How Cuties, a French movie on Netflix, became part of America’s culture war

Sometimes, a movie is just a movie. And sometimes, a movie becomes an unexpected flashpoint in the ever-escalating culture wars.

That’s what has happened with Cuties, a French movie released this week on Netflix. The film is about a young girl in a devoutly religious family who chafes against her upbringing and wants to join the secular world of her friends. But while that world seems to represent freedom, it comes with its own kind of constriction and danger.

In the weeks and days leading up to its release, Cuties became the subject of intense internet backlash over claims …

The true love story in Elif Batuman’s The Idiot is a love affair with language

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Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, the Vox Book Club’s September pick, is a story about first love and first disillusionment with love. But the love affair that the book is most deeply concerned with isn’t our protagonist Selin’s flirtation with Ivan, a withholding fellow college student who already has a girlfriend. It’s her relationship with language.

Selin is an 18-year-old Harvard freshman in 1996, and she keeps signing up for classes that will help her think about words. “I like words,” she tells a professor …

One Good Thing: A Danish drama perfect for political devotees, now on Netflix

One Good Thing is Vox’s recommendations feature. In each edition, find one more thing from the world of culture that we highly recommend.

One of the most significant trends in global television in the 2010s was one that almost no Americans noticed: the rise of Danish dramas. For a time, some of the most acclaimed hour-long TV series in the world were coming out of Copenhagen, with many of them remade by American TV networks. The storytelling tropes of these series soon spread to basically every other country in Scandinavia and, later, Western Europe, because creating a series in …

Trump announced that Bahrain will normalize relations with Israel

President Donald Trump just announced another historic normalization deal between an Arab country and Israel, notching another victory for his Middle East peace strategy.

On Friday afternoon, Trump tweeted that the leaders of Bahrain, a small kingdom in the Persian Gulf, and Israel had “agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations.” The announcement comes less than a month after the United Arab Emirates took the same step with Jerusalem.

The joint statement from all three parties doesn’t include specifics as to what, exactly, the deal entails, but it presumably will mean the eventual establishment of embassies in each other’s …

The Trump administration has already made huge refugee cuts. It’s reportedly considering more.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering allowing even fewer refugees — or even none at all — into the US next year, another potential blow to the US’s already decimated refugee program.

Reuters reported Thursday, citing a senior administration official, that officials are weighing several options: delaying some or all refugee admissions until a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order curbing refugee resettlement is resolved, deepening cuts to refugee admissions, or both.

But the coronavirus pandemic has only made the plight of the world’s most vulnerable populations more urgent. There are now more refugees, asylum seekers, and internally …

What Kenya can teach its neighbors — and the US — about improving the lives of the “unbanked”

In a rural village in Kenya, a woman sets out to do her food shopping for the day. She needs cash before she heads to the market, but the nearest bank would be several days’ walk. Instead, she takes out her phone and texts a password and a request for money. A few minutes later, she meets a man with a cellphone and receives cash from him — the withdrawal that she made on her phone. She heads off, ready to do her errands.

Welcome to the world of mobile money banking.

In much of the world, people don’t live …