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The Perverted Critics of Sound of Freedom

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In this episode Trent looks at criticism of the recent film Sound of Freedom and shows how our culture is threatened when powerful, subtle truths threaten their cherished lies.

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“Cuties is Worse than You Think” –



Welcome to the Counsel of Trent Podcast, a production of Catholic Answers.

Trent Horn:
Welcome to the Counsel of Trent Podcast. I’m your host Catholic Answers apologist, Trent Horn. Normally I don’t comment on movies or current events, but today I noticed something that does relate to the challenge of sharing our faith in the modern world, and it has to do with some of the absurd responses I’ve seen in the mainstream media to the new movie, Sound of Freedom. And that movie is like this channel. You should like it, subscribe to see it, subscribe to our channel. I don’t know. Like this video, subscribe to the channel, check us out at as well if you want to support all the work that we’re doing here. We have live streams, bonus content, check all that out. All right, so Sound of Freedom is kind of a crime drama directed by Alejandro Monteverde and it’s stars Jim Caviezel, who is most famously known for playing another JC, Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s, The Passion.

The film is based on the true life story of former Homeland security specialist Tim Ballard, who left the agency to work full-time rescuing children who have been abducted and put into human sex trafficking. Now you might think, wow, human trafficking is really evil and it’s a good thing that a well-produced movie is taking on this evil. Oh dear viewer, you assume too much of mainstream media. Since the movie came out, it’s been ignored by most critics and the major ones who have watched it, they dismissed the movie as simply about promoting conspiracy theories. Why are they doing this?

One explanation is that the critics reject Jim Caviezel’s ties to various QAnon conspiracy theories, and I might buy that if the reviews went something like this. If they said, “Sound of Freedom is a well-made film, it tackles an important subject, even though it’s star, Jim Caviezel, has dabbled in conspiracy theories related to human trafficking. In spite of that, this is still a good and important film worth seeing.” But they don’t say anything like that. Instead, they have this kind of disgust about the movie, and they don’t have a similar disgust about the exploitation of children that happens in trafficking. If anything, they minimize it. But these same media outlets praise films that do sexually exploit children. So I have another theory that explains why the media is seemingly at war with the film, the Sound of Freedom, and how this relates to us sharing our faith, especially the controversial moral aspects of our faith that the world rejects, how that relates to how we share that to the world at large.

Here’s what I think. The world rejects any truth that threatens their lies, especially powerful subtle truths. Unfortunately, a lot of Christian films are pretty heavy-handed with their message or they have low production values so the media can easily ignore or ridicule them. But sometimes a film has high quality production and it doesn’t come off as propaganda, it’s powerful and subtle. It doesn’t make you defensive when you watch it. Instead, it makes you think the following, “Wow, culturally unacceptable X is really, really bad. But wait a minute, culturally acceptable Y isn’t much different than culturally unacceptable X. Maybe Y is as bad as X.” Here’s two examples.

The first would be Matt Walsh’s film, What is a Woman? Why did the Media Ignore this film? It’s because the film is good and restrained. Walsh doesn’t give a bunch of monologues with over the top rhetoric. He actually comes off quite meek. He just asks normal questions that make gender ideologues look insane. So the media fears this will happen to average people who watch the film. Wow, being completely deluded about reality and mutilating children is really, really bad. Wait a minute, transgender ideology isn’t much different than being completely deluded about reality and mutilating children. In fact, it is those things. Therefore transgender ideology is really, really bad. But in spite of the fact that millions of people have seen What is a Woman?, there are as of this filming only eight reviews of it on Rotten Tomatoes, none from major critics. The movie’s too dangerous for them to engage. And here’s the second example.

In 2013, an abortionist named Kermit Gosnell was put on trial for multiple counts of murder of born infants and of women who obtained abortions, as well as dozens of counts of illegal abortion. Even by our culture’s standards that ignores abortion as murder, Gosnell is probably one of America’s most prolific serial killers. He may have killed hundreds of born infants who were scheduled to be aborted, but when the trial began, the news media refused to cover it and they said, “It’s just a local crime story. Why bother?” Of course, they all covered the story of a boy in a red hat at the Lincoln Memorial smiling at a Native American man beating a [inaudible 00:04:56] fake. That was worthy of national news, while Gosnell’s murders were just a local crime story.

Eventually social media users pressured mainstream media outlets to cover the story, and they made all kinds of excuses for being late to the game. But the more honest commenters admitted that they didn’t want to cover the story at first because it got too close to refuting the lies of the abortion industry. In 2018, a good movie about the trial and its lack of media coverage called Gosnell was released, but as of now, it has only 15 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and all the famous outlets like the LA Times or Forbes give it a negative review. But the film inevitably forces you to confront abortion in a way pro-choice advocates don’t want you to think about it. Gosnell murdered babies because he aborted them one minute after birth instead of a minute before birth. What’s the difference?

Or you start to think like this, “Wow, infanticide is really, really bad. Wait a minute, abortion isn’t much different than infanticide. Therefore, abortion is really, really bad.” So they have to ignore it because of the questions it causes people to ask, and I think the same thing is happening with Sound of Freedom, which is weird because Sound of Freedom is not connected to a hot button issue like abortion. Surely everyone agrees that trafficking children is wrong. Sure, but not everyone thinks sexualizing children is wrong. Some of them think it’s a sign of empowerment that needs to be validated or they think kids can be exposed to sex in healthy ways.

Speaker 3:
Three books that discuss LGBTQ themes are off the shelves at Waukee High School. The school says the books are under review after parents claim they contain unsuitable content for students.

Speaker 4:
The text describes an inappropriate sexual relationship between the young main character and his much older male cousin. That book, along with Gender Queer and Lawn Boy have been called for a review by the Waukee School Board. All three of these titles described LGBTQ themes.

Speaker 5:
The truth is Gender Queer and other queer books are made more difficult to access for age appropriate people in the name of saving the children from grooming. Here we go again. It’s a made up moral panic.

Speaker 4:
Gender Queer depicted a sexually explicit cartoon, one parent displayed to the board.

Speaker 6:
This is also in the book, Gender Queer, at Northwest High School, available for children as young as 14 years old.

Trent Horn:
Why do you think the media dotes over child drag stars like Desmond is Amazing and have him gyrate on Good Morning America?

This is the Drag The Kids To Pride event at Mr. Misster’s in Dallas’s Oak Lawn neighborhood. Organizers promoted it as a family friendly drag show where kids danced with the performers.

In fact, Hollywood and popular culture has always had a kind of creepy obsession with kids. The 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet features a topless 16-year-old Olivia Hussey. In 1978, Brooke Shields starred as a child prostitute in the film Pretty Baby, and the 1980 film Blue Lagoon featured her as a nearly naked 14 year old. The director even had her and her 18-year old co-star tan naked next to each other so they wouldn’t have tan lines. Even the animated film Aladdin portrays 16 year old Jasmine as too hot to handle, and the list goes uncomfortably on and on. The most recent example would be the 2020 Netflix film Cuties, which takes the ages of the children down to an even more disturbing age of 11 and defends them publicly twerking as an empowering narrative directed by a woman of color.

It’s striking to compare what critics say about Cuties versus what they say about Sound of Freedom. Consider the reviews in Rolling Stone Magazine. The author says, “Cuties is not a salacious bit of pedo bait designed to appeal to baser instincts rather than better angels.” In regards to the poster, the reviewer says, “Out of context, the girls’ outfits look questionably flashy and trashy. Seen in context, as the costumes for a hip hop dance troupe competing for a grand prize, you understand how they function in regards to a bigger picture message.” Reviewers consistently blamed Netflix for using a provocative movie poster for the film instead of the original French poster. But what they’re really doing is complaining that Netflix said the quiet part out loud. This is not an unrelated promotional image. The image comes from the movie’s final dance number, and it’s so awful. I cannot in good conscience show it to you. Instead, I’ll let a popular YouTuber summarize its awfulness here.

Speaker 7:
I understand that the point of the movie is supposed to make you uncomfortable with the subject matter of kids being sexualized. It’s supposed to speak out against how it’s a terrible thing, but it’s so poorly conveyed that they’ve just ended up making a movie that hyper sexualizes kids. And the camera operator, I don’t know who’s working the camera for this movie, it must be Dan Schneider, because the camera operator’s going up each girl’s (beep) right up for a colonoscopy. When they spread their legs, he speed runs over there to get the camera as close as possible. And again, these are actual children actresses. These aren’t adults playing kids. These are actual 11, 12 year olds. They’re children. Let me show you a review from a YouTuber who watched this movie and let me show you what their takeaway was.

Speaker 8:
They’re pretty hot. You can say whatever you want about me. It’s not my fault. I didn’t make them do that. They did that. That’s the point. That’s the whole point of the movie is that you’re supposed to be sitting there thinking, “Look at the blonde one.” You’re supposed to be sitting there holding these two thoughts in your head, and one, that these are kids. And the other, that they’re hot.

Speaker 7:
That’s the message that people are walking away from the movie with. Pedophiles with the biggest smile on their face pumping their fists in the air. Thanks Netflix. Just easily accessible, softcore child porn.

Trent Horn:
If you wanted to make a film about the dangers of girls sexualizing themselves, you can do that without showing the girls in sexual ways. You can use film tricks like silhouette blur or just using reaction shots or any number of tricks to make your point. Instead, this is just showing faux child porn, but we’re supposed to praise it because if children can own their sexuality, they can be liberated. Here’s what Rolling Stones said about Sound of Freedom though. And remember, Cuties is not salacious at all. It’s a cute coming of age film. But they say Sound of Freedom is “A stomach turning experience, fetishizing the torture of its child victims and lingering over lush preludes to their sexual abuse. At times, I had the uncomfortable sense that I might be arrested myself just for sitting through it.” Except it’s not exploitative. Sound of Freedom is very restrained and independent reviewers of the film who aren’t affiliated with mainstream media agree Sound of Freedom does a great job at showing the exploitation of children without exploiting children in the process.

Speaker 9:
This is a very real look at the world of child trafficking. Not to say it’s graphic, it’s a PG-13 movie. I appreciate that about it. We know what happens to these children when they’re trafficked. We don’t need to see it. I like the fact that the film knows that you don’t have to show it to know it.

Speaker 10:
And guess what? Sound of Freedom is really (beep) good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it deserves the hype and praise that it’s been getting, managing to tackle some pretty brutal subject matter in a sensitive and restrained way that never feels exploitative, delivering some excellent performances from a talented cast that don’t overshadow their roles, and a storyline that feels neatly grounded in the true events that it’s been based on.

Trent Horn:
So compare that to Cuties, which even if it claims it’s showing how children are exploited, really does end up exploiting them in the process, but reviewers don’t care. And it’s not just Rolling Stone, gave Sound of Freedom to stars saying it was dull and solemn. But it gave Cuties four stars. It even hosted an open letter from female directors to the director of Cuties thanking her for the film’s “sensitive portrayal of the emergent sexuality of young girls.” And remember the characters in Cuties are 11 years old. Jezebel calls Sound of Freedom, “An anti-child trafficking fantasy fit for QAnon.” And says, “Any movie portraying exploitation of this sort runs the risk of effectively reiterating it. And Sound of Freedom contains queasy scenes that feature kids looking scared in beds or posing quasi provocatively for cameras. Ballard throws the kid he rescues in a van that speeds away, and the only thing that visually distinguishes this from a kidnapping is the implied virtue.”

So Sound of Freedom is basically creepy, quasi exploitative. But here’s what Jebel said of Cuties. “The feature has received a lot of criticism for allegedly sexualizing its young stars. A lot of the backlash probably has to do with the truly blank marketing materials cooked up by Netflix for the film’s stateside release” The Verge reports. “Including a poster that shows the dance team members posing seductively in skimpy performance outfits. A visual that within the context of the film is supposed to make the viewer uncomfortable.” So if the Sound of Freedom makes viewers uncomfortable, it’s propaganda. But if Cuties makes you uncomfortable, it’s art and you don’t appreciate it.

The media is also engaged in a blackout campaign against the Sound of Freedom. Rolling Stone Magazine gave three stars to Cuties, but there’s no Rolling Stone review for Sound of Freedom in their TV section, movie section. Instead, there’s just an op-ed bashing the film that was selected as a review for Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, as of this recording, there are only 22 reviews of Sound of Freedom and only 3 of them counted as top critics. In contrast, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has over 300 reviews, dozens of which come from top critics. What’s most embarrassing for Hollywood is that Sound of Freedom beat Indiana Jones on the July 4th box office, and did so on fewer screens. It’ll be a huge financial success and easily make back its modest budget, but Indiana Jones is going to lose the Walt Disney Company hundreds of millions of dollars. What’s even more ironic is that Disney had the rights to Sound of Freedom in 2018 and wanted to dump the film before they sold it to another studio and distributor.

Now, some people say Disney dumped the film and critics have been harsh towards it because the movie is allegedly inaccurate, that it exaggerates Ballard’s story, it gets facts wrong, but when has that ever stopped Hollywood from making a successful film? Vice News and other media outlets have run pieces criticizing the film’s accuracy, but you don’t see the media doing the same thing with a film called The Woman King. It’s about an all female troop of soldiers in the 19th century, West African Kingdom of Dahomey. The movie makes Dahomey and its king look like strong opponents of the slave trade, but that’s false. In reality, King Ghezo, one of the few actual historical characters in the film, he fought the British Empire on several occasions to protect his kingdom’s involvement with the slave trade. But if the movie promotes a woman of color, facts just don’t matter. Instead, the unusual opposition to Sound of Freedom sounds more like an unconscious fear that people will start to think the following.

“Selling children as sexual objects is really, really bad. Wait a minute. Pop culture’s portrayal of children as sexual objects isn’t that much different. Therefore, pop culture’s portrayal of children is really, really bad.” In fact, the Rolling Stone article says the film feeds, “Delusion by fomenting moral panic over this grossly exaggerated epidemic of child sex trafficking.” But the evidence of that is just a link to an article saying that sex trafficking claims at Target were hoaxes. It then says “There is visible suffering all around us in America, there are poor and unhoused, and people brutalized or killed by police. There are mass shootings, lack of healthcare, climate disasters. And yet over and over the far right turns to these sorted fantasies about godless monsters hurting children.”

Give me a freaking break. Sure. Maybe some moms were mistaken about human traffickers being at Target. That’s a story I’ve actually covered here on Free For All Friday, but come on. According to the International Labor Union, over 1 million children are exploited each year in commercial sex trades. What’s really disappointing though is we see the same thing in the Catholic Church, when liberal Catholics will go on and on about the grossly exaggerated dangers of mass shootings or climate change, but then act like abortion and sodomy really aren’t a big deal deal. Or they say that school board fights to keep pornographic descriptions of gay sex out of children’s libraries are the work of misguided culture warriors. And when parents try to read these disgusting things at school board meetings, they get thrown out for being obscene.

Speaker 11:
15 year old daughter at a local high school.

Speaker 12:
Kendra Evans appears to be rattled as she stands before the Clark County School District Board last week, the mother claiming her daughter was upset about what her high school teacher assigned her to memorize in front of her class and sharing a portion with the board.

Speaker 13:
I don’t love you. It’s not you. It’s just I don’t like your (beep) or any (beep) in that case.

Speaker 12:
CCSD board members quickly stop the public comment over the derogative language and the mic is turned off.

Speaker 14:
And then you can discuss the process by which these books get on the shelves because there’s a Clay County employee that got paid to put this book, Lucky by Alice Sebold. I’m going to read things. If there’s children watching cover their ears. “He began to knead …”

Speaker 15:
I’m going to stop you right there, sir. I’m going to stop you right there.

Speaker 14:
… Fingers into it.

Speaker 16:
Turn the microphone off.

Speaker 15:
Turn off his microphone, please. I’ve told you I’m stopping you. The reason I’m stopping you is because these meetings are … If you’ll hush your mouth for a minute and listen, instead of just talking, you might learn something.

Speaker 14:
It’s safe enough for our schools and our children we should be able to listen to it.

Speaker 15:
Well the problem is, sir, is these meetings are broadcast.

Trent Horn:
So I think it’s obvious that a film that gets people to really question how children are sexualized these days, there are many people in Hollywood and in culture that don’t like it because people will look at woke libraries and the books that are present there, look at drag shows where children are invited, children are invited to LGBT Pride parades and the debauchery that happens there, the idea of exposing kids to sex safely. And people will start to reconsider that and think, “Hey, maybe we should just keep sex away from kids. There’s a bright idea.” Truly, we live in the Twilight Zone. So what can Christians learn about sharing their message in media from all of this?

First, we should support creators like the team behind Sound of Freedom that make films that are powerful but don’t come off as propaganda. Ironically, some of the best movies to promote Christian moral themes were not even made by Christians. The truth was just an unintentional byproduct of them trying to tell a good story. For example, the 2007 film, Juno, where the pregnant title character does not get an abortion. The reason she doesn’t is because a single pro-life demonstrator at the abortion facility tells her that her baby has fingernails. There’s also a great scene where Juno, the character, is in the waiting room at the abortion facility and notices everyone tapping their fingernails. Once again, subtle but effective.

What this shows is that the best way to move our culture on issues like abortion and sexual morality is not to make a frontal assault with a blunt message you beat over the audience’s heads. Instead, make a film that follows the pattern I described earlier. “Wow, culturally unacceptable X is really, really bad. Wait a minute, culturally acceptable Y isn’t much different than culturally unacceptable X. Maybe Y is as bad as X.” That’s my advice on the production side.

On the consumer side, we should continue to buy tickets to good art and withhold our money and views from bad art, but it’s going to be a long tough road. That’s because we aren’t trying to correct a merely misguided company. If profit is all they wanted, that would get companies like Disney to turn their act around really quickly and make non-woke family friendly films and make a lot of money. There’s been a lot of examples of those recently. For these people, money isn’t the most important thing. It’s spreading their cause. Woke liberal, LGBT ideology is a religion to them and religious people have no problem wasting money if they think it’s at least spreading the message.

How many times have you heard a Christian say, “Well, that piece of art wasn’t financially successful, but if it converted at least a few people, it was worth it to get the message out there.” I think that’s the same motivation for companies like Disney that will tolerate box office bomb after bomb after bomb, because what matters most is the message, not the money to those working there. I don’t however think this is sustainable in the long term provided that Christians maintain their witness in their entertainment choices for the long haul. I hope this episode was helpful for you all and I definitely hope that you’ll check out Sound of Freedom in a theater near you. Thank you all so much and I hope you have a very blessed day.


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