Netflix’s ‘cuties’ controversy was scandalous, unfair and incorrect



Now that I have seen the film, the outcry from Internet users against Maïmouna Doucouré’s film Cute, which finally debuted on Netflix this morning, was as absurd, over the top, and inaccurate as you’d probably expect.

In a healthy world, Cute would be considered exactly the kind of movie that people defend Netflix for

. It’s a French melodrama, directed by the black director (Maïmouna Doucouré) about a young black girl (Fathia Youssouf) who is pulled in two opposite directions. It’s an old-fashioned coming of age story about a girl who finds an activity that allows her some freedom from her conventional / traditional upbringing. Its large skeleton is no different to the tastes of Play it like Beckham and Whip it. It’s a bright, colorful and energetic character play that deals with both the burden of traditional female expectations and the hypersexualization of pre-teen girls. New to Netflix this morning, Cute is a good movie that condemns a popular culture that encourages girls to adopt an open (and performative) sexuality and then punishes them for it.

But of course, in our crazy online world, where portrayal equals endorsement, the film turned into a storm of controversy after the initial poster was accused of being essentially pedophile propaganda. Now that the film is available on Netflix, it can exist as it was intended. This is exactly what you might have guessed by watching the trailer, watching the original movie poster (it was played in theaters in France on August 19), or even taking 30 seconds to search for the page. Wikipedia of the film. But no, the snapshots of the poster, one that wouldn’t have been moved far as a promo for Dance Moms, and was likely intended to appeal to this demographic as well as fans of Netflix’s many (many) dance films, created instant judgments that the film was “pedo-bait.”

The director of the film has been kicked out of social media and has even received death threats. In the cruelest irony, the fact that this film starred a predominantly non-white ensemble went from a distinctly positive (like the kind of global inclusiveness that Netflix claims to stand for) to a reason to further condemn the film ( alleging that this was another example of pop culture openly sexualizing minority girls to a greater extent compared to their white peers). As expected, the controversy only lasted a few days, while Netflix replaced the poster and apologized to the director. In the absence of controversy, Cute would have been a newbie debuting midweek with minimal attention. But thanks to the outcry, its release is “topical” and its reception will be closely watched. In the absence of the (arguably spurious) outcry online, Cute is just a movie.

The film contains scenes of young girls “twerking” both among themselves and in a climactic dance competition, but one has to be oblivious to not realize how these choices are perceived by both the supporting characters and the filmmaker herself. -even. No spoilers, but the film doesn’t remotely portray such behavior as flirtatious or uplifting, especially when the dance routines regress from “relatively normal dance recital-type numbers” to essentially a bump-and-grind song. My biggest nitpick is that the movie excludes men and boys so much from the narrative that it essentially leaves the patriarchal system that encourages and exploits such behavior off the hook, but it’s a pet peeve for a number of films on. the transition to adulthood centered on women (for example, Courageous). Doucouré’s $ 4 million French-language drama need not be the key document as far as its specific subject matter is concerned.

Cute is designed as a deeply personal, small-scale, narratively claustrophobic character game based on the filmmaker’s own real-life experiences. The online reaction is frankly another example of how we pretend we want various filmmakers and various stories, but then cringe when those stories (often autobiographical, like Diablo Cody’s Tully) do not fit our idealistic notions of how stories about said demographics should play out. Roger ebert has never been cooler than when he stood up at a festival to defend Justin Lin Better luck tomorrow against charges that he highlighted / featured amoral Asian characters by asking why Asian characters shouldn’t be allowed to be as flawed as white dudes. He was never colder than when he argued that Bring it on and Ugly coyote deserved R ratings and challenged their alleged vulgarity, but I digress.

Shock of shocks, Cute is about the very thing he’s been accused of spreading. Kind of like the Blumhouse controversy The hunt, he fell victim to our era of pre-release “representation equals approval” cultural criticism. This movie came under the pop culture microscope after it was revealed that the movie’s plot wasn’t just a riff on The most dangerous game but a comedy opposing “Blue State Elites” to “Red State Deplorables”. It was no more a satire than that of Taika Waititi Bunny Jojo was, but “satire” has become a safe word for films that deal with difficult subjects in any form other than heartbreaking drama. It was just a nasty little action comedy that embraced rather than avoided the politics of the day. Cute wasn’t even forbidden to call itself a satire, because it’s an outright drama.

Cute is, at its core, a culture clash film that argues that young girls are harmed both by regressive gender roles, often religion-specific, and by an allegedly more progressive pop culture that confuses open sexuality / efficient with greater maturity. It’s a little different from the deluge of blogging jars claiming that former childhood stars or current teen stars in Harmony Korine’s (pretty well) spring breakers were “all grown up” for appearing in the R-rated vulgar comedy thriller. It’s a little different than “Hey, she can act!” critical applause Blake Lively received for playing a tense (but conventionally sexy) junkie in Ben Affleck’s The city. The game is the same: convincing girls that being sexually conventional is akin to maturity, then lashing out at them when they act sexually, while leaving boys and men off the hook.

Yes, I would say the movie is appropriate, aside from the TV-MA rating (mostly for a few moments of crass profanity), for pre-teen youngsters as a thoughtful, empathetic melodrama. If they watch it with their parents, great, but the idea that the film was aimed at adults (especially men) who might be wearily interested in it is frankly absurd and insulting to the filmmaker. and yet another example of women and girls being penalized, punished and tried for the alleged intentions of men. Despite the bites, Cute is exactly the kind of indie character game, a foreign film with a black track from a noir filmmaker dealing with issues of the day, that we want Netflix to acquire in the midst of everything they release. The reaction of fire and brimstone was a real tragedy, but now the film can speak for itself.



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