Netflix’s “Cuties:” The Sexual Exploitation of Children for Profit

cuties

Promotional image for the Netflix TV show “Cuties”

By now, you’ve probably heard at least something about the new Netflix series Cuties. Netflix describes the show as:

Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.

I, like a lot of people, became aware of the show based on the promotional poster I’ve featured above. Really, a bunch of eleven-year-old girls dressed up like streetwalkers and prancing around in front of an adult audience. What does that sound like if not grooming pre-teen girls to be sexually exploited.

Except, that’s not how Netflix sees it.

But before we get into all of that, here’s the official trailer courtesy of YouTube. Duck lips presented for your entertainment:

Some parts of it are actually funny. I mean, what kid starting to go through puberty doesn’t think, say, and do really strange stuff when they’re trying to figure themselves out, right?

One thing about young girls between the ages of 10 to 15 is that a lot of them really do just spontaneously break into dance. Why? I’m not sure. I never had a sister, so when my daughter was born and I was raising her, I didn’t have a model to go on. I had a brother and I’m a guy, so when my sons did something, no matter how outrageous, I understood them. Girls, I could never figure out.

Oh. The following screenshot is both totally girl, and given the way that one child is posed with her legs spread right at the camera (and remember, the director of this show is a woman), totally cringe worthy:

legs open

Screenshot from the trailer for the Netflix show “Cuties”

What about that top she’s wearing? Remember, she’s eleven. If my daughter had even dreamed of wearing something like that to school, my wife would have shut her down in a New York minute.

belly

Screenshot taken from the trailer of the Netflix show “Cuties”

Oh, and let’s not forget the other end:

ass

Screenshot taken from the trailer of the Netflix show “Cuties”

The sub-titles are because the dialog is in French.

Yes, it’s blurry because I paused the playback, but here are the outfits that Netflix blamed all of the “outrage” on:

outfits

Screenshot of the trailer for the Netflix show “Cuties”

Now, one of the major rebuttals against the criticism this show gets is that if it were about boys coming of age and exploring their sexuality, no one would care. It’s only because it’s girls and sex that people are freaking out.

There’s a certain amount of truth to that statement. In western society, and probably a lot of other cultures, girls are considered as needing more protection sexually than boys. That ignores that boys can also be sexually abused or exploited I suppose, and trust me, I know they can be, by both men and women.

My grandson is eleven, and I promise you if he tried to display his body in the same manner as these girls, I’d have a very serious conversation with his parents about it. An eleven year old person is a child, boy or girl, and yes, the world is full of predators. These kids need to be protected from them by adults, not exploited by the adults who are supposed to care about them (where are the parents for these child actresses?). There are hookers, boys and girls, on the streets of every major city in the world right now being used for the sexual gratification of adults. Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy and not nearly “progressive” enough or on the “right side of history,” but I happen to think that’s wrong. Disagree if you want to. Really. It’ll tell me a lot more about you than it tells you about me.

Citing the Cinemablend.com story about the show, they quote Netflix as stating:

We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.

“Inappropriate artwork.” Oh, that’s what it was. Except I’ve seen the trailer, so the problem is more than just one poster, Netflix. I suppose the company thinks all people are total morons or something.

The report further states:

To provide some context, Cuties is a coming-of-age drama movie that follows Amy, an 11-year-old girl who joins a group of dancers at school known as the “Cuties” and rapidly becomes aware of her burgeoning femininity, upsetting her mother and her values in the process. Cuties was directed and written by Maïmouna Doucouré, with this marking her feature directorial debut after previously helming and penning the short film Maman(s) (emph mine).

Looking up the word burgeoning, Merriam-Webster defines it as:

growing, expanding, or developing rapidly

When I look at and talk to my grandson, I know he’s interested in girls. He doesn’t particularly know what to do about it yet, but he is interested.

When my daughter was about that age, she once told me that she and a bunch of other girls used to follow a particular guy around the school play ground as if they were puppy dogs (her term, not mine). She was giggling and she and her friends were obviously interested in this boy. They just didn’t know what to do about it at that age.

Is that “burgeoning?”

reviews

Screenshot of online reviews for the Netflix show “Cuties”

What you read above aside (since a lot of that seems rather sarcastic), many of the reviews state that the show either inspired them to dance or reminded them of a time in their past when they enjoyed dancing. Fair enough. The girls are obviously talented and just because they’re kids doesn’t mean they shouldn’t dance.

I mean, how many activities and clubs and such do parents take their kids to at that age or even younger, including dance classes? Except it’s under adult and parental supervision to make sure kids aren’t misused.

I remember reading an interview with the late and great dancer Fred Astaire. He was a perfectionist and not necessarily a very nice person, but he did say one thing that has stuck with me over the years. He said he wanted to make dancing look so easy, that when the audience was leaving the theater after watching one of his movies, they would believe they could dance just like him. Most of them couldn’t of course, since he was an amazing talent and pursued his craft relentlessly.

For me, if I had to pick one dancer in the world to admire, it would probably be Gene Kelly. Astaire was built like a dancer, thin, quick and agile. Kelly was built like a truck driver or a carpenter, but watching him dance you could swear he could walk on air.

My all time favorite musical is the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain. The underrated, fabulously talented Donald O’Connor dances in ways I didn’t think was humanly possible (If you haven’t seen this movie, you absolutely HAVE to). Yes, although I come with two very firmly planted left feet and couldn’t dance my way out of a paper bag, that movie will always have a special place in my heart and, in my imagination, I sometimes believe I can dance (At the urging of friend, I joined a jazz dance class when I was 19 and I was horrible).

But, naturally, all of those examples involve adults. Sure, there must be other shows and movies that feature younger performers who at least are pretending to be teens, but Cuties is pushing it.

I’m glad some people believe the show makes them light on their feet, but even the trailer doesn’t conceal the fact that the girls are being displayed as sexual objects.

I suppose if a group of girls got together and started dancing for themselves, that would be that, but Netflix is run by a bunch of adults who want to make money. And speaking of dancing, this isn’t ballet, this is twerking. According to The Daily Beast:

The goal of twerking, as the Internet delights in explaining, is to move your hips and butt in the most sexually provocative way you can muster. If things go well, this results in a rippling of muscle that somehow translates into “this is why I’m hot. (I work out).”

Except, again, we’re talking about a collection of eleven-year-olds who probably haven’t even had their first periods yet (and it doesn’t matter if they have).

Oh, remember when Miley Cyrus did her whole twerking thing, shoving her rear end and genitals at Alan Thicke? At least she was 21 at the time. Her parents must have been horrified.

That’s the dance form these girls are performing. Again, supporters of the show say it’s a terrific story about a young girl from a culturally and religiously conservative family exploring her sexuality and expressing it in dance. They further state that if this were a show about boys and not girls, no one would bat an eye. It’s apparently popular with people who hate religion, consider conservative moral values as “repressive,” and are totally for very young girls displaying their bodies sexually. Gee, I wonder why?

Bottom line, and being French excuses exactly nothing, this is not a good show nor a good role model for little girls to emulate. Why the * bleep * is the world so unwilling to let children have a childhood and let growing up take care of itself without making bank on the writhing bodies of pre-teens?

I think I know the answer. What answer works for you?

A little over three years ago, I wrote one of the most difficult and disturbing short stories in my career. It’s called The Girl From Svay Pak. It was based on a very real company in Japan that produces advanced, AI driven sex dolls of little girls.

Yes, the sexual exploitation of children is real, and the Netflix show Cuties is just the latest expression. I don’t know which bothers me more, the idea that Netflix thinks it can get away with it, or that “enlightened” and “progressive” people in social media actually believe it’s a good idea.

Humanity has fallen far. We will only recover when people of good conscience break the silence and cry out in one voice that we will not let our children be used for the gratification of a generation of predators.

Addendum: Sundance Film Festival Co-Founder Sentenced to 6 Years in Child Sex Abuse Case. Sundance gave the controversial new movie “Cuties” an award. Imagine that.

9 thoughts on “Netflix’s “Cuties:” The Sexual Exploitation of Children for Profit

  1. Cringe is right. Really sad. I hadn’t heard of it at all until reading this.

    By the way, you said that Miley Cyrus’ parents must have been horrified the way she danced with Alan (is it Alan? whatever) Thicke. I happened to see her at least a year before that (at my parents’ house) in a stupid dance on a major mainstream show, with a pole. I wondered, out loud, what was wrong with her parents.

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  2. Any adult watching ‘Cuties’ would rightfully be outraged which is the point. It’s extremely difficult to sit through this film and not want to snatch these girls up and talk some sense into them, which is also the point–the absence of parental guidance in Amy’s (the protagonist) life and in the lives of a lot of preteen girls who, unfortunately, take their cues from the highly sexualized culture of social media. You mention your grandson but your grandson does not face the same value judgments and double standards that girls do. And I think it’s unfair to dismiss ‘Cuties’ as an exploitative money grab. This movie wasn’t made in a vacuum. The director, Maïmouna Doucouré, drew from her own life experiences. The world that Amy is made to navigate through is the same world many preteen girls are confronted with on a daily basis. I do agree with you that girls should be allowed to be girls and ‘Cuties’ shows how complex that can be.

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