On #CancelNetflix and the Power We Have

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Cuties is, by the accounts of many people who have seen it, a terrible film that should not have been made. On our site, both Megan Fox and Stephen Green have blasted the film. I haven’t watched it and I’m very unlikely to now, but I trust both of them, they come at it from their unique viewpoints, and both of them despise it. I doubt I’ll waste a second watching it.

First They Killed My Father is a film I have watched and it’s very very good. I wrote up this review of it today. It’s three years old this week, but hardly anyone knows about it so I thought discussing it here would give people a chance of finding it. It deserves to become part of a broader discussion about entertainment and the unhealthy cultural trends we see today.

The two films have nothing to do with each other but for the fact that both films live on Netflix. Cuties is a French film Netflix bought the rights to show to American audiences. Netflix bankrolled First They Killed My Father and has kept it available to stream despite it attracting very little attention. It’s an American production, helmed by Angelina Jolie, but filmed entirely in Cambodia. It cost Netflix $24 million in 2017 and it’s very unlikely that they made any money on it since. Cuties is blowing up in their faces, as it should. But it did trend this week, so they probably made some money on it.

Based on what I’ve read about Cuties, the world would be better off if it never existed and if Netflix had never bought its rights. Even if the producers’ intentions were good, which is very doubtful, its initial promotional materials were disgusting. That’s on Netflix, as is the fact they chose to promote it at all. The film is by nearly everyone’s lights gross and reprehensible. That some on the left reflexively defend it just because many on the right hate it says much about those defending it.

But I hope you do watch First They Killed My Father and tell people about it and get them to watch it. I hope schools show it and start educating students about the horrors of socialism and where cancel culture can lead. Cancel culture is more than just a means of depriving people of their jobs and livelihoods, though that is bad enough. It’s more than a conversation killer. It’s even more than public shaming and bullying.

Cancel culture is corrosive to our nation and threatens to destroy our very ability to communicate and debate. It’s a neurotoxin that doesn’t belong in our country at all. No good can come of it.

During the debate over Cuties, I wrestled with whether to cancel my Netflix account or not. I almost did and don’t begrudge anyone who did. If there was ever a good reason to stop funding Netflix, Cuties appears to be it. The Babylon Bee’s take sums up my opinion pretty well.

But if I had canceled, I’d have never found First They Killed My Father or known anything about this side of Angelina Jolie. She’s far more than an actress, which has been obvious for a while. She may be an actual subversive, in a good way, undermining Hollywood’s monolithic leftism from within.

Angelina Jolie is among Hollywood’s most powerful people. The fact that she spent about 15 years developing this story and succeeded in getting it made says quite a bit about her. This is all worth knowing, and her movie is very much worth seeing. Alongside The Killing Fields and Mr. Jones and other similar films, it helps tell a deep story about the evils of communism and the currents tearing at America now. We also need some good movies about Cuba, Venezuela, and China. Some exist. We need to remind people of that and more of them to be made. Movies can reach people who aren’t likely to read history books or, say, watch Prager U videos, no matter how good they are. Attach a big name to a film and the odds people will see it should increase. Jolie’s name is one of the biggest.

And if these films happen to live on Netflix?

As I said, I don’t begrudge anyone who has chosen to cancel Netflix over Cuties. In fact, it’s commendable to sacrifice your own entertainment to make a point about such a loathsome film. But I guess I just have a predisposition to opposing boycotts and cancel calls wherever they come from. It makes it more difficult to criticize cancel culture as such, for one thing. You may be giving away ground to people who will still use it against you, when you could stay in the arena. Netflix, for instance, needs to be made aware that productions like Cuties hurt its brand, and First They Killed My Father help build its brand. The fact that Netflix funded Jolie’s film changed my opinion of them for the better, a little bit.

Netflix cares most about the bottom line, and its brand is part of that. If filth like Cuties makes audiences criticize them and turn away, they may fund less of it. They shouldn’t fund any of it, and hopefully, they learn something from all of this. Netflix should have a line it won’t cross. It shouldn’t hide behind the awards a movie wins to justify airing it. The same culture that begat Cuties will break its arm patting itself on the back for the effort. That doesn’t mean the movie is actually any good or worth having. The New York Times’ Pulitzer for Walter Duranty’s lies and Joe Buck getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame attest to the fact that awards may not mark actual merit.

Now, having said all that, I wouldn’t oppose the producers of Cuties being investigated for what they have reportedly done while producing the movie. That’s different from cancel culture, in my view. It’s upholding existing law and precedent, and if crimes were committed, people must be held accountable for them.