‘Cuties’ not problematic enough to warrant removal

A Texas grand jury recently indicted Netflix for “Cuties” on the charge that the film sexualizes minors. Image courtesy of Netflix.
By HECTOR TARANGO

@TheEtCetera

“Cuties” is a complicated film that has come under fire for sexualizing minors to the point of being compared to child pornography. 

At its core, the film is about the role social media and the internet play in the development and growth of a preadolescent girl. It is in the execution where the film fails.

The film follows an 11-year old protagonist, Amy, as she tries to fit in to her new life in Paris. Amy comes from a Muslim background and has recently discovered her father is taking a second wife, which adds an extra layer of depth and motivation to her character.

Amy is expected to be obedient and follow the norms set for women in her culture. When we are introduced to Angelica, one of Amy’s schoolmates who is part of a dance group, Amy is fascinated by Angelica’s flamboyant attitude and her group of friends. 

Amy becomes associated with them by attending their dance practice and practicing the routine on her own.

There is an image online describing a scene of the film where there is “female breast nudity of a minor.” This scene does not exist, at least not how it is described. Amy and Angelica are watching the routines of other dance groups, and during one of those videos an adult actress happens to flash her breast at the screen. 

The vast spread of misinformation gave the film an unforgivable reputation, with many condemning the film without having seen it in its entirety. 

People called out the film for sexualizing minors, promoting a film for pedophiles and releasing child pornography. All resulting in the hashtag “Cancel Netflix.”

Following this scene, Amy continues to watch videos of different dance routines and stumbles upon a video of exotic dancers. When there is a fight between Angelica and Yasmine,

another member of the dance group, a spot opens up, and Amy wants to fill it. 

She convinces Angelica by showing that she has learned the routine and also presenting the new moves she has learned from the video of the exotic dancers. 

It is important to note that Amy is the one responsible for sexualizing the dance routine, and she proceeds to teach the other girls the sexually suggestive moves. This is where Amy’s character begins to take a downward spiral as she begins to disobey her mother and great-aunt.

From this moment forward, Amy is presented with a new attitude and new persona. During a scuffle with another group of girls, someone pulls Amy’s pants down, revealing she still wears childish underwear. The school views Amy and her friends as a group of children when they want to be viewed as mature.

To garner attention and to act more mature, Amy takes a picture of her private area and posts it online. The rest of the girls disapprove of Amy’s stunt and kick Amy out of the dance group. Then they reconcile with the former group member Yasmine and prepare to participate in the dance competition. 

In an act of desperation, Amy pushes Yasmine into a river so she can take her place in the contest and in the process ditch the second wedding of her father.

The dance scene during the competition is responsible for the massive outrage online. The routine is sexually suggestive, and the camera work has too many close ups on the girls and their private areas. 

The clip making the rounds on social media omits a few key shots. One in particular is of a mother in the audience covering her daughter’s eyes, and the other is Amy realizing what she is doing and bursting into tears.

The ending of the film seems flat, but it still brought home the point that Amy prefers to return to the simplicity of being a child instead of trying so hard to fit in.

The film also depicts Amy’s transition to womanhood, but that part of the story seems to take a backseat along with the unresolved family issues brought on by her father’s second marriage. 

The film deserves some praise for being able to bring some issues to light, even if it’s through public outrage. It shows the rabbit hole that roaming the internet can lead to. 

On the other hand, the film raises concerns in regard to the producers. Netflix and its advertising team did a horrible job of promoting the film by releasing a sexualized poster depicting Amy and the group in suggestive positions. There are multiple scenes throughout the film that cross a line and seem unnecessary. 

There is a scene in particular with a guard who Amy twerks for—this scene requires more context to fully understand it— nonetheless, it is not a good look for the film. 

At another point the girls have a conversation about rape. The film should not be removed from Netflix, but it does need a strong parental and trigger warning.

“Cuties” should be viewed solely by mature audiences and especially parents. The film is not absolved from criticism, but it’s through its blunders that it raises awareness. 

We live in a modern world where every type of information and content is at the tip of our fingers. We live in a world where social media has become an immense part of our lives and where a social reputation has become vastly important for adolescents. 

“365 Days” is an erotic film which is available to anyone with a Netflix account. Cardi B and Meg Thee Stallion’s “WAP” has been viewed 14 million times, and one wonders what percentage of these viewers are young girls.

Children are exploited for reality shows and beauty pageants, and young girls are already doing sexually suggestive dances in dance competitions and cheerleading. 

This film could have taken a different route, but instead it crosses the line and highlighted a big issue that requires our attention. 

Let’s just hope it’s not an issue we forget about in less than a week.

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