Director Maïmouna Doucouré defended her film Cuties this week, in an op-ed published by The Washington Post. Cuties caused a massive controversy over the last few weeks when it was licensed by Netflix, where critics say it was promoted improperly, confusing subscribers. While some say that the film's suggestive subject matter caters to pedophiles, Doucouré said that the controversy is emblematic of the problems her movie addresses.
Cuties is a French-language film about an 11-year-old girl named Amy, growing up in Paris, France as an immigrant from Senegal. She joins a group of girls her age preparing for a local dance competition, mimicking the "increasingly risqué" routines they see on social media. If these scenes make viewers uncomfortable, Doucouré wrote, they have gotten the message she intended to share.
"I wanted to open people's eyes to what's truly happening in schools and on social media, forcing them to confront images of young girls made up, dressed up and dancing suggestively to imitate their favorite pop icon," she wrote. "I wanted adults to spend 96 minutes seeing the world through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, as she lives 24 hours a day. These scenes can be hard to watch but are no less true as a result."
"We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society," Doucouré added. She later wrote that the point of the film was to start a conversation about the sexualization of children."
"The movie has certainly started a debate, though not the one that I intended," she wrote. Doucouré was likely referring to massive backlash to Cuties' announcement in the U.S., where petitions sprang up almost immediately to take the cancel its release, take the movie down and penalize Netflix in some way.
This outrage reached a new level when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz published an open letter to Attorney General Bill Barr, asking him to investigate Doucouré and Netflix for possible criminal behavior. Based on nothing but the trailer, Cruz believes that Cuties constitutes child pornography, though there is no nudity in it.
Cuties premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival back in January, where it was lauded by industry professionals and garnered a directing award for Doucouré. Those who saw the film back then have been baffled by the accusations of child pornography, saying that the film is the opposite of exploitative. They have encouraged those who are raging against the film to watch it before condemning it, as they may be compelled to take part in the "conversation," that Doucouré intended to start.
"[T]hat's why I made Cuties: to start a debate about the sexualization of children in society today so that maybe — just maybe — politicians, artists, parents and educators could work together to make a change that will benefit children for generations to come," Doucouré wrote. "my sincerest hope that this conversation doesn't become so difficult that it too gets caught up in today's 'cancel culture.'"
Cuties is now streaming in Netflix.