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Why is everyone talking about ‘Cuties’?

We look at what lies behind the furore caused by its release on Netflix last week.

The award-winning French film was released on Netflix on Friday. But why is everyone so up in arms about it? By Emma Irving.

So… Remind me what ‘Cuties’ is? 

The film follows an 11-year-old girl named Amy (Fathia Youssouf) as she tries to find her place growing up in a poor suburb of Paris. At home, Amy has to please her family, who are observant Muslims from Senegal, but she eventually falls in with a group of friends who have their own dance troupe in defiance of her family’s strict rules. It’s done pretty well in France, where it was released as “Mignonnes”, and it won a directing award from the Sundance Institute in February.

So far, so straightforward. Where’s the hangup?

Well, first up Netflix had to apologise for the artwork it created to promote ‘Cuties’ after many said it inappropriately sexualised the film’s preteen stars, and change the poster used. Several scenes in the film show young girls dancing suggestively in short skirts or dresses, and an IMDb parents’ guide rates the film’s sex and nudity as “severe.”

Things took a weird turn when calls to remove the film were backed by supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who believe top Democrats and celebrities like the artist Marina Abramovic are behind a global child trafficking ring. “Netflix just normalized pedophilia,” one QAnon-supporting Facebook page posted on Friday.

Now several members of Congress have now called for the film to be removed from Netflix or for a formal investigation, and #CancelNetflix has been trending on Twitter. 

Ooook. What’s the director said?

Maïmouna Doucouré said in an interview with Netflix that the idea for the film came to her after she attended a neighborhood gathering in Paris where she saw a group of 11-year-olds performing a “very sexual, very sensual” dance. She said she spent a year and a half doing research and meeting with hundreds of preteens to prepare for the film.

She, and her supporters, argue that the film is a critique of the oversexualization of young girls. “The sight of twerking preteen bodies is explicitly designed to shock mature audiences into a contemplation of today’s destruction of innocence,” the film critic Fionnuala Halligan wrote in Screen Daily.

Have you seen the film? Is it adding to the sexualization of girls, or critiquing it? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me at emma@thismuchiknow.news