Several weeks ago, Netflix began promoting a new one movie by the French director Maimouna Doucoure entitled "Cuties". The poster, with young children posing strangely, provoked outrage. The Sundance Film Festival - which honored the film with a directorial award - provided a description of the film that did little to quell the anger.
According to Sundance, "Cuties" tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Amy, who, through a fiery awareness of her growing femininity, pushes her team into more and more sensual dance rehearsals, sparking the girls' hope for first place in a local dance competition ”. It is worth mentioning that Sundance was founded by a man who is now in prison for child sexual abuse.
The official description of the film from Netflix was extremely graphic: “Amy, 11 years old, is fascinated by a twerking dancing group. "Hoping to join the group, she begins to explore her femininity, defying the traditions of her family."
Following the reactions, Netflix apologized - not for the film itself, but for its "inappropriate presentation". THE streaming service also changed its synopsis, dismissing any reference to "twerking" and instead calling it a "free-spirited dance group". Netflix did not go into the process of explaining why they used this "inappropriate presentation" in their advertising material. If it does not really reflect the content of the film and if they do not try to attract an audience of pedophiles who want to see teenage girls revolving around a camera, then what was the thought process behind the way the original was made marketing; We will probably never know.
Many other media outlets rushed to defend the children's film. An article by Anna Menta on The Decider accused critics of the film of baselessly linking criticism to conspiracy theories. QAnon, and insisting that critics owe an apology.
Richard Brody described the film as "excellent" in the New Yorker, and Rolling Stone's David Fear gave "Cuties" a generally positive review, saying the outrage was the product of a "big misleading marketing mistake." THE Independent joined the Defenders Choir, stating: "Cuties on Netflix is too good a movie to be tarnished by a bad poster."
Overall, the outburst around the film did not stop the media from hailing "Cuties" as an artistic triumph. It is currently at 90% R, with critics saying things like "is refreshingly honest about class, religion and growing sexuality in ways American movies would never dare to be" and "Cuties definitely deserve your attention." And for a while, these brave media defenders for Hollywood they had the advantage that they were the only ones who actually saw the film. The rest of us could just make assumptions based on the fact that it is a movie about 11 year olds doing twerking and Netflix had decided to promote with a picture of these 11 year olds in sexual poses.
But we can not judge a movie by its pornographic cover. But yesterday the movie was released and as it turns out, finally, we can.
As more and more excerpts from the film circulate on the internet, it is clear that those of us who criticized the film actually underestimated the situation. It is, if nothing else, much worse than we thought.
A scene shows 11-year-old girls dancing and hitting each other on controversial points as camera zooms in for close-ups. In another scene, the girls dance provocatively to two adult men, one of whom looks on with obvious satisfaction.
The penultimate scene in the original poster before Netflix changed it is far more disturbing than the already disturbing picture. The scene continues for several minutes, the dance is very sexual and the camera, as always, zooms in on close-ups.
I wish we could say that "Cuties" is an exception to the rule - something out of the ordinary, away from the mainstream. But that would not be true. This film is part of a larger trend towards increasing the sexualization of children. Unlike Anna Menta and so many other proponents of the film in the media, the normalization of pedophilia is not a QAnon fairy tale or conspiracy theory. It is a reality and it is happening right now. And Netflix has made it clear which side of the issue it is on.