Brooke Shields has a heartbreaking new documentary out on Hulu called Pretty Baby named for the infamous (amongst decent people) film by the same name where Shields at age 12 played a prostitute who enters into an explicitly sexual relationship with an adult who also acts as a paternal figure.
The film in two parts details the overt sexualization of Shields by Hollywood and the film and fashion industry as well as in the media. It also artfully and devastatingly captures the social acceptance of this treatment and how financially beneficial it was to her abusers to continue selling her sexually as a child. Fundamentally the documentary challenges viewers to question popular culture and take stock that what is acceptable to people in Hollywood and even the popular masses could actually be inhuman and horrifying. It also gives Americans a clear timeline to see how long the issue of pedophilia and grooming has permeated deeply in certain circles in America.
It is a must watch. Why?
The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Pretty Baby
Overall rating: Gripping and important
The structure of Pretty Baby follows Brook Shields career chronologically in the context of her sexualization as not only a minor but as a prepubescent child. The lens of the documentary is a recrimination not only of the absolutely disgusting filmmakers, agents, fashion industry executives and media who exploited and abused her as a young child but also the devastating complicitness of culture. Had people not financially supported the sexualization of Shields as a baby (as young as 10), it could not have occurred. Not only does the film emotionally take viewers on a personal, emotional journey of Shields but it raises a critically important criticism of pop culture which reminds us all that just because something is promoted in the media as mainstream, popular and okay does not mean that it actually is. It also gives us a heavy reminder that sexual grooming and pedophilia are not monsters that grew in 2023. They have been embedded and coded in certain mainly (in the case of this story in particular) progressive circles like Hollywood, media and art for a long time.
What is the most powerful thing about the documentary is not so much the commentary from Shields but actually just the playback of real life scenes in film, commercials, and interviews with the creators. In viewing, I personally cried several times. Not from new epiphanies – but just being exposed to scenes in film and media which already existed in reality.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: So many light bulb moments and horrifying truths
“Entertaining” is not the right word for what Pretty Baby is. A better word might be “engaging.” The film lays bare things viewers might have already known but strings them together in a chronological progression that creates a clear narrative of how and why a thriving industry was created around sexualizing children and how Brooke Shields became the figurehead of that industry.
The film is gripping and deeply emotional. There is nothing boring about the pain the movie evokes for any of us who feel deeply about the abuse of children which has so often and once again in our current discourse permeated to the mainstream. Not only is this movie a heroic tale about Shields herself with an extremely satisfying part 2 focused on her healing and redemption of her career (still heavily featuring obstacles that were related to her sexualization) and becoming a mother herself but it is a stark and damning commentary on how vital warring against insidious cultural norms really is for those who are willing to stand up.
Does it have intellectual/artistic values?
Rating: One of the most currently relevant and important stories of now
The documentary is traditionally done, featuring interviews from Shields, people in Shields’s life and experts in the field of child abuse, feminism and other related issues. The interview commentary is sandwiched between real life clips from Brook’s career and overlaid on images from her time.
The effect is that viewers who lived through the events of Shields’s time and those, like me, who were not alive for them are able to feel the emotional reaction that is evoked without the context of the pop cultural frenzy and media manipulation which existed at the time. The documentary was careful to show items which evoke the horror but do not show the explicitness which translates to pornography, so it doesn’t spread the evil even farther.
The subject matter of the documentary is perhaps the most meritorious of any in our time. With current cultural issues around exposing young children to sexually explicit content in their schools and elsewhere and altering their bodies forever before they are capable of informed consent coming to the forefront of political and societal debates, stories like Brooke’s that remind us of how possible it is for collective popular culture to simply ignore and even celebrate abuses and evils.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Exposes the truth of pedophilia and grooming which is deeply imbedded in many corners of the progressive community and popular culture since long before 2023
Pretty Baby is a strong condemnation of liberal elites and morality by cultural populace. The movie by the same name released in 1978, where 11/12 year old Brooke was totally nude and had sex scenes with an adult man, was critically acclaimed by the New York Times and Roger Ebert to name just a few. You can view all the critical takes on Rotten Tomatoes. Only one critic on record gave the film a bad score because it was wrong to sexualize a child – and even then the reprimand was tepid. The critic called the film “creepy.” One critic viewed the film in 2015 and still called it “humane.” In 2003, the New York Times placed it on a list of the top 1,000 movies ever made.
The point of the critical breakdown is to highlight how truly pervasive the normalization of child sexuality is in Hollywood and in mainstream media. Pretty Baby the documentary shines a bright light on the insidiousness of the problem and also makes heroes of the few traditional people in Brooke’s life who did anything at all to protect her. Brooke recalls her catholic fathers home as “calm” and safe. She recalls her religious upbringing as the only influence which empowered her at all in retaining the right to virginity when she was a child. She dated notable conservative, Dean Cain when she was a young woman and describes him as protecting and understanding her anxiety, shame and heart when it came to the agency of her body and sexual experience.
Pretty Baby (2023) is, if anything , an inspirational drum beat for all the conservative activists out there right now fighting tooth and nail against the sexualization, grooming and mutilation of children. They are doing so to major cultural push back. They’re being called bigots and criminals and monsters all for standing up and saying: just because the loudest most popular group says it’s okay to harm children, does not mean that is.
Pretty Baby is a deeply important story not only for Brooke Shield’s herself but to inform modern narratives and inflame the spirit of those willing to protect children from sexual abuse. It is a must see.