Many people use art to express themselves, entertain others, make a political statement, or raise awareness about something. The goal is to evoke different feelings in different people. Maïmouna Doucouré’s film Cuties surfaced a variety of reactions from people, with many criticising it.
The film is about 11-year-old Amy (Fathia Youssouf), who migrated from Senegal to France with her mother and two younger siblings. Amy finds herself drawn to a dance crew of four 11-year-old girls. She rebels against her family’s traditions, and starts spending time with the group of girls. This leads her to slowly becoming more like them, even teaching them hyper-sexualised dance moves she learned from the internet.
I watched short clips of the movie, posted on Twitter, and initially decided that I would not watch it because I did not like what I saw in those videos. All of them were cringeworthy, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to see this film fully. I only watched the movie after deciding to write an article about it.
There are a lot of scenes in Cuties that made me uncomfortable and helped me understand why so many people are angry about the release, calling for Netflix to be cancelled. They have stated that the movie encourages paedophilia and that it is ultimately a form of child pornography. The graphic humping and grinding dance scenes are what deeply angered viewers. According to a Fox News article, “Cuties is the latest example of child sexual exploitation in the film industry. And it is child pornography hiding in plain sight.’’ The article further states that “it does not matter how interesting the movie’s ‘social commentary’ is, that does not excuse the fact that it depicts real-life children performing extended, pornographic dance routines.”
Some people are defending Netflix, saying that Cuties mirrors our society. They say that it is simply showing us the kind of world that has been created for young girls. An article from The Washington Post highlights some of the scenes in the movie to present how Cuties resembles the world we live in. According to the article, the fact that the girls learn to twerk, gyrate, and simulate sexual acts by getting their routine from the internet is “Sick. Grotesque. You feel, for lack of a better word, ick watching it. But that’s the point.” A few scenes are mentioned and explored in how they reflect our society. The article does, however, simultaneously illuminate that the writer undermines the point she’s trying to make by shooting the revolting dance routines ‘too well’. “This whole thing serves as a minor rebuke to the idea of the concept of the male gaze.” Another flaw that the article calls attention to, is that none of the girls are ever made to feel unsafe by their behaviour. Nothing pushes the main character, Amy, away from “overt sexualisation and to something wholesome.”
What do you think about this movie and Netflix for releasing it? Do you believe that Netflix should be cancelled and the movie be banned? Or do you think this movie serves as a wakeup call to society?