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‘Cuties’ and the ugly side of the truth

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As a mother who works closely with theAsianparent group, I’m hyperaware of what’s going on with kids online and offline.

This week’s latest brouhaha was about a movie on Netflix called Cuties. It became so controversial that people took to change.org for a petition to shut down Netflix altogether, pointing out that Cuties is an affront to children and their innocence, and is promoting to normalize pedophilia.

I’m not sure whether the accusation is true, but please hear me out before casting a stone or boulder on the guilty party.

I’ve been helping uplift my fellow womenfolk and our unseen abused children for years now. It started sometime in 2007 with a stint at Microsoft, where I was given the task to find a way to curb the production and overall distribution of child pornography in the country.

Part of the task was to align with government offices on Microsoft’s program that tracks down pedophiles online using sophisticated technology.

The Philippines was then one of the biggest producers of child pornography online. Now, it seems the country’s ranking has not gone down, but instead hovered between number five and three among the top 10.

Amid the pandemic, statistics say the demand for child pornography has doubled! It’s absolutely frightening, if you think of the time kids spend online for the past six months, playing games, watching videos, taking photos and videos of themselves.

The discussions on the social, mental, physical and economic repercussions of child pornography on kids and their future should go deeper, as new studies emerge on technology and its widespread accessibility.

But in the light of Cuties, when you watch it after getting over the jaw-dropping shock of the trailer, try to understand that this is the sad state of kids today.

They are hypersexualized to the point that it’s considered normal — in the Philippine context, it means being exposed to the twerking and all sorts of provocative dancing online and on afternoon TV variety shows.

Cuties is holding up a mirror to what’s going on now.

I was a teenager in the 1990s when a movie called Kids came out. It was raw, unflinching, and would surely not be made today.

I cannot say I agree with what Cuties has depicted, though I see its importance and what it’s trying to say. Other parents have opined that maybe the director could have been less in-your-face.

I say no. This conversation should continue, just as we did with Kids decades ago.

The director of Cuties herself, Maïmouna Doucouré, said in an article in the Washington Post: “I wanted to make a film in the hope of starting a conversation about the sexualization of children. The movie has certainly started a debate, though not the one that I intended.”

Are we all unconsciously guilty of hypersexualizing children? When is it okay to see a dance as nothing more than that? When do we draw the line?

Children don’t know any better, because they are children. But they see adults and their “stars” and the “likes” on social media.

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