mosques. Who knows. It’s worth noting that French Muslims are much more secular and less traditionalist than their German and especially British counterparts, their high incidence of terrorism being not so much an expression of traditionalism as a reaction against its disappearance. Moreover, even beurettes (North African Arab girls) have a reputation in France for being loose. This must be all the more true for West Africans, whose females’ penchant for forwardness and sexual precocity – at least once stripped of their cultural constraints – is well known.
As is more common in European movies, there is little moral sermonizing. They are open to many different interpretations and this makes it hard for people without strong moral opinions (e.g. myself) to have strong opinions on them. There is plenty of criticism, almost all of it implied, rather than explicit. There are no true heroes, but nor are there any real villains. Sure, the Muslim community is insular and rustic, populated by shiftless cads, superstitious women, and hollow “moral” authorities. But neither was fulfillment to be found in too deep an immersion in secular decadence. The cruelty and backstabbing of female cliques, which is universal to all cultures, is savagely portrayed. Even at the family level, the mother and aunt even take turns playing Jekyll and Hyde with respect to Amy. The film concludes with Amy abandoning her dance troupe mid-performance and running away to be at the wedding of her polygamist father along with her mother, auntie, and the rest of their community, where she skips happily and innocently with the other children. So, whatever.