BY MAYA MEADE, BLOGGER
Recently released on Netflix, the movie “Cuties” has caused quite a controversy among its viewers. “Cuties” is about an eleven-year-old girl named Amy from Senegal, West Africa, who lives in Paris, France. She moves into a place that resembles a group home with her mother and two brothers. As she starts a new school, she tries to find ways to become friends with the girls that she can easily pick out as the popular ones. These girls happen to be a part of a dance group and aim to make it to a big dance competition in their town. Amy is captivated by them.
According to director Maïmouna Doucouré, the message behind the film is to raise awareness about the sexualization of young girls within society and to acknowledge what it’s like to be a young girl growing up and going through puberty.
In an opinion column for The Washington Post, Doucouré says she based the incidences portrayed in the film off of information that she gathered over the course of a year and a half. She interviewed girls between the ages of eleven and twelve, just like the girls in the film. Many people were offended by the film because of the way Amy and her friends reacted to sex and the way they danced.
But, the girls are simply doing as they see others do. They are at an emotionally taxing age and have high expectations of themselves to look and act a certain way. The influence of social media plays a huge role in the behavior of Amy and her friends. Ultimately, Amy is the only one that really crosses the line when she posts a nude photo of herself online.
While the messages themselves are graphic, there is no nudity in the entire film other than one second in which an older dancer’s breast is shown (Doucouré emphasizes that this actress was over 18 years of age). People are uncomfortable with the things that happen in the movie because they don’t want to believe that girls at that age could ever act that way; however, it is incredibly realistic. There are some parts that could have been left out, but I was never uncomfortable. I was sad because I know how true the events of the story are.
It is also important to note that “Cuties” is not an American film. The film was directed and made in France, which is arguably more liberal than the United States about these issues. The director of the movie says that the film was approved by the French government’s child protection authorities and wasn’t something that was blindly produced and released for people to see.
The problem is not that the film exists; the problem is that the film is too honest. I would never encourage someone to watch this film with a child, but I would encourage someone that has children to watch it. As much as people think they know their child, they probably don’t.
Amy makes a number of painfully questionable mistakes at the same time she is having an immense internal struggle that no one around her helps with, which is part of the reason why she acts the way she does. The film encourages the awareness of mental health in young children and could help parents and guardians prevent their children from ending up in the same situations that Amy does.