Controversy Behind Cuties Movie

Controversy Behind Cuties Movie

Few films have attracted as much global attention and controversy as the French Film, Cuties, directed by French-Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré. Winner of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Competition, the film follows an 11-year-old caught between traditional Muslim upbringing and internet culture. 

While movie critics work to defend Doucoure’s work in a coming of age film, “to provoke a serious conversation about the sexualization of girls—especially regarding girls of color, the policing of a girl’s sexuality, double standards, the effect of social media on kids, and how children learn these behaviors,” accusations of normalizing pedophilia and child exploitation are sweeping social media platforms demanding that Netflix be boycotted and subscribers delete their accounts. 

This is the power of social media…

The hashtag #cancelnetflix and #deletenetflix jumped to the top of Twitter's trending section nearly overnight after the release of Netflix’s original marketing content for the film. Its original promotional poster featured the young actors in revealing outfits and suggestive poses. A petition on has gained over 699,000 signatures (and rapidly growing) calling for a removal of Cuties from Netflix and holding them legally accountable for streaming the film.

In a Sept. 10 statement to Fox News, Netflix stands by its release of the film, indicating, "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. It's an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up - and we'd encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie." With a TV-MA rating, it is incredibly important to note this film is not intended for anyone under the age of 17.  Some of the scenes are incredibly dark, violent, graphic, and hyper-sexualized.

The idea that the film over-objectifies young girls and irresponsibly sexualizes them is exactly what Doucoure’ claims she wanted to portray, "It's because I saw so many things and so many issues around me lived by young girls, that I decided to make this film and sound an alarm and say we need to protect our children.”

While we understand depiction in the film does not mean endorsement, it is difficult to understand or stand by a film trying to shine a light on an issue like child exploitation by putting child actors in front of a camera, and filming them while they engage in inappropriate and harmful behaviors. Can we not combat the over-sexualization of young women in girls without over-sexualizing them in the process? 

Child exploitation is real and it is terrifying and yes we should all be angry about that. The over-objectification and sexualization of young girls and women are real and it is terrifying and we should all be angry about that too. But where you direct that anger, and where you can help make needed change requires more than a hashtag and canceling your streaming service. 

This is absolutely the reality our children face every day behind their devices and on their social media platforms. Here’s what we can do…

  • It is important to support the agencies that are working to put an end to child exploitation and ensure our children remain safe, both on the streets and online.   
  • Learn how you can get involved in helping change how young girls are portrayed in the media. 
  • Don’t give children their own smart device or access to social media platforms unless you are ready to have open and honest conversations about self-worth, self-respect, and what happens when they see, respond to, or post provocative images or content for the world to view, make a judgment on or access.  
  • Recognize that all children are at risk (though some more than others) no matter their socio-economic status, gender, race, neighborhood or family background. 
  • Follow COPPA laws (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and regulations to ensure children are of legal age to have access to their own social media account(s). 
  • Get informed on the risks encountered behind social media and online platforms. Cybercriminals and pedophiles use popular culture to contact, build relationships with and groom young people.  

SGS understands this is an extremely difficult, sensitive, and complicated issue. We will be watching for updates from legislation as the film is being called for an investigation on the violation of any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.