The outrage over Cuties, the debut film by Maïmouna Doucouré, speaks volumes of the sheer lack of conversation about young women’s sexuality. The film, originally called Mignonnnes, is meant to be an empowering film that indicts both the entertainment and social media of the sexualization of young girls. Instead, the film has become a perpetrator of the crime it sought it diminish. It has become a target for social conservatives fueled by conspiracies of child sex trafficking.
But is the film really so bad? Short answer—yes.
I watched Cuties and felt uncomfortable. The film follows Amy—played by Fathia Youssouf—an eleven–year–old Senegalese immigrant as she navigates her way as the new kid on the block in Paris. She finds herself torn between her traditional Muslim upbringing and her desire for social acceptance. She befriends fellow eleven–year–old Angelica and joins her dance crew. Her new friends’ hyper–sexuality confuses her just as much as the conservative community her family is devoted to. But in Amy’s desire to be more like them and less like her mother, she pushes herself to please her friends. It is Amy who teaches the rest of her friends how to twerk whilst sticking her tongue out, doing a full Miley Cyrus. Although the film won an award at Sundance, many have called the film “disgusting” and “disgraceful”, and I have to say that I agree with them.
So, without further ado, here’s everything wrong with Cuties, so you don’t have to watch it. Please don’t watch it.
Before the film was even released, Netflix received a lot of backlash due to the synopsis of the film. There was even a petition, which has since been taken down, to remove the movie from the platform. At its peak, it had over 400,000 signatures. The synopsis of the film read: “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.” After the backlash online, the synopsis was changed. It now reads: “11–year–old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free–spirited dance crew.”
All of the dancing throughout the film is excessively sexual. The dancers bite their lips, twerk, squat down and bounce on their knees. All of which would be perfectly fine at a party or a club except for the fact that these dancers are children. They are all ages eleven to twelve. At times, the dancing was so graphic that I genuinely couldn’t bear to watch it any longer.
The camera work
Some of the camera angles in this film are so incredibly awkward. The camera repeatedly pans up and down the girls’ bodies and sometimes just blatantly zooms in on their butts. In fact, at one point in the film, one of Amy’s friends claps her on the butt and says “Oh my god, check out her booty! Look how flat it is!” On its own, this is already gross, but when you really think of it and realize that this line was written for an eleven—year—old by an adult, it gets way worse.
The inappropriate scenarios
In one scene, the girls are all huddled together watching something on the phone and whilst the audience is not explicitly told what they’re doing. From what they’re saying, you can infer that they are watching porn. In another scene, they’re talking to a boy on an online chat forum who asks them repeatedly to send nudes. At one point, Amy even posts a nude on social media. The girls are all called “slut” at least once both by other characters and each other.
Finally, and most importantly, the girls are literally eleven years old.
But it's not only the internet that thinks that there is something seriously wrong with Cuties. In fact, earlier this month, Netflix was indicted by a Texas jury over the film and was charged with the promotion of lewd material containing children. In Texas, corporations can be fined $20,000 if found guilty of this charge. Despite the verdict, Netflix still stands by the film and maintains that the film has a powerful message and empowers young girls instead of sexualizing them.