The Federalist doesn’t have a comments section anymore, so I probably won’t be doing my usual followup to criticism of my latest piece on the Cuties travesty. Nevertheless, Nathan Rinne alerted me to a Quillete article by Allan Stratton defending the film that I wanted to quickly address.
Most of it is what we’re already used to. Stratton tries to tie it to QAnon, as though that’s some kind of prerequisite for opposing pedophilia (and if it is, then sign me right up.) He also uses the “just” obfuscation I mentioned, going so far as to describe it as merely a “film about four 11-year-old girls trying to win a dance competition.” In addition, there’s a fair amount of “in for a penny, in for a pound” nonsense as he passes this off as something that’s already happening everywhere. And while I’m sure it happens more than we think, if it were really so normal already, the film wouldn’t be remarkable for its content.
But the most poisonous part of his argument is the part most commonly heard: it’s actually a great movie that’s against the sexualization of children. I mentioned this angle at The Federalist, but didn’t really do it justice.
For the sake of argument, let’s go ahead and assume for the moment that this film is essentially Citizen Kane in its craftsmanship. (I’m not going to watch the thing because I don’t have to submit to being groomed in order to criticize grooming.) Now consider two of the things the very production and distribution of the film objectively does:
Cuties sexually exploits real children
The actors involved were actually induced to be filmed doing the disgusting things over which everyone is up at arms. Stratton incoherently argues that this is not the case because “They’re doing no more onscreen than girls their age do offscreen.” Of course, in contending for the film’s message, he also says that what “girls their age” are doing is condemned under the “wide consensus that the normalization of sexualized kids is wrong” which the film shares. So that argument commits suicide within two paragraphs. No matter how much Stratton talks out of both sides of his mouth on that point (as we shall see), such behavior is either condemned or its not. If its condemned out in the wild, then its condemned in the film as well.
Stratton also makes an appeal to authority here and mentions what great care was taken during filming. He says parents, psychologists, and a even a female director(!) were on hand as they were being exploited–as though that’s supposed to demonstrate anything more than Milgram experiment psychology at work. Let’s face it: We all know precisely the way Hollywood likes to care for child actors.
Cuties normalizes the sexual exploitation of children
Stratton both inadvertently proves and deliberately participates in this one. He goes on and on about how common this kind of behavior already is and how the film is just a reflection of real life as he writes its defense. Despite acknowledging the social “consensus” that this behavior is wrong, he also contends against that consensus.
His question is essentially this: How can something so common outrage anyone who isn’t completely naive? (This is, by the way, the same technique that the bully on the playground uses to normalize the behavior he wants. “What are you a baby? Everyone is doing it!”) But the line between a common vice and a normal vice is very subtle, and it is drawn almost entirely with public shaming and outrage. Something common becomes normal when people begin to accept it as a foregone conclusion and so they don’t bother expressing any distaste over it anymore.
This is precisely what Stratton and others are attempting to achieve, for they are targeting that same public outrage over what the film does in an attempt to expunge it. He desperately tries to pass it off as something only those people are upset over rather than what any normal person would be upset over. “What are you, a baby? Everyone is doing it!” After all, if it’s just a reflection of normal life, then normal people aren’t upset by that.
Art imitating life imitating art isn’t so much a chicken/egg paradox as it is a vicious cycle driven in part by this very film and its supporters. But it’s all an illusion because again, if it the sexual exploitation of children were really normalized already, the film wouldn’t be provoking outrage in the first place.
So even if we accept that it’s a well-made film whose intention is to make a statement against child sexualization, we must contend with the fact the film actually does both these things in service of that intention–exploiting children itself and leading to the exploitation of more by normalizing it. I mentioned at The Federalist how nonsensical this is–sexualizing children to oppose the sexualization of children. I also implied how unnecessary it is. After all, most of the art of filmmaking is a matter making it appear as though something happened when it did not. Surely any so-called creative visionary worthy of prestigious awards could find an interesting way to make their point without actually sexually exploiting children.
But it’s actually worse than this. Defending Cuties because it opposes the sexualization of children is essentially arguing that it’s ok to sexualize children so long as it’s a good movie with a noble message. In other words, exploiting children is bad, but not really bad as long as it’s done artistically and for a good cause.
That is the quintessence of good intentions paving the road to hell. Once you accept this argument, it naturally raises the question: What else is worth sexually exploiting children? Once you agree in principle to the sale of your soul, the only remaining detail is haggling over the price. From there, discounts are only a matter of time. It won’t be long before hordes of SJW’s are telling us its ok for children to be sexually exploited for the sake of things like equality, diversity, love, and so forth. Next we’ll be called bigots for refusing to countenance it.
The slippery slope is not a fallacy; it is the bread & butter of the PLGBT movement.