The backlash to the French independent film “Mignonnes,” or “Cuties,” started before it had even been released because of a poster that went viral for its provocative depiction of its young female actors. But the spotlight has only intensified since the film became available on Netflix last week and it has become the target of heightened politicized outrage from members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and others online calling for subscribers to #CancelNetflix.
At the heart of the backlash is the idea that “Cuties” is dangerously and irresponsibly sexualizing pre-teen girls, which, ironically, is what the movie itself is criticizing too. The campaign against the film, which includes calls for the Department of Justice to investigate it and hundreds of thousands calling for subscribers to cancel their Netflix accounts, is riddled with inaccuracies due in part to the fact that some critics have not seen the film (one claims that there is child nudity when there is not)
Netflix said in a statement that it is a, “social commentary against the sexualization of young children.”
Written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, “Cuties” is about an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant named Amy (Fathia Youssouf) who is living in an impoverished Paris suburb with her observant Muslim family. She becomes fascinated with a clique of rebellious girls at her middle school who choreograph dance routines and wear crop tops and heels. They talk about Kim Kardashian and diets, practice “twerking” and giggle about boys and sex-related things that they don’t yet understand.
Netflix acquired “Cuties” out of the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where it was favorably reviewed and won an award for its direction. It is the kind of film (foreign-language and with no stars from a first-time director) that would otherwise have gone under the radar.
But because Netflix’s promotional materials caught the attention of the internet and even led to an apology from the streaming giant and the removal of the posters, “Cuties” was thrust onto the national stage.
Late last week, Republicans Cruz and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called on the Department of Justice to investigate the film’s production and distribution. Cruz in his letter to Attorney General William Barr asked that they, “determine whether Netflix, its executives, or the individuals involved in the filming and production of ‘Cuties’ violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.”