Netflix’s Cuties has been stirring up trouble on social media. Many deem the film inappropriate due to its strongly pedophiliac undertones. While the film is supposed to be based on bits & pieces of director Maïmouna Doucouré’s own life, the material is just seen as smut for pedophiles by viewers & pundits alike, leading to the question: should users boycott Netflix for putting the film on its platform in the first place?
Marketing could have been different, but still not an excuse
Whether the marketing was done in America, France, or another country, there were better ways overall to promote the film. In the American advertisement, 14-year-old actress Fathia Youssouf is displayed front and center, emphasizing the sexualization of girls for the sake of sales.
Youssouf’s very young costars are also pictured in provocative dance positions, inciting the idea that this film is meant for more than just a tale about youth & friendship.
The blatant difference between the posters raises the question of what Netflix’s marketing department exactly wanted to get across. Whether the streaming giant just wanted to market the film in a shocking way to gain publicity, or they legitimately thought portraying underage girls thus acceptable, most agree Netflix isn’t thinking about the benefits or safety of the children they’re profiting from.
Cuties had to be made more “palatable”
Just having to make a film more “palatable” should be a warning sign right off the bat. For Cuties, there were quite a few scenes that had to be removed to make it more appealing towards audiences.
Some of the scenes in questions included a 5-year-old girl attempting to create a porn account, a girl trying to take a picture of a boy’s genitals, the young girls bribing security guards by twerking, and more. This list alone is damning enough, though.
Even if these were real experiences for the director, most viewers feel there’s no reason to show them in detail. By portraying sexualization of young girls in depth, Netflix may be encouraging normalization of such behavior in the eyes of young girls, giving fodder to those that wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of a young female in a heartbeat.
If Doucouré wanted to acknowledge the problem of oversexualization of youths, it could’ve been done in a completely different way that didn’t serve as bait.
Media normalization doesn’t make it right
Despite the backlash it’s received, Cuties has gotten some strong support on mainstream media. Some journalists claim boycotting Netflix would encourage censorship of an artist’s expression. Others opine the calls for cancellation are in fact a form of racism unfairly targeting this piece when there are worse forms of salacious sexualization of girls on social media.
Censoring an artist’s voice may be wrong, but the public’s tolerance for sociocultural lines being crossed is most definitely finite. Media voices in favor of Cuties may not understand how, even if the film has a bigger message to discourage sexualization of young girls, it could create a bigger cesspool for those wanting to prey on them.
By giving the greenlight to rampant sexualization of minors without considering every angle, Netflix and other media conglomerates give the impression they don’t care about the downstream effects their content has on the lives of viewers and society at large. You’d be hard pressed to convince us otherwise (but you can try in the comments below).