How ‘Cuties’ Bought Caught in a Gamergate-Fashion Web Conflict
Even earlier than Netflix launched the French movie Cuties in the US, assessment websites have been brimming with emotional viewers judgements. The film, which facilities on a panicked Parisian preteen named Amy (Fathia Youssouf) as she joins a rebellious clique and navigates her household life, at the moment holds an 11 p.c viewers ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. “Completely stunning that this was allowed to be broadcast,” one reads. One other: “Extraordinarily inappropriate.” Yet another: “The world is worse for having this movie in it.”
The debut movie of director Maïmouna Doucouré, Cuties is a delicate, small-scale character research of a French-Senagalese woman—not, traditionally, the type of film that draws that a lot mainstream consideration in America in any respect, not to mention intense hatred. But members of Congress are calling it child porn, Doucouré is receiving death threats, and conspiracy theorists obsessive about secret elite cabals of pedophiles are targeting Netflix beneath the pretense that the streaming service is a part of a world scheme to normalize the sexualization of youngsters. Caught within the web’s crosshairs, Cuties has develop into a lightning rod, however not an anomaly—it is a new entrance in a tradition conflict that is been occurring for years.
Cuties is a part of a rising subgenre of intimate indie films targeted on outsider ladies. Catherine Hardwicke’s 13 is an apparent predecessor. In each Cuties and 13, confused younger feminine leads insurgent in upsetting, age-inappropriate methods to win peer approval and keep away from anxious household lives. Each deal with the bonds between feminine pals and moms and daughters as their major considerations. No romances, no epic endings. Not precisely conventional box-office catnip geared to seize the lots. Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, which focuses on an East London woman named Mia, additionally has thematic overlap. Like Amy, Mia takes solace in hip-hop, lives in public housing, and has a single mom. Like Amy, she leaves a dance competitors when she realizes it’s manner an excessive amount of for her. In its exploration of how social media can distort an adolescent’s sense of identification, Cuties recollects Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. In French movie, it echoes Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood, which additionally follows a Black French woman as she joins a mischievous clique. 13 did provoke some hand-wringing upon launch, however for essentially the most half, these movies have been well-regarded, auteur-driven dives into the experiences of younger girls. When it premiered at Sundance this yr, Cuties seemed poised to hitch this canon.
Possibly it is going to. However first, it has to navigate a backlash of unprecedented proportions, as its fame will get dragged via some significantly fetid mud.
To be unambiguous: Cuties is just not a pornographic movie. Doucouré drew from her personal experiences—like Amy, she’s a French-Senegalese lady who grew up in Paris—and from the tales of younger ladies she interviewed to create an intimate, humorous, painful coming-of-age story. There isn’t any nudity. There are not any intercourse scenes. It does characteristic disturbing sequences the place its younger actors dance provocatively in inappropriate clothes, and it exhibits Amy taking an image of her crotch and posting it to social media. These scenes are meant to horrify the viewer, and the plot hinges on Amy understanding that she’s tried to develop up too quick. And, look, France does have a historical past of manufacturing some frankly gross art about younger ladies—however Cuties has a basically average message. Amy rejects points of her conventional Islamic upbringing, however she additionally in the end turns away from her misapprehension that rising up means turning your self right into a intercourse object. In interviews, Doucouré has been very clear on this level. “Our ladies see that the extra a girl is overly sexualized on social media, the extra she’s profitable. Our kids imitate what they see, making an attempt to attain the identical end result with out understanding the which means,” she mentioned in a current interview. “It’s harmful.”