The creator of Cuties, Maïmouna Doucouré, came under considerable fire for her role in the film's creation, but despite that, she has stood behind her brainchild fervently.
The "coming of age" story of Cuties follows the life of an 11-year-old Senegalese girl (played by 14-year-old Fathia Youssouf) growing up in a low-income Parisian neighborhood. She ends up joining a dance clique who call themselves the "Cuties" and engages in a variety of on-camera activities that are horrifying viewers of the film. The children cavort on-screen in scanty outfits and perform sexually suggestive dance moves.
Maïmouna Doucouré, creator of the Netflix movie 'Cuties,' received a ton of backlash for her role.
Some audiences of Cuties were alarmed by the alleged sexualization of young girls. It's become the subject of so much ire among viewers and folks who were aghast after seeing the trailer that tons of people flocked to online petitions to try to stop its Netflix premiere on Sept. 9, 2020. Despite that, the film premiered, and backlash got so severe for Maïmouna that she even started receiving death threats.
Allison Mitchell, who started one of the most famous petitions against the film which has since closed, wrote at the time, "This movie/show is disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN-year-old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children! There is no need for this kind of content in that age group, especially when sex trafficking and pedophilia are so rampant! There is no excuse, this is dangerous content!"
The 'Cuties' French poster was way different than its American counterpart.
Some folks have noticed some weird discrepancies in the film and feel like the movie's different markets focused on entirely disparate publicity strategies. The movie's French poster appeared to be telling a much different story than whatever the U.S.'s team came up with, and that could have been attributed to an "American" marketing approach.
Others pointed out that, from the trailer alone, the movie seemed to be inviting the wrong kind of audience.
There were also a lot of people who believed that even though the film was supposed to be a commentary on the sexualization of children, it failed in doing so because it sexualized them itself. Much like that weird kid in middle school who intentionally ate smushed food off the floor as a joke who failed to realize that he still ate food off the floor, Cuties was accused of not understanding the difference between intention and execution.
What's more is that at the time of its release, one of the biggest controversial talking points of the 2020 presidential election was the #pedogate and #savethechildren scandals that discussed pedophilia and human trafficking, and people were quick to make links between political parties and the release of Cuties at the time.
Maïmouna Doucouré remains proud of her work despite the bad press.
When asked about the film, the writer/director said in an interview with Cineuropa, "The day I saw, at a neighborhood party, a group of young girls aged around 11 years old, going up on stage and dancing in a very sensual way while wearing very revealing clothes. I was rather shocked and I wondered if they were aware of the image of sexual availability that they were projecting. In the audience, there were also more traditional mothers, some of them wearing veils: it was a real culture shock."
She continued, "I was stunned and I thought back to my own childhood because I’ve often asked myself questions about my own femininity, about evolving between two cultures, about my Senegalese culture which comes from my parents and my western culture. But I needed the 2020 version of that youth, so for a year and a half, I stopped groups of young girls in the street, sometimes in schools or when organizations opened their doors to me."
She even delved into the personal research she conducted when making the movie: "I recorded them or filmed them when I had their parents’ authorization, and I gathered their stories to find out where they situated themselves as children, as girls, as future women; how they placed themselves in society with their girlfriends, their families, at school, with social networks. All these stories fed into the writing of Cuties."