Boy, was that movie tough to sit through. The entire experience was like fidgeting on a chair of spikes.
I am, of course, referring to Netflix’s Cuties. The movie was trending because of its unorthodox portrayal of minor sexploitation.
Whose fault is it, really?
Both sides of the political aisle are up in arms about the (supposedly) looming normalization of pedophilia.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but no pundit, whatever their leaning, will offer a fair, unbiased review of this piece. They’re more interested in scoring clout points and views. Let’s be honest here.
Yes, this movie was cringe. Yes, this movie will make you uncomfortable with its pubescent characters and their whimsically-naive approach to sex.
It took me not one, not two, but THREE tries to sit through this until the credits rolled.
But hey, if sexualization of minors makes you fidget in your seat, it was probably acheiving its purpose.
That’s why it confuses me when I hear a pundit or YouTuber state that this propagates pedophilia and even pushes for its societal acceptance.
Upon watching this film, I can conclude that these pundits are either A) Dishonest or B) Did not watch the film in its entirety.
If you pay attention, you can see the signs that the main character’s trials are self-destructive and detrimental to her well-being. Cuties is not the movie we want, but it’s the movie we need.
What is Cuties Really About?
Cuties follows the experiences of Amy, a Senegalese immigrant living in Paris, who is going though puberty. Her father is conspicuously absent throughout the film (he practices polygamy and is entering a second mariage in Senegal).
Amy’s mother and great-aunt are trying to teach her religious values. They show her how to be proper, cook/clean, etc. Basically, how to be a “real woman.”
Her insular surroundings are shattered one day when she steals a mover’s smartphone. Amy gains the means of putting herself online and in the eyes of strangers from faraway places.
She also makes an acquaintance with a group of pre-teen dancers, led by Angelica. Angelica lives in the same apartment Amy does and, like her, she also has an uninvolved father (only heard off-screen).
Not a single father is visually shown throughout this movie.
Where the Dads at?
The reality is, if girls are not given fatherly guidance at home, their self-respect will crumble. Fatherless girls are the ones that end up becoming prostitutes and drug users.
As the movie makes clear, Amy and her “friends” do not respect themselves nor maintain a certain set of standards.
They chase “cute” boys that are older than them. They’re unable to take the hint that these men have no interest in them because of their pubescent age.
Another scene showed Amy trying to seduce the man she stole the phone from. The man responds by outrightly rejecting her advances.
Where the Pedos at?
The mature characters around these girls are quite aware of what is socially acceptable. They’re also aware that they are not to bed with any of them.
To my memory, no adult character displayed any sense of sexual desire towards Amy or the members of the dance group.
And this is precisely why I reject anything the pundits are saying about Cuties. The film is perfectly aware that pedophilia isn’t acceptable.
The film is about our social media culture and lack of guidance at home. It shows how these are leading our kids to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Behaviors that they aren’t mentally or emotionally equipped to handle yet.
(They actually thought one contracts AIDS by simply touching a condom, get real)
In Terms of Cuties’ Filmmaking…
As a film, Cuties was decent. Some of the director’s choices felt a little off.
When Amy saw the blue traditional dress in her wardrobe, dripping with blood, was that supposed to be real or imagined? Why did Amy go into that bizarre zombie trance when her mother and aunt symbolically-purified her with water?
Why did Amy SUDDENLY have a moment of clarity, during the climatic dance scene, that what she’s been doing to herself was wrong?
A lot of scenes just weren’t made clear.
You’re going to watch this with a set of furrowed eyebrows, and not only because of the twerking and butt shots. The film’s artistic element is sometimes messy.
Reach the Ending, if You Can
However, I can pass praise for the ending. The closing scene of Amy wearing non-revealing clothing, and not conforming to her family’s ultra-conservative inclinations, was sensible and acceptable.
The ending shot showed her happily jumping up and down while playing jump rope with some kids.
Just let kids be kids. They don’t need to be thots. They don’t need to be religious zealots, either. This movie is neither conservative nor liberal with its message. It’s just a movie.
It’s a balanced, nuanced, and fair one at that.
Just let kids be kids.
Since it explores an uncomfortable topic, Cuties is not the movie we wanted. Since it tests our moral compass as a society, it’s the film we needed.
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