I saw #Cuties by French Senegalese director Maïmouna Doucouré in original French/Arabic tonight. And I’ll share my spoiler upfront.
So, is “Cuties” grooming young girls?
I did not see the “grooming” folks have been lamenting.
What I did see in the movie was young girls dancing in ways I’ve seen young girls in dance troupes do. See this IRL example from 2014:
This movie is partially a reflection of what’s out in society right now and I think people don’t like what’s being shown to them.
It’s also a reflection of the messages young girls (and older girls/young womxn) get about what it means to be female and how important it is to get the attention of MEN.
Not to mention, the messed-up messages young womxn get via religion or the older women in their extended families. For example, the 11-year-old protagonist got the message from an “auntie” to “do everything you need to do to please your dear mother” five minutes into the movie. She also cared for her younger siblings and took on other grown adult responsibilities …but folks get mad when she tries to dance like a grown woman? Pleasing others. Caring for others. Performing for others. This is what socialization as “female” is like.
(Slight tangent: This is what we put on our young womxn and then we wonder why they have trouble figuring out their own pleasure as adults??)
But that all of this is portrayed in a movie is not a reason to cancel Netflix.
Again, this movie is NOT grooming children in my opinion. In fact, I dare say it less harmful than “Dance Moms” or “Toddlers and Tiaras,” for example.
What can you do?
Direct your attention toward examining the current and real sources of sexualization. Look at examples of objectification in advertising. When you see these things, ask yourselves, “who is this for?”. Who benefits?
Then, make sure you support comprehensive sexuality education that informs young people to make good decisions.
And look more closely at how all womxn are groomed in ways to serve others, to be appealing to others …in all cultures. Pay attention to the covert and direct messages we give to kids about what they should be doing and give them opportunities to play in age-appropriate ways. Talk to them about what’s out there. Ask what they think.
If you want to read more, check out this interview with the director herself:
Before we jump on the “cancel it all” bandwagon, let’s observe for ourselves. Don’t take anyone else’s opinion – don’t even take mine! Watch Cuties for yourself.
And ask questions. Ask lots of questions. Always. Especially if you were a girl who was told it’s better to be seen and not heard.