News and Commentary

Netflix ‘Cuties’ Debacle Exposes Film Industry’s Conservative Crisis

A dearth of conservative voices in film circles leaves entertainment giant flat-footed.
In this photo illustration the American global on-demand Internet streaming media provider Netflix logo is seen on an Android mobile device with United States of America flag in the background. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The chasm between professional critics and consumers over Netflix’s “Cuties” only tells part of the story.

The French film, added to the streaming giant’s lineup this week, follows an 11-year-old Muslim girl enduring a series of personal struggles. She ends up joining an all-girl dance team where she twerks, grinds, and more.

Yes, viewers must endure young actress Fathia Youssouf performing as if she were separating grown men from their stripper budgets. And she’s joined by a small group of fellow pre-teen girls doing the same.

The film’s writer/director Maïmouna Doucouré told reporters recently that “Cuties” criticizes how modern culture hyper-sexualizes young girls. That’s a noble, and timely, theme, but one she explores by shooting young girls in an extremely sexual manner.

Think extended close ups of pre-pubescent crotches and more.

One clip from the film, currently making the rounds on social media, lasts for more than a minute and shows dance moves you might see on a Madonna tour.

None of this shocking material should come as a surprise, though. “Cuties” made its U.S. debut months ago at the Sundance Film Festival (where it one the Directing Award). So dozens, if not hundreds, of film critics already screened the movie and filed their reviews.

Team Sundance liked it enough to include it in the fiercely competitive festival lineup.

Yet not one critic warned consumers about the sexually-charged visuals involving young girls, which could have been avoided through any number of aesthetic choices while keeping the film’s theme intact. If they did, their comments were drowned out by their peers who couldn’t stop raving over the film.

The movie currently holds an 88 percent “fresh” rating at, an influential film review aggregator. (Note: This critic posts his reviews at the site as well, but hasn’t officially reviewed “Cuties” yet.)

Consumers have a different take on the film. They’ve shredded “Cuties,” slapping it with a 3 percent “rotten” rating (yes, 3 percent).

Here are some sample comments:

  • If this is progress in movie format story telling I think I am done with today’s movies …
  • Come on Netflix…you’re better than this…or maybe you’re not?
  • This is a film that exploits children. Even if the intent was to condemn the exploitation of children, you cannot do that by exploiting children. Overall, I was extremely uncomfortable watching this.

What explains the massive gap between critic and consumer?

It’s simple. The vast, vast majority of film critics lean to the Left. This film critic has been reviewing movies for nearly 20 years, and nothing has changed that perception over time. In fact, today’s film critics are more likely to inject their progressive views into reviews than ever before.

This doesn’t cover critics who toil for progressive news outlets like Salon or Mother Jones. These are critics reviewing films for mainstream outlets like The Washington Post and CNN, as well as their own media platforms.

Liberal reporters and film scribes have spent days defending “Cuties”—and savaging its conservative/Christian critics—ever since the inappropriate poster hit the web.

They’re more offended by conservatives calling the film out than the actual film itself.

One movie magazine admitted part of the reason for attacking the film’s critics, not “Cuties” or its director, is due to ideology.

Hollywood and the media are obsessed with diversity. That was true before the death of George Floyd, and it’s even more accurate now. Yet these cultural forces never argue for ideological diversity within the film critic community. Many think pieces have been written about the need for more female critics, more people of color reviewing films. It’s certainly worthy of discussion.

More conservatives? Silence.

The current ideological imbalance is undeniable—just consider how critics treat Michael Moore as opposed to Dinesh D’Souza. No one cares enough to address the issue, let alone even mention it.

The most vocal “Cuties” critics, at the moment, hail from the Right. Conservatives have been raging against the film’s inappropriate visuals after the movie’s equally gross movie poster went viral late last month. They’ve doubled down on their criticisms following the film’s Sept. 9 release. John Nolte’s scathing review captures the tenor of those comments.

“Cuties is soft-core child pornography disguised as art. Nothing less. Nothing more.”

Nolte’s critique is the exception, though, in critical circles.

The country is roughly split in half, ideologically speaking. Recent presidential elections confirm that. Why shouldn’t the red half of the country have their views reflected by film critics?

Quotas aren’t the answer, of course. Still, media institutions should at the very least be more open to critics of all ideological takes. It might mean the culture at large isn’t caught flat footed by the next “Cuties” moment.

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