13th September 2020

New movie ‘Cuties’ is currently streaming on Netflix, but boy has it caused huge debate online.

The coming of age drama was Witten/Director Maïmouna Doucouré, who has taken inspiration from her own life experience The story follows 11-year-old Senegalese/French girl Amy, who is wrestling between her muslim faith and the traditions that are imposed on females in society. She is seeking acceptance, empowerment, love and escape from the life her mother has given her. Amy is trying to fit into a world she truly doesn’t understand, seeking validation and love from a society that seems to celebrate sexualisation, but is this liberation? Or more control? Just 2 of the important questions that Doucouré will have you posing.
 So why all the anger and people demanding Netflix be cancelled?? Well let us try and explain, firstly Netflix chose artwork that was always going to cause upset. A still from the film showcasing the 11 year old star Fathia Youssouf, alongside the other girls in crop tops and hot pants during one of the explicit dance scenes. When you view this out of context it’s fair to say it looks inappropriate and you understand people demanding for children to be protected and not presented in a way that makes them look like sexual objects and in turn attract predators. However in context when you watch ‘Cuties’ you will feel differently, with a narrative that creates more of an understanding of why this story is being told in the way that it is.  BFI  Director London Film Festival Tricia Tuttle is one of many that came to the defence of the film maker with her words of support after it’s premiered at Sundance.
Here is the problem although the films message of gender equality, young girls needing strong female role models to look up to and how incredibly scary social media has become giving access to the type of content that even someone as young as 11 can see and than copy, the lengths the team went to may of actually been exactly the problem they are trying to highlight.
Using young girls to act out the problem, while wearing next to nothing and gyrating in a way that you want to look away, was more impactful than the message. Could it not not of alluded to more in a subtle way. The actresses are all not even teens yet, the lead Fathia just 12, there is no way they understand fully what was being asked of them. They are kids, go to school, have family, friends and getting this opportunity a dream, but to now see clips of themselves plastered everywhere being labelled as ‘soft porn’ is dangerous and damaging. We hope they had support on set and after the film wrapped. 
We truly believe Maïmouna Doucouré’s intention was in the right place, however important this conversation is for change, there has to be a level of protection for these young girls in the film. Watching footage from the behind the scenes there is a moment when the director is watching back a scene and is affected emotionally, behind her is a shot of one of the young girls in the film, looking confused and just totally out of her comfort zone. We have got to think about how we create important conversations around film and music to highlight the predatory and sexual pressures kids feel online and in society, without compromising other children to help tell that story.