Several months ago in August of 2020, Netflix released a film called Cuties. The film is supposed to be a “social commentary against the sexualization of young children”. She says this is indirectly due to social media and the societal pressure put on young girls to sexualize themselves, according to the director, Maïmouna Doucouré, who stated this in an interview with Zora. While that sounds like an admirable social cause to produce a film, the same film sexualizes children in the process.
To give you some insight into the film, you should know that it depicts an 11-year-old girl named Amy. Amy lives in a religious family that she believes stifles women. This pushes her to join a dance group called “The Cuties” that represents the freedom and expression she desires. She then starts wearing tight clothes and dancing provocatively, which her Mother and school discourage her to do. However, when the big dance battle rolls around she eventually stops giving into peer pressure and leaves the cuties. Afterward, she returns to her normal life.
The sexualization of the young girls in the film goes against our beliefs and the beliefs of millions of people in the world. Many of whom have been petitioning Netflix to get rid of the film on their platform and boycotting the service until they do exactly that.
If you are still curious as to why people find the film and its content so controversial, below we have a couple of reasons why for you, along with a reason for a few people’s support for it.
The “Good” (Acceptable)
Some people don’t find this film to be all that bad, in their opinion, though it’s an unpopular opinion. If you were to just look at the summary of the film, it doesn’t seem too awful. Actress Tessa Thompson, for instance, supports the film and the director. She said in a tweet that it is:
a beautiful film that sheds light on the hyper-sexualization of preadolescent girls
She has been one of few people who have publicly supported the film. If not for the exploitation in the film, many would even say it would have been a necessary film in this day and age. If this film had been directed better, some people would have enjoyed seeing a film discourage social media platforms from condoning this behavior from children.
Social Media’s Relation to Why People Might Support the Film
Tik Tok, Instagram, and even Snapchat do little to nothing to discourage the act of people posting sexual content on their platforms. Just last spring, hundreds of thousands of teens on these platforms took pleasure in doing the “I’m a Savage Dance” popularized by other Tik Tok influencers and Megan thee Stallion herself. The choreography included grinding the air and showing off your behind. Likewise, this summer young girls were dancing to WAP, a song by both Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. This choreography included even more sexualized choreography, such as humping the ground, twerking, and spreading your legs open. Not to mention, the lyrics are very sexually suggestive despite being edited to be cleaner.
So, the fact that someone would want to expose this type of pressure put on adolescents to take part in these overtly sexual social media trends would be overwhelmingly encouraged. However, the way in which the film Cuties exposes this pressure by social media platforms is not what anyone would want to see based on the massive amount of backlash the film and director are receiving.
Though the film’s goal could be seen as admirable by a few, most would argue that the film’s act of sexualizing children to show that sexualizing children is wrong negates the film’s message. In my own opinion, it actually compounds the problem. Youtuber D’Angelo Wallace pointed this out in his commentary of the film as a backward method of reaching their goal. A subscriber even likened the film’s action to someone becoming a:
mass murderer to show that killing people is wrong
Obviously, that’s ridiculous, but their method of solving a problem is the main reason why the film is being ridiculed.
It should also be known that Netflix, which hosts the film, is no stranger to endorsing shows and movies that sexualize and exploit children. One popular Netflix show that carries this similarity is the show Big Mouth. This is an adult animation that follows several kids as they go through puberty and learn about their bodies. The show depicts these pre-teen cartoon characters naked, in their underwear, as well as masturbating. For a show marketed for adults, it is incredibly odd that it would have these depictions of children, even if they are just animations.
It’s because of Netflix’s relationship with shows that contain child exploitation that we should not be surprised by their endorsement of Cuties. Netflix, though facing backlash for carrying the film on their streaming service, has not removed the Film nor any other film or show that sexually exploits children.
It is not just the fact that this film exploits children despite claiming the film’s message is to expose child exploitation or that Netflix would even sign-off on a film like this to be on their streaming service that upsets people. What upsets people the most regarding this film are the constant shots of adolescent girls’ in sexual positions. Throughout the film, viewers see the girls’ behinds, them humping the ground and grabbing each other inappropriately. There is even a shot of the protagonist, Amy, in her underwear. This is what has people signing petitions to get rid of the film on Netflix. Some Netflix viewers are even mad enough to boycott the streaming service altogether. The constant exploitation of these girls to produce a film, no matter its commentary, are what most people disagree with.
Doucouré, the director of the film, tries to excuse these shots. She explains in the interview that:
these were composite shots, so the girls weren’t dancing like that all the time
She adds that there was a child psychologist on set for the girls to talk to if they needed.
While these details may have resolved some people’s aggression towards the film, many people continue to reject the film due to the fact that it still blatantly exploits children in a sexual manner. Those shots of the girls in inappropriate positions, though not completely acted out, still occurred in short instances. Instances that if a parent would have seen their child doing at the instruction of an adult, would horrify them.
Should you Watch the Film?
It’s honestly up to you whether or not you want to see the film. Here, we without a doubt condemn the sexual exploitation of children in any context. The film does more harm than good for the social issue in many people’s opinions, including ours.
If you are interested in more articles, check out Stacey Abrams is Now a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.