‘Cuties’, Netflix Movie and its Controversial Topic

Gelila Zeray, Writer

According to Maïmouna Doucouré, the writer and director of the new Netflix movie, ‘Cuties’, “The more sexualized a woman appears on social media, the more girls will perceive her as successful.” Ms. Doucouré further claims that ‘Cuties’ empowers women. However, images of gyrating preteens as shown in ‘Cuties’ do not empower women. In fact ‘Cuties’ does the exact opposite and creates child pornography.


‘Cuties’ is a French ‘coming-of-age’ movie which was streamed globally via Netflix on June 3rd, 2020, and was screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where it received an award. After it was released onto Netflix on September 9th, 2020, it caused controversy among many Netflix users. Shortly thereafter, some senators demanded an investigation into the movie and its industry which is being criticized for sexualizing young girls. Some people are calling to remove the film completely or possibly even allow the Department of Justice to get involved. Last month, Netflix apologized for the distribution of ‘Cuties’, reacting to many of its subscribers criticizing it for inappropriately sexualizing the film’s young stars. Supporters of a conspiracy theory went further, accusing top Democrats and elite celebrities of being behind a global child-trafficking ring. Assorted members of Congress have pressed either for the motion picture to be ultimately deleted from Netflix or for a formal investigation into the production and its management. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, sent a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday pleading for the Justice Department to decide whether the filmmakers violated federal laws “against the production and the distribution of child pornography”. Similarly, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, called on the Justice Department to “take swift action.” Furthermore, there have been numerous comments that have ridiculed the franchise and called it a disgrace.


‘Cuties’ follows an 11-year-old girl named Amy, portrayed by the actress Fathia Youssouf, who tries to find her place growing up in the poor suburbs of Paris, France. Amy desperately desires to please her family who are observant Muslims from Senegal. Although she seeks a way to pave a route to satisfy her family, she eventually falls into a dance troupe that performs sensual and inappropriate types of dances. Amy is initially astonished by their acts of defiance. But then, she feels the need to be a part of such a free-spirited group that isn’t bound by any overbearing positions of authority. The problem, of course, is that in portraying the evils of sexualizing young women, the filmmakers have succeeded in sexualizing young women. Amy comes to reject the dance troupe at the end of the movie and emerges free and empowered. However, I, as a female, felt disgusted instead of being empowered. I was appalled by the sensual dances that the group performed and the sexually suggestive clothing that they wore. This was not empowering. This is child pornography.


Ms. Doucouré said in an interview with Netflix that the movie was meant to incorporate elements of her own childhood in its imitation of Amy’s struggles between two distinctive traces of femininity: one that is dedicated to the traditional values of her Senegalese and Muslim upbringing, and the other which is dedicated to the values of Western society. “I recreated the little girl who I was at that age. Growing up in two cultures is what gave me the strength and the values I have today,” Ms. Doucouré remarked. “As a child, that question of how to become a woman was my obsession,” she added. Ms. Doucouré’s idea for the film was kindled when she attended a neighborhood gathering in Paris where she witnessed a group of several 11-year-olds displaying sexual dances. She had been inspired by the group and decided to spend a year and a half conducting research and meeting with hundreds of preteens to prepare for the movie. “I needed to know how they felt about their own femininity in today’s society and how they dealt with their self-image at a time when social media is so important. The more sexualized a woman appears on social media, the more girls will perceive her as successful. Children just imitate what they see to achieve the same result without understanding the meaning. And yeah, it’s dangerous” she said. In ‘Cuties’ Ms. Doucouré tried to portray how our Western society has an incorrect definition of femininity. Many girls may perceive a woman as ‘successful’ when they are shown as being sexually objectified on social media. With that, it leads them to believe that being sexualized can bring them to achieve true femininity, to truly become a woman. However, ‘Cuties’ is promoting the exact opposite of what Ms. Doucouré wants to attack. ‘Cuties’ is permitting erotic scenes to be shown and the message is lost.


‘Cuties’ isn’t empowering at all. It degrades the value of women, especially the young women who participated in the project. Netflix viewers agreed and started a #CancelNetflix campaign. The director and writer of ‘Cuties’, Ms. Doucouré, was aiming to cause others to acknowledge the complexity of femininity in Western society. However, she failed miserably and instead demeaned women. The last scene of the movie shows a smiling Amy who has returned to her innocence. But I left the movie upset, I was not empowered. I felt degraded.