Netflix’s Cuties Causes Controversy

Vy Nguyen, Staff Writer


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Reminiscent of the scent of Lip Smackers, fickle friends and innocuous tweenage curiosity, the newly-released Netflix original, Cuties, has caused controversy by blurring the contrast between the approval and depiction of child sexualization. 

Directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, the coming-of-age film ushers the viewer along the journey of an 11-year-old Senegalese girl living in Paris, Amy (Fathia Youssouf Abdillahi), who wrestles with her culture’s obdurate customs and her desires to mimic the Cuties, a dance group of childishly provocative girls.                                       

By incorporating the group’s suggestive nail-biting to sensual gyrating, Doucouré carves out what defines the pinnacle of womanhood while igniting conversation on a topic that seems to be untapped in modern media: the objectification of young girls, particularly girls of color.

Amy’s mother, Miriam (Maïmouna Gueye), discovers that her husband has taken a new wife. Amy is subdued by the voices of her conservative Muslim household to prepare for the upcoming wedding. Despite this, she begins to find liberation within her sexuality when she encounters the Cuties, consisting of the sassy leader Angelica (Medina El Aidi), and her three dancing companions. 

Amy finds herself substituting her mundane clothing for her brother’s shrunken emerald tee and spending exhausting nights memorizing their promiscuous dances until it meets the Cuties’ standards. During their dance practices, the audience’s view is fixed on the girls’ bodies to the rhythm of empowering music to emphasize the embracing of their sexuality. 

As the Cuties rehearse for a dance contest while seducing night-club guards and misinterpreting a barrier contraceptive for a balloon, Amy entangles herself in a struggle to uphold pride for her mother and family, without forfeiting her newfound independence and self-written definition of feminism. 

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The social media-tinted lenses that young girls wear distorts their views on femininity as they compare themselves to fuller-figured, more-developed women. Although Doucouré depicts girls expelling profane slang and disseminating nudes, she forges juxtaposition between the adversities that women face and the delusions that dissemble it: society’s false exhibition of womanhood. 

Doucouré also includes a scene in which Miriam ruptures into devastation after feeling betrayed by her husband, but shortly after, she receives another phone call, which forces her to show her graciousness towards the new chapter in his life. 

In a separate scene, during Islamic worship, Amy covertly admires a video of exotic dancers wearing scanty attire and proceeds to imitate the dance to impress the Cuties. Therefore, the film implies that the term “womanhood” can be ambiguous. Pubescent girls are compelled to mimic the romanticized glamour of female sexuality; however, they are ignorant of the fortitude and sacrifice that motherhood and sisterhood entails. 

Doucouré’s work delineates some of the most intimate experiences that nearly every pretween has had. 

Whether it was hearing that your shoulders distracted the boys, or hiding the stuffed rabbit you slept with, Cuties intensifies the adolescent concept of fitting in to address the subversive standards that young girls are subject to.

Cuties is now available on Netflix, is 90-minutes long and is rated TV-MA for mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.