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TOTO: ‘Exploitation’ Bias: Critics’ Double Standard Exposed In Response To New Controversial Films
In this photo illustration, the Netflix media service provider's logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a television screen on March 28, 2020 in Paris, France. Faced with the coronavirus crisis, Netflix will reduce visual quality for the next 30 days, in order to limit its use of bandwidth. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
Chesnot/Getty Images

Critics love “Cuties,” the Netflix movie showcasing 11-year-old girls gyrating in skimpy outfits while striking provocative poses for the crowd and, by extension, the viewer. The same critical community loathes “Run Hide Fight,” the upcoming thriller about a smart, empowered female student who rescues her peers from a school shooter while plotting the best way to take out the threat.

Confused? You’re probably not alone.

Movie critics began fawning over “Cuties,” a French film recently added to Netflix’s streaming lineup, at January’s Sundance Film Festival. Those raves likely convinced Team Netflix to buy the film’s rights and share it with subscribers.

The film even nabbed an award during that festival appearance.

So no one, including Team Netflix, were prepared when average citizens recoiled at the film’s absurdly inappropriate ad campaign featuring scantily clad children striking erotic poses.

Netflix, to its credit, recalled it immediately … without sharing how an absurdly inappropriate ad campaign featuring sexualized 11-year-olds got the green light in the first place. Reporters similarly lacked an ounce of curiosity on the subject.

Film scribes quickly ran defense for “Cuties,” admitting through clenched teeth that the Netflix poster was absurdly inappropriate but hardly reflective of the movie itself.

Good point. Let the movie speak for itself.

When viewers got a gander at “Cuties” the outrage meter hit 11, in grand “This Is Spinal Tap” fashion.

The critical community held its ground, again. Journalists sided with them, mocking and or attacking anyone offended by the film’s visuals. The same visuals, for what it’s worth, which alarmed CAIR (along with the film’s critical depiction of Islam).

“Cuties” is Netflix’s must-see coming of age drama that, as one outlet put it, spotlights “child sexuality.”

It’s about time, amirite…? (snort)

The same critical community suggests “Run Hide Fight” should never have been made in the first place.

The upcoming film sports a tough premise, no doubt. We’ve already seen serious, sober films explore fictional school shootings. The 2003 movie “Elephant” rushes to mind. So does 2018’s “Vox Lux.”

“Run Hide Fight” is different.

It’s an action film that gives one student, capably played by Isabel May, a chance to fight back.

That’s different. Fresh. Provocative. It also plays into the narrative some on the right embrace regarding armed teachers. Even worse for left-leaning critics? Our protagonist, and her father, are avid hunters.

It’s no secret that school shootings are an incredibly challenging subject, but we routinely watch films tackling themes that are similarly nightmarish — and reality based. Kidnapping movies. Hit man films. Gangster tales. Suicide stories.

Name a tragedy, even 9/11, and Hollywood has turned it into a motion picture, often with formulaic action and dramatic beats attached.

“Run Hide Fight,” to this critic’s eyes, is mostly a success. May is a plucky, believable heroine. The film’s teen angst feels raw and real. There’s violence and blood, but the film doesn’t give way to grindhouse theatrics.

It moves swiftly, suggests larger themes without lectures.

Most of all, a film critic can think a particular subject isn’t his or her preferred narrative while evaluating the film on a dramatic level.

School shootings leave us feeling shaken, vulnerable. Some film genres, like vigilante movies, actively address that. Catharsis is a palpable part of the film-going experience.

The early critical reaction to “Run Hide Fight,” gleaned from its Venice Film Festival appearance, proved the opposite of “Cuties.”

The film had a zero percent “rotten” rating before this critic added his two cinematic cents.

The Hollywood Reporter admits the film is well constructed … but pans it anyway.

What’s most notable about Kyle Rankin’s slick and compulsively watchable genre entry Run Hide Fight is the utter shallowness of its psychological perspective.

It’s an action movie, for what it’s worth.

You have to wonder if anyone spoke up during the pitch meeting to suggest this might be in questionable taste.

How many film critics said the same about the dance sequence from “Cuties?”

The critic says the quiet part out loud next.

But given the sensitivity around mass shootings in this country, and the obstinate refusal of the NRA or its political apologists to accept even a degree of responsibility, it seems naïve to think this wouldn’t play as trivializing exploitation.

So, if the film included a few anti-NRA rants would the reviewer’s thumb go from south to north, a la Roger Ebert?

What about all the woke critics itching for strong, fully realized female characters in feature films? “Run Hide Fight” checks all those boxes. Too bad May’s character doesn’t twerk during the melee. suggests the movie never should have been made. Yes, we need bowling-style bumpers for artistic endeavors.

Just because we have all become used to school shootings as an established feature of North American life, that doesn’t mean that the world is yet ready to see the theme used as the basis of genre entertainment – and perhaps it never should be.


The critic also admits the film is good, darn it, before shaming anyone who might actually line up to see it.

It’s undeniably polished and energetic, and features a couple of strong performances from young stars Isabel May and Eli Brown – but it feels fundamentally tasteless, indeed just plain wrong. Unfortunately, it will probably do extremely well at the box office.

Those same judgments went AWOL during the “Cuties” review circuit, though.

The ScreenDaily critic similarly says the quiet part out loud. The movie sends the “wrong” message.

It also suggests that a weapon in the hands of an upstanding concerned citizen – for which read ‘vigilante’ – can be altogether laudable. And in this tinderbox year in American history, that is a very worrying suggestion indeed.

Yes, heaven forbid an armed hero squared off against a school shooter and end the madness before more people get hurt.

A critic has every right to cling to that belief, of course. It’s another matter when he or she slams a movie for sharing it, as if only one opinion is fundamentally correct. Does it matter that roughly half the readership agrees with the film’s argument?

Indeed it does.

Many consumers recoiled after seeing “Cuties,” ignoring the film’s creative worth. Movie critics looked past those flaws to rave about the film, all the while savaging “Run Hide Fight” for being a tasteless genre exercise while praising it as a feature film.

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