A columnist from The Washington Post accused critics of the controversial Netflix film "Cuties" of "freaking out" after she previously sounded the alarm over the 2019 release of the comic book movie "Joker."
Criticism of "Cuties" depicting the sexualization of underage girls was renewed this week after a clip from the French film went viral showing four adolescents performing suggestively as part of a dance competition, resulting in a growing boycott movement of the streaming service.
Post culture writer Alyssa Rosenberg offered a staunch defense of "Cuties" on Friday, urging its naysayers to "try" watching it first.
"If you want to talk nonsense about a movie on the Internet, you have to prove that you’ve actually seen it," Rosenberg began. "'Cuties'... is a film about how difficult it is to become a girl when your role models take you from one extreme to another."
The columnist explains the plot of an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant girl in a religious household who begins rebelling against her family by befriending a group of middle school classmates, who team up to compete in a dance contest.
"In rebelling against this austere vision of femininity, though, Amy careens onto a secular path that carries its own risks," Rosenberg said. "'“Cuties' doesn’t use cliched scare tactics, such as the paranoia about child sex trafficking that has infected U.S. politics, to make this point. But [director Maïmouna] Doucouré is blunt about the fact that real harm can be done when a child behaves in ways typically reserved for grown-ups."
Rosenberg called it a "real shame" that "so many conservatives" voiced their condemnation of the film, suggesting they could appreciate the subject manner of family and the toxic influence of social media.
She also stressed that the dancing by the young girls isn't presented as "liberated or admirable" but rather "shows other characters reacting with sadness or disgust when these girls try to act like grown women."
"I can see how viewers might be turned off by the way Doucouré shoots the dance routines, using close-ups of her young actors’ bodies both to show us their abilities as dancers and to make us deliberately queasy. But not liking that choice or not thinking it works in the way she intended does not make Doucouré an evil pornographer, just an ambitious director," Rosenberg continued. "I know it’s easier to condemn a movie intended to make you uncomfortable than it is to sit with that discomfort and analyze it. Still, it’s a shame a movie about an 11-year-old’s moral education has made so many adults act stupid."
However, the Washington Post columnist struck a drastically different tone upon the release of "Joker" last fall, declaring that the film "wants you to choose between provocation and prudishness."
"To me, the choice isn’t close: I’d rather be a prude than someone whose definition of freedom is hurting vulnerable people and calling it courage," Rosenberg began her October 7 op-ed.
Rosenberg slammed "Joker" for "siding" with its namesake villain "not so much because he’s a good, talented person who has been unfairly overlooked but because this movie and the people who made it are defined by a reaction against what they don’t have and are told they can’t do."
"'Triggering the libs' has become a political platform, so why not an artistic one?" Rosenberg asked.
She later knocks "Joker" director Todd Phillips' complaint about making comedies in the modern era with "30 million people on Twitter" fueled with rage.
"Thirty million complaints about the sympathetic portrayal of a mass killer on Twitter is a lot of free publicity," the columnist wrote. "That some of those criticisms suggest a connection between violent movies and real-world violence based on debunked stories only makes Phillips and his collaborators look like martyrs."