‘Good Boys’: a beginner’s guide to child exploitation

Would you allow your kids to act in a R-rated movie that they are too young to watch?

The parents of Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams did. These three kids are the stars of Good Boys, a just-released raunchy American comedy.

There’s not much of a plot in director Gene Stupnitsky’s first film. Three Sixth Graders are worried about an up-coming kissing party because they don’t have any experience.

There are some laughs to do with the F-bomb and drugs and divorce and what older girls get up to and running across a multilane freeway.

But most of the comedy comes when the boys are fiddling with sex toys that they don’t understand -- although the sniggering audience does.

In its opening weekend Good Boys took in three times as much as Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s latest. Hooray! The R-rated comedy drought is over, wrote entertainment journalists. Many reviewers loved it:

NPR: The thought of preteens swearing, porn-hunting and speculating wildly about what-goes-where, anatomically speaking, sounds more like horror than comedy, but Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg … make it all seem like innocent fun.

Time: And mostly, with the exception of a tiresome, protracted gag involving a parental stash of sex toys, it’s more funny and charming than it is raunchy. If these boys are the men of the future, their parents have done something right.

Chicago Sun-Times: For all its wacky, gross-out, shock-ya humor, “Good Boys” has a lot of heart.

Well, just for a minute, let’s concede that innocent kids playing with sex dolls may be hilarious. But that's less than half the story. What did the real-life actors learn about sex on the set? They are human beings, remember, not CGI figures in a video game. The stars of Good Boys are twelve years old in real life. That’s twelve. They’re not even teenagers. Their voices haven’t broken.

And yet they have been enticed into becoming a 89-minute dirty joke about some of the darkest areas of human experience. If a school teacher, or a scout master, or a minister introduced them to sex toys and BDSM gear, he would be charged with grooming and thrown in the slammer. But if a Hollywood director does it, Tinsel Town says, Attaboy!

This is grooming. And it’s baked into the film. The very premise of the comedy is the contrast between adult depravity and children’s innocence. Beneath the slapstick, Good Boys is child pornography for beginners.

Yes, this has happened before. At 12, Jodie Foster played a child prostitute in Taxi Driver (1976). Also at 12, Brooke Shields played a child prostitute in Pretty Baby (1978).

But this is 2019. This is the era of #MeToo, when Hollywood is taking a cold, hard look at sexual exploitation in the film industry. Well, it’s not looking hard enough. Or don't 12-year-old boys count?

In 1994 12-year-old Natalie Portman was made up as a tart in The Professional, a film about a young girl’s strange relationship with a hit man. She hated the role. Last year she told the Women’s March in Los Angeles that making the film had sexualised her:

“I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me. A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday, euphemistically the date that I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in reviews.”

If anything, Good Boys is worse than The Professional. First, for its viewers, because it normalises sexual perversion. And second, for the three 12-year-olds whose Hollywood employers have corrupted their childhood and robbed them of whatever chance they had of retaining a healthy view of sex.

Manohla Dargis, film critic for the New York Times, nailed it. The creepy “fun” of Good Boys “is predicated on your ethical indifference,” she wrote.  “It banks on your cruelty.”

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet


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