The Controversy on the Netflix film: Cuties

Grace Lee, Writer

Extensive criticism on social media platforms condemned the Netflix film Cuties long before it was even released. It all began with the poster advertising the upcoming movie. It portrayed four girls aged 11-13 years old posing in costumes deemed as inappropriate and explicit. It received even more attention and backlash when it debuted. Cuties is a film about a girl named Amy who moves with her mom to Paris to wait for their polygamous father. She finds a group of girls that defy her normal Senegalese traditions and thoughts. Drawn and intrigued, she joins their dance group and gets involved in many inappropriate activities. The director of the movie is Maïmouna Doucouré, who won the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival with this film. Additionally, Doucouré is also the daughter of Senegal immigrants.

Critiques of the film include the official trailer of the film receiving two million dislikes, along with much of the 205,836 comments being derogatory of the behavior included in the film. One comment garnered 33K likes and defended the mother of the film, who was portrayed as cold-hearted. “I love how the antagonist is just a mother who doesn’t want her underage daughter to be sexualised,” it said. Another Youtube video by Paymoney Wubby talks about how, no matter what the intent of the film may be, it is still unacceptable to continuously present disturbing and exaggerated scenes of extremely young kids. “Every dance number is shot as if they are adults…. People are going to say, “Well that was the intent of the film.” If I’m going to make a movie that talks about the dangers of fast and loose lifestyle, I wouldn’t…cast eleven-year-olds,” he said. Another comment compared it to “ spreading awareness for forest fires by setting a forest on fire”.

On the other hand, some supporters of the film reason that the film was depicted like this because of the French culture. It is often said that the French culture is more “free” and open. However, many comments made by French audiences have claimed that they are not more “sexually open” and do not consider the film as a representation of their French culture or beliefs. Many of them continue to think of the film as pedophilia. 

There are different sides and reasoning, however. Alissa Wilkinson of Vox defends the film’s disturbing scenes. “We are meant to be uncomfortable because the movie wants to shake us out of complacency and make us think about how the images that young people see profoundly mold and shape their view of themselves,” she claims. Wilkinson’s point is that though the film is a bit strange and their main goal might have ended up being unsuccessful, it was all centered on making a point about bringing awareness to how much young teens are affected by society, social media, etc. 

Part of the movement in opposition to the film is U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri who wrote a letter to Netflix to ask for the film to be taken down and removed. Melissa Henson, a blog writer for the Parents Television Council, deems the film as a harm to society. “‘Although there is a danger that little girls will be attracted to this film – the far greater risk is the way this film normalizes the sexualization of little girls. ‘Netflix and its board of directors are getting rich off of this kind of content. Worse, they are desensitizing millions of viewers at home by asking them to be entertained by it,’ Henson added,” they claimed. Netflix may be going too far on its content in an attempt to produce more revenue. 

But it seems like no issues existed before it reached Netflix. Doucouré herself wrote a short passage on The Washington Post in defense of her film. “They construct their self-esteem based on social media likes and the number of followers they have. To see these youngsters put so much pressure on themselves so early was heartbreaking. Their insights and experiences with social media informed ‘Cuties’,” she said.