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Why I am switching off Netflix

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NETFLIX is to release a film called Cuties, billed as an empowering story of a young girl who defies her ‘conservative family’s traditions’ (yes, this is the description on Netflix) and joins a ‘dancing group’. The girl in question is 11 years old and so are the other members of the group. The promotional poster for the film shows them dressed in outfits that would not be out of place in a strip club, and the trailer released thus far includes explicit and erotic dance moves, such as twerking and gyrating, that would make the most seasoned erotic dancer blush.

If this were not enough to turn your stomach, the film is designated as an ‘NC-17’ by US standards which, for a UK audience, is the equivalent of an 18. Let us just reiterate the issue at stake: a film, with 11-year olds dancing provocatively and sexually, may be viewed only by an adult audience. If this is not a normalisation of soft-core child pornography, what on earth is?

What is worse is this film is merely a sign of the times, of the grotesquely libertine culture that recognises no limits to behaviour and admits no decency or sense of awareness. The film proudly declares that ‘Amy’, the 11-year-old child, discovers her ‘femininity’ through ‘twerking’; in a world where Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion can mumble their way through vulgarly explicit lyrics that encourage young women to objectify themselvesCuties seems to be par for the course. When a petition calling for the removal of Cuties reached nearly 140,000 in a day, Netflix’s response was the most back-handed of apologies, amounting to little more than ‘we’re sorry you were offended’. It seems offence only carries currency when it is the libertine who is offended.

This is not an isolated incident with Netflix. Increasingly their shows include explicit sexual content, either as the main focus of the show, or as a vehicle for lazy story-telling. Take two recent shows: Big Mouth and Sex EducationBig Mouth, alongside being one of the ugliest cartoons available, is a show dedicated to pubescent children, who ‘discover’ their bodies and sexualities in a caricature of the sexual culture of twenty-somethings. 

Eleven- and twelve-year-olds jazz-hands their way through upbeat numbers about masturbation, promiscuity and other things that eleven-year-olds simply do not do.

Then there is Netflix’s crowning glory, Sex Education. A little older this time, and certainly not a show that is unheard of in the modern day; much like Skins, Sex Education is a tale about coming of age and realising what sex is. Of course, Netflix can’t just let it be that – this is a show only about sex; strange pseudo-science like non-binary gender identity goes unquestioned, abortion is the ‘natural’ response to pregnancy (and discussed once, when a character undergoes the procedure, and then never again), and children lecture parents on the virtue of ‘sex positivity’.

The sad reality is, none of this is actually for children. Instead, it is for the adults who peddle these strange, twisted messages of sexual liberation for their own selfish purposes, using children’s innocence as a shield from behind which they can lecture the rest of us for being ‘prudes’, as if we are the evil ones for wanting children to have their innocence just that bit longer.

So, I will be cancelling my Netflix subscription. I encourage everyone to do the same. 

This article first appeared in The Mallard on August 22, 2020,  Why I am Quitting Netflix | Jake Scott and is republished by kind permission.

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Jake Scott
Jake Scott is a doctoral researcher in political theory at the University of Birmingham and editor of The Mallard.

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