'Cuties' Sexualizes Young Girls to Spread the Same Message Its Critics Want You to Hear

With all the discussion and criticism hurled online against the recently released film Cuties on Netflix, one question seems to rise above the rest: has anyone actually watched it?

Despite the fact that the film's critics are all seemingly experts on the sexual exploitation of children, you get the sense that all these people have seemingly only watched the trailer or seen promotional materials.

While it's easy to jump to the assumption that this movie is inappropriate, it only sexualizes young girls to make the same argument that its detractors are currently making: it's dangerous to sexualize young people.

Cuties focuses on Amy, an 11-year-old Senegalese girl who recently moved to Paris with her mother and brother. She struggles to find self-expression by trying to join a pre-teen dance troupe at school, while also facing struggles with her traditional family.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, director Maïmouna Doucouré said that the movie was indeed intended to start a conversation about the sexualization of young children. Internet pundits and even some politicians have distorted the film's message about children being exposed to sexual content, calling it "child porn" or "pedophilic."

The scenes that most people seem to take issue with depict the girls dancing in a provocative manner, wearing short-shorts and crop-tops. Yes, the girls mimic dance moves that they see in rap music videos. The dance moves are similar to what you'd see in the likes of the video for "WAP", but the way they're framed and shot, you never lose sight of the fact that you're watching children emulating adult dancers who they have studied on television.

There is one scene that feels gratuitous, and the film's critics have used it as an example of Cuties' sins. The scene on the bridge where the four girls learn they've been accepted into the competition does feel uncomfortable. The camera focuses on the girls' private areas and rear ends, and while it is meant to demonstrate what the girls are posting to social media, it misses the mark.

Watching the rest of the film though, even scenes where the girls are performing suggestive dance moves, the whole point is to demonstrate that they're simply doing what they see in the world around them.

Cuties shows the dangers of over-exposure to sexualized imagery from a young age. When the girls are dancing or Amy posts an inappropriate picture to social media, they're not rewarded. The audience at the dance competition scoffs at the girls' routine. Amy is slut-shamed by both her classmates and her friends when she posts a picture that goes too far.

The scenes that have been deemed inappropriate are the very ones commentating on the issues the film is about. You shouldn't watch the scenes thinking they're sexual, but rather recognize that the girls are imitating a highly sexualized culture they've found on the internet.

While opposing the sexual exploitation of children is a completely worthy cause, making Cuties the main target may cause more harm than good and lead people down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole.

If you watch Cuties and feel that the children in it were exploited, by all means, cancel your subscription, contact local government, make a stink! But you owe it to yourself, the filmmakers, and the children in it to make that decision for yourself.

Cuties
A promotional photo for the movie "Cuties." Courtesy of Netflix