On October 8, a Texas grand jury indicted the film Cuties, which was first put on Netflix in September. Netflix was charged with the promotion of lewd visual material, depicting a child while appealing to inappropriate interest in children. Back in early September, the public eye was drawn to Cuties after Netflix released the film with a hypersexualized poster, which led 200,000 people to sign a petition for Netflix to remove the film. Since then, Netflix has stood by Cuties, asserting that the film is a commentary against the sexualization of young children.
The film follows the life of an 11 year old Senegalese Muslim girl named Amy. She becomes interested in her neighbor’s provocative dance group that competes with older teams. The group’s revealing outfits are a noticeable contrast to Amy’s normal clothes, which prompted the girls of the group to call her “homeless.” Amy ends up joining their group, she draws dance ideas from suggestive videos during her prayer time. At the same time, Amy’s mother receives news that her husband is returning: for a wedding with his second wife.
In her dance group, Amy ends up introducing rather mature dance moves to the other girls, and they incorporate them into their routine. However, the subject of Amy’s new findings begins to spiral into trouble when she tries to seduce her cousin into letting her keep the phone she stole from him. She then posts a photo of her private parts on social media. In turn, the girls kick her out of the group for being a “slut” and replace her with another girl.
Still, Amy is determined to dance at a competition, so she sabotages her replacement. As she dances, she remembers the wedding she is missing in order to dance with the girls and runs off the stage in tears. The film ends when she returns home to her mother, where Amy asks if she can show her disapproval of the wedding by skipping it. Her mother allows her to miss it. Finally, we see Amy run out dressed like a normal 11 year old in jeans and a shirt to jump rope with other kids.
The movie’s reception was mixed, but mainly negative in the U.S. “I felt uncomfortable watching little girls wear skimpy outfits and talking about sexual things, but some girls today are doing these things. Some people are more exposed at a younger age.” says Alexa Adams, a junior at the University of Georgia. Although, in France, the film hasn’t drawn any controversy. Clearly, the same can’t be said for its Western debut. The director, Maimouna Doucoure, said she’s received numerous death threats following Netflix’s poster scandal. The scandal was caused by Netflix’s reveal of the movie with them wearing revealing outfits on the poster. In fact, she argues that those making threats haven’t seen the movie; it was intended to spark a discussion about the hypersexualization of children. “The pre-teen grows aware of her burgeoning femininity – upsetting her mother and her values in the process,” says Doucoure. She also adds that it’s based around her own experience of simultaneously living with liberal Western culture and conservative culture.
While it may be the case that the director’s intentions weren’t malicious, adults have created petitions to get the show off Netflix since it gives adults easy access to inappropriate depictions of children. As of now, Texas is the only state to have indicted the film. Only time will tell whether Netflix removes the film due to increasing controversy.