The Controversy Over ‘Cuties’ And What This Movie Really Is

Courtesy of BAC Films & Netflix

For weeks now, Cuties, which was just released on Netflix, has caused a great deal of controversy and uproar. It initially started with Netflix’s marketing campaign, which portrayed the film in an incredibly questionable light. The company has since apologized. Netflix has also been the subject of a “Cancel Netflix” campaign that is being shared on social media.

As Cuties approached its streaming debut, the outrage took off. At first, due to Netflix’s promotional poster, it was about the sexualization of young girls and how they were being dressed. In this film, the young actors are entering a dance competition and, as a result, they are in some revealing costumes. This poster was a departure from the initial advertising the film had before Netflix took over.

Left: the original French poster. Right: the poster from Netflix

After Netflix’s apology, the second and current wave of controversy came about as details of the film and specific scenes started to come out. Some of these scenes do include questionable camerawork, revealing dance uniforms, twerking, conversations about sex and sexuality, and the use of social media to take an inappropriate photo.

Worth noting, as well, is a scene that never existed and was manufactured in order to make the film look worse. Online, there were many posts and claims about how one of the actors, a minor, is in a scene with underage nudity. This never happens. Where this idea came from, and whoever it was that came up with it, remains a mystery, but there is no inappropriate nudity at any point.

On paper, these scenes definitely raise some eyebrows. They should. They are designed to make people ask questions and to make viewers uncomfortable. Why?

Cuties is a social critique of the sexualization of young girls and the perverse influences that, in today’s world, technology and social media has on these girls. It is also a story about how these pressures and influences clash with more traditional, conservative values.

In Cuties, the main character Amy (Fathia Youssouf) is growing up in a Muslim, Senegalese family in France, and it is her desire to belong and be included by her peers, while also balancing the expectations of her family. Amy’s struggle to find her identity is complex and her innocence is not lost on the girls she becomes friends with.

At the same time, Amy’s family is dealing with the traditions of their faith and culture as they wait for her father to come home from Senegal with his new bride, a second wife. The angst expressed by Amy’s mother, Mariam (Maïmouna Gueye), over this is an especially fascinating portrayal and it is another way in which tradition clashes with modernity.

The world is a very complicated place with a great amount of nuance to it. The values people hold are different from person to person and culture to culture. Cuties explores this nuance in a constructive and critical way, while also pulling back the curtain on the realities that young girls face today. It is unfair to cast the movie as something it is not, especially by those who have not actually seen it.

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