The movie “Cuties” is a failed attempt at raising awareness for the important issue of sexualization among young girls.
While the Netflix original brings up several interesting points about the sexualization of women in our society, the movie misses the point. Instead of standing up against the problem, the film does exactly what it’s supposedly standing against.
While the streaming platform faced severe backlash after releasing the movie on Sept. 9, the movie has yet to be taken down.
The french movie follows an 11 year old Muslim girl named Amy growing up in a poor, conservative family. Amy gets picked on relentlessly by a group of popular girls called “the Cuties.” Amy wants to be liked by these girls and learns that they are participating in a dance competition. She then transforms herself to fit into the “sexy” lifestyle that these girls portray, and soon joins the dance team.
Throughout the movie Amy looks for acceptance in the wrong places. And besides the angry and abusive mother who is worried about their family’s reputation, no where in the movie does anyone say straight out that the 11-year-old’s behavior is wrong.
Throughout the film, there are many prolonged, uncomfortable scenes of prepubescent girls dancing, involving twerking, gyrating, and looking seductively at the camera. These scenes were disgusting and in my opinion added nothing to the plot.
It was very uncomfortable watching these scenes while knowing that pedophiles need only have a Netflix account to get access to what seems like soft child porn.
The director, Maimouna Doucoure, defends the significant backlash aimed at the film by saying, “Our girls see that the more a woman is overly sexualized on social media, the more she is successful. Children just imitate what they see, trying to achieve the same result without understanding the meaning. It is dangerous.”
Women being sexualized is a common trend on social media. TikTok challenges where women dance seductively for views, popular songs such as WAP with R-rated lyrics, and OnlyFans accounts for women to get paid to sell their bodies over the screen. If children are not monitored online they have complete access to these videos and can receive encouragement through likes and subscribers.
The movie also reminded me of the popular reality show Dance Moms, and I find it interesting how that show was so popular and did not receive near this amount of backlash for many of the same controversial reasons.
I do believe that Doucoure set out to make a film that criticized sexualized media and how easy it is for young girls to access this. As a girl myself, I do agree with the message that we grow up in a world with media that encourages us to grow up fast and places emphasis on our bodies before we can even begin to understand what it means.
As the girls continuously encourage each other’s dancing through teaching and inappropriate touches, it made me ponder the idea that in today’s society, girls are learning the best way to find approval from people is through their bodies.
I am an no means shaming sex workers or say that girls should hide or be ashamed of their sexuality. The real problem comes when young girls base their worth on their bodies and are not taught to find self-worth in other ways. For instance, their intelligence and their kindness. Instead, this movie sets up young women for a lifetime of abusive relationships and looking for love in the wrong places, among other serious things.
If anything, I believe that “Cuties” can be a starting point for many much-needed conversations between parents and their children.
On the other hand, a movie that has to defend its message so intensely has obviously missed its mark. If grown adults are not able to understand the movie, one should not expect for young girls to understand the message either. The movie poster itself has misleading advertising, making it look like a fun dance movie for young girls. It is going to draw in young crowds who don’t know any better and who will soon be trying out these dance moves on their own at home.
I watched this movie not believing that it could be as bad as everyone said and I came out thinking that it was worse. I cannot fathom how anyone could watch this movie and not feel uncomfortable, sad and angry that Netflix has continued to promote this film on their platform.
By the end of the movie, it seems that Amy has learned from her mistakes and finds a common ground between her family’s values and society’s expectations of her. It’s hard to watch this knowing that this situation could have been prevented through love, support, and proper attention from the people in charge of raising her.
As part of the general public, we have the power to not support controversial media that is sending the wrong message to our children. This film portrays young girls acting in very inappropriate and unhealthy ways that can easily be imitated by children who do not know better, even if this was not the intention of the film.
If I got anything out of this movie, it was a chance to ponder on the negative effects of social media on the first generation of children growing up with it. The society that we are living in forces our children to grow up too fast. We have the power to let children be children through providing powerful support systems and encouraging their self-confidence in healthy, age-appropriate ways.