Cuties: The Film that Fights the Sexualization of Children by Sexualizing Children

By now, I’m sure you’ve been coming across the hashtag #boycottnetflix whether you’re on Instagram or Twitter. Categorized as a drama/comedy on Netflix, Cuties is a 2020 French “coming-of-age comedy-drama” written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré. In an interview with Doucouré, she said that she created this story of an 11-year old girl trying to find herself, caught between two models of femininity – her mother’s traditional origins, and another group of young girls called “cuties.” Doucouré was inspired after watching a group of 11-year old dancers perform in Paris – comparing the performance to something out of a music video. After that, she spent a year and a half conducting research, meeting with hundreds of pre-teens, trying to understand how they felt about their femininity in today’s society and how they dealt with their self-image – especially during this digital age. She discovered that children and pre-teens go on social media and see a pattern of women who are oversexualized being amongst the most successful women – so they imitate it, hoping to achieve the same results of success without understanding the meaning behind the over-sexualization. Doucouré credits growing up in two completely opposing cultures for giving her the strength she has today and says that the question of how to become a woman was her obsession as a child. 

Doucouré attempted to share her heartfelt story about how in a way the young girls in the film represented her struggle as a child, caught between her Senelgease culture and French Western culture. However, this interview received 55k dislikes and only 6k likes as of right now with the comment section filled with disgust, confusion, and backlash. 

Besides the release of the trailer, Netflix received even more backlash after a screenshot circulated social media revealing Netflix’s Customer Service response to the widespread concerns of this movie. 

Anonymous: How does a movie sexualizing children get approved? Who signed off on this? 

Netflix: We understand that not all stories may appeal to all our viewers, which is why we always invest in a diverse range of content from all over the world. We also provide ratings, synopses, trailers, and controls to help our members make the right viewing choices for themselves and their families.

Anonymous: Do you support pedophilia? A simple yes or no will suffice.

Netflix: We cannot comment on that but while we believe in creative freedom, at Netflix we respect all religions and their cultures, traditions, and values. 

On August 20, 2020, Netflix issued an apology on Twitter stating “We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not ok, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.” Of course many were not pleased with this forced apology from Netflix. The problem with “Cuties” isn’t the inappropriate artwork or the description, it’s the overall sexualization of young girls within this film, as well as inappropriate close-ups of their vaginal and butt areas. Additionally, I don’t understand the point of including that this film won an award within this apology. Seems like Netflix is attempting to deter peoples’ anger and disgust with unnecessary, unasked for, and irrelevant information. 

If that’s not bad enough, information regarding the audition process of this film received much disgust worldwide. French producer Zangro stated “The casting process was a saga. We spent over six months and saw 650 candidates.” This film is surrounded  11-year-old girls dancing in a sexualized manner, meaning the filmmakers of “Cuties” – adults – watched hundreds of young girls twerk and hump the floor for six months. 

Stating that Cuties was an emotional movie illustrating the realities that pre-teens face,  some defended the film and accused others of critiquing the film without watching it – but who would even feel comfortable watching this? It’s soft child pornography – free and accessible to pedophiles and sex traffickers everywhere.

Many also compared the film to the tv series “Bring It” and “Dance Moms”. Dianna Williams – star and dance team coach of the Dancing Dolls on “Bring It” – responded to this comparison by statingBring It and the Dancing Dolls organization are formatted to be a celebration of the rich tradition of HBCU majorette dance lines. Our work is a contribution to what has long been a cultural phenomenon while creating a positive outlet for our girls. While I have much respect for all genres of dance, I choose to focus on a style that highlights the fusion of acrobats, ballet, hip hop, jazz, and majorette that has become synonymous to the DD4L Brand – respectfully.” I can agree that there is some hypersexualization of the girls present in “Dance Moms” from the revealing costumes they wear and some “sexy” routines they perform, however, this show illustrates and focuses on the craft of dancing, from jazz to classical ballet. Being a viewer of “Bring It” and “Dance Moms” for years, I can attest that both tv series are family-friendly and focus on the craft of different types of dances – whereas “Cuties” focus on 11-year-olds girls girls twerking and dry humping the ground. 

Many as well as myself also find it weird and creepy that  this film is a coming-of-age film about 11-year old girls but it’s rated TV-MA – meaning 11-year old children can’t even watch a movie that’s supposed to be about them. In detail, TV-MA means “This program is intended to be viewed by mature, adult audiences and may be unsuitable for children under 17. Contains content that is unsuitable for children.” Well, the content in this film that is deemed “unsuitable for children” is the sexual and nudity scenes of these children. On IMDb, there is a list of some content that included descriptions of the sex and nudity scenes of the children within this film. 

“In one dance scene, a child lifts her top exposing her bare breast.”

“Frequent close up/slow shots of underage girls midsections, crotch, buttocks, while dancing provocatively (twerking, humping ground, on all fours, legs spread, bending over) and in minimal skin-tight clothing or underwear.”

“One child is doused with water while wearing a tiny tank top and teeny underwear that expose her butt cheeks … child bounces as camera focuses on breasts and child gets on all fours and grinds pelvis into floor and twerks while the camera films from behind with an up angle on child’s mostly bare bottom and underwear in crack.”

Maïmouna Doucouré attempted to illustrate the struggle pre-teens may face while trying to figure out how to become a woman – especially while being caught between two completely opposing cultures. However, how she depicted this struggle was not the route to take. Oversexaulizing children – putting them out there to child predators – while not even allowing the children that may “relate” to this to view this film is just weird and suspicious. The description of some scenes listed above is why this film is just soft child pornography. “Cuties” is a coming-of-age story about the struggle of 11-year old girls, but if they’re not allowed to watch it then who’s it really for?