I knew that as a Child and Youth worker it was something I was going to watch.
When I initially heard about the new Cuties movies on Netflix, it was already immersed in controversy. The premise of the movie made perfect sense to me. It’s an issue that I feel has been growing for years and is something I’m very passionate about. I’ve seen it first hand- there is a disconnect for young girls who try to act sexy not fully understanding why they do what they do. For some of these young girls, whatever is cool or popular is paramount.
When I heard people were outraged and calling for a ban I wondered if the movie had in fact gone too far or if there was such a huge disconnect for parents that they saw this as a far fetched movie designed to stir up trouble and steal away their children’s innocence. I knew it might be hard to watch but I also felt that many of the things I’ve seen in real life were hard to watch. So I’m glad we are talking about this.
The thing that surprised me most was how much people were outraged about a fictional movie when this stuff is happening every day under their noses. This attention could be a good thing because it will get parents thinking about other things that their children are being exposed to like pornography, sexual exploitation, kidnapping, and the sex slave industry to name a few. The internet happens to be a gateway for many kids to be exploited. But on a more basic day to day level what are your children watching on Youtube, Instagram, Snap chat, TikTok and Reels? And more importantly, what are they uploading about themselves? What kind of performances are they participating in and who is watching?
A little background in case you have no idea what I’m speaking about. Cuties is a movie directed and written by Maïmouna Doucouré. Amy the main character in the story is a young Muslim girl who becomes obsessed with a dance group called the Cuties. The movie explores how easy it is for a young girl to get sucked into social media addiction and make herself oversexualized all for the sake of “likes” and acceptance. The movie had some other important themes as well. Cuties stirred up controversy because people felt it exploited young girls creating a pedophile’s dream while trying to bring awareness to this current problem in our society.
I decided to mentally and emotionally prepare myself to watch the movie.
Overall, I would say that the movie wasn’t as extreme as I thought it would be. Having said that there were at least 4-5 difficult scenes to watch. Mainly these scenes were sexually suggestive dance moves. From the rumors I’d heard, I was expecting much worse. I didn’t expect to laugh while watching the movie but I did. The girls were funny and cute in some of their antics and ignorance. They were also little jerks at times. I was expecting to cry and a few scenes made me tear up.
I can understand why people were shocked by the movie but nothing in the movie is shocking. Did this movie need to be made? I’d like to say no this movie did not need to be made, but because of the outrage surrounding the movie, it’s probably a good thing it was made. We need to open up our eyes. This fictional movie has a lot of reality for young girls these days. Young girls are being sexualized earlier and earlier. There is more pressure to be liked and visible as Youtube stars have become the norm and Instagram models gain popularity. We’ve seen the effects on our children for so long and maybe we needed this movie reflected back to show us where we are now. I mean, the fact that nothing in the movie shocked me says a lot.
This is not a recent issue. I’ve seen dance competitions with young girls dancing in provocative ways in competition wearing similar outfits to what was seen in the movie. If you were to take out a few extreme dance moves from the movie’s dance finale it would be no different from many of the youth dance competitions we have nowadays. All that you would need are the parents sitting front row center. A little move here and a little twerk there-it’s been so normalized that most of us don’t notice it anymore. But here in this movie none of the dancing is subtle. Most 10-year-olds already know what twerking is.
So what is it about this movie that we are enraged about? Were the 12-14 year-olds who were paid to perform in this movie too young to be acting this way? Are we afraid pedophiles will be entertained or get ideas? What about older teenager or adults that portray teens in movies doing adult things? Where do we draw the line? I’m not endorsing the movie for the sake of a movie to watch but I do think the movie had very important elements we need to think about. Does our cancellation logic apply to similar movies with pre-pubescent boys speaking about vulgar things for entertainment purposes? Do we need to protect them as well? I’m left with a lot of questions. Next week I’ll continue my thoughts on a few things the movie did well, why we need to be more realistic about what’s happening with our youth and children, and some of the powerful lessons we can take from the movie.