In my previous post, I gave you a run down of the movie and the underlying messages Doucouré sought to convey. I must confess I sat down to watch with skepticism and armed with a pen and notepad. Although I now see she intended to comment on the sexualisation of children rather than promote it, the movie sadly makes a poor case. Instead of drawing attention to the problem at hand, it draws attention to the rears of young, teenage girls.

 

I was frankly appalled at what I saw! Within the first few scenes, the group of 11 year-olds are watching pornography and making comments on the genitals of men. Soon after this, the main character is shoved into a bathroom to try and take a video of a guy’s genitals while he urinates. As the girls watch a music video of other teenage girls, we get a view of one of the dancer’s breasts. The group of girls continue to view porn. Amy, the main character, later starts to seductively undress as a favour to her uncle in order to keep his phone. Perhaps the two most disturbing scenes are these. Amy, in attempt to gain popularity on social media, is seen pulling down her pants and underwear. Although we see nothing, she shoves her phone between her legs and snaps a photo of her genitals and uploads it to social media. In another scene where her mother and grandmother are trying to perform an exorcism, she begins to shake violently and then performs graphic sexual movements and seems to orgasm at the end. These are scenes that are littered amongst countless provocative and suggestive dances full of much more than twerking. (Twerking was tame in comparison to some of the other sexual moves!) If that wasn’t enough, the camera zooms in, shows many close up shots of the girls’ rears shaking and gives us open leg shots, leaving little to the imagination!

 

I have several problems with this movie.

 

1. Sexualisation of cast members

All this in an adult movie I would deem inappropriate for various reasons. To say the very least, it jars watching children behave in this way! At one point, I commented aloud and said,

These little girls are some people’s children!

650, yes six hundred and fifty girls were auditioned for the lead role (not to mention those who auditioned for the parts of the group of girlfriends!) These girls would have had to show off some dance “skills” in their auditions. Those finally selected would have had to do a number of takes in order to perfect the shots. That means countless times, these provocative dances were filmed. Presumably some men were part of the crew filming. Zooming in on the private parts of little girls! Ever thought about that? How would you feel if that were your daughter?!? Some parents out there are okay with their daughters auditioning and acting in this film (and others like it). Normalising this sort of production is concerning!

 

2. “Role Models” for Teens

Like I said, the poignancy of the movie is tacked on at the end. We are supposed to identify, sympathise and like these girls as the storyline progresses. And as much as they could be pitied, there is no hiding the truth. These girls are portrayed as cool and any teen watching the movie would most likely consider these girls as such. Rather than be warned by the girls’ behaviour, they may take pointers on how to gain a following. Let’s leave the sexual dance moves out of the equation for the moment. These girls are crass, disrespectful and crude – a far cry from the type of role model any parent would want for their teenage daughter!

As adults, we can watch this movie with hindsight and many of us as parents, picturing our children in the roles depicted. However, Netflix has no filter or monitoring system. Who’s to say only parents and adults will have access to this movie?  If you haven’t heard all the noise on social media, the poster and trailer would be enough to hook any unsuspecting teen, boy or girl, into viewing the movie! If I was 11 again and on the more rebellious side, I would want to know what all the hype is about!

 

3. Child pornography

Legitimate concerns have been raised about whether this movie contains child pornography. For starters, it’s commonplace for pornography to be viewed in this movie – is this normalising porn viewing in kids? A definition of pornography according to Merriam-Webster is “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” If it’s not enough to have explicit sexual (not suggestive – sexual) movements imitated by an 11 year-old or camera shots between her legs to get any man raring to go, then I would venture to suggest seeing a breast exposed fits the above description. Men don’t start with hardcore porn. It often starts just like this. This is how children get lured into the web of pornography. I would call this softcore pornography. Would this movie sexually excite a man? Yes. How do I know? My husband was addicted to hardcore porn for 10 years. Believe me, I know! I heard someone call this movie a paedophile’s playground. Sobering? If it would draw the attention of a teenage boy or a older man, we should be worried about this movie and its content! And if it draws their attention and causes them to be sexually intrigued, excited or stimulated, it fits the description of pornography. Pornography of minors is child pornography – correct term: child sexual abuse material.

I’ll  just leave this here…

“Child pornography is considered to be any depiction of a minor or an individual who appears to be a minor who is engaged in sexual or sexually related conduct. This includes pictures, videos, and computer-generated content. Even altering an image or video so that it appears to be a minor can be considered child pornography.”

(Justica)

 

4. Paradox

“We must all together figure out what is the best for our children. As a director, as an artist, I am doing my part with this film. Politicians, the educational system, parents, children. I think altogether we have to fix what’s gone wrong so we can give the most beautiful space to our girls and boys to grow up safely and become the best version of themselves.”

 

“Today I can use my voice, my art to share my vision of femininity. My fight for women’s freedom in society and in our minds as well.” “But my question is, isn’t the objectification of a woman’s body that we often see in our Western culture not another kind of oppression?”

Maïmouna Doucouré

 

The greatest tragedy of this film is just this. Doucouré seeks to create freedom for women and a safe space for children to grow up in. What she does not seem to realise is that she has entrapped not only the actresses but also the viewers into a perpetual cycle of porn viewing and the sexualisation of women’s bodies. She is creating content that arouses and stimulates rather than discouraging the consumption of such material. She is causing boys and even men to further objectify the bodies of women – the very thing she calls “another kind of oppression”! How ironic that the message she wishes to convey is quite contrary to the message given out to the viewers  of the film!

 

Is this a film you need to watch? No, I don’t think so. If you want to know the plot line and content, see my first post. The movie is far from edifying or even educational. There are many ways attention could be drawn to the issues at hand without creating such provocative and offensive content. Sadly the movie does everything but protect children and decrease objectification. It has only added to the problem.

 

For more information on pornography addiction, visit Break Free.

To know how to address pornography with your kids, see Talking to Kids about Pornography.

For a good review on the movie, see Plugged In

 

Photo Credit: Jean-Michel Papazian/Netflix

 

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