Mignonnes (Cuties) a think piece
OK, so this is going to be a tough one. Why? Because i'm not going to jump on the bandwagon of bashing it for it's controversy...because there is none, and i'll explain why. So let's get it out now...I loved the movie! There I said it! and no, not because of what you think! I'm going to have to jump through lasers to perhaps explain why this controversy is probably unfounded, and why anyone that thinks that this is some conspiracy attempt at "normalizing pedophilia" is at least uninformed.
So how do I start? Well let me be very very blunt and direct about one thing! I consider pedophilia abhorrent, and anyone caught should be castrated AND buried under a prison forever, and that's me being polite about it! OK? Did I make my preface clear before I begin expanding on my thought? Good! Let's begin then.
First of all let me show you where all the problem surrounding the controversy originated from....The poster!
As you can see, on the right is the appropriate poster for a French movie that won an award at the Sundance festival, and on the left is what a cinematically illiterate intern at Netflix thought the movie was all about! Do you see the obvious difference in connotation and meaning between the two posters? The one gives you the impression of a thoughtful movie, that discusses deeper issues than just 11-year old girls twerking, and the other one makes it look like it's Step-Up meets Magic Mike with minors! I can safely tell you the poster on the right is closer to what the movie is about than the idiotic one-dimensional poster on the left! (in fact the outfits on the Netflix poster are only shown in the final minutes of the movie for a little bit, and were not well received!) It's not a spoiler trust me, because that's not what the movie is about!
To their credit though, Netflix did realize it's mistake and rectified the issue.
So what is this movie all about? I can sit and write the plot, but I'd much rather you watched the interview of the director Maïmouna Doucouré where she explains a lot. Oh and keep your ear out for when she states that she was inspired for the movie after witnessing IN REAL LIFE 11 year old girls "..dancing like what we used to seeing in a video clip"
Now, let me really dive into the issue at hand! I was furious when I saw the poster of Cuties, because... I have Netflix. My first thoughts were indeed that things might have gone too far. Then I thought to myself, "OK, let me watch the movie and see what it's all about, and if the controversy is valid". The result? It was nothing close to what the controversy was all about. There were some awkward moments yes, but it seemed intentional by the director to incite those feelings on to the viewer...because THAT'S WHAT DIRECTORS DO! Everything is about context, and context needs perception, and perception now-a-days, in the internet era, has narrowed down to a windowed 15-second attention span!
This movie discusses in MY perception and from what I understood, an inner cultural clash of second generation immigrants, the need to fit in, peer pressure, a more realistic, less romanticized coming of age story, the abundant presence of sexualised imagery readily available to anyone with a smartphone and the consequent premature sexualisation of young kids exposed to said imagery.
In fact if anything this movie is a critique of this culture! Who do you think is watching AND imitating Cardi B? An artist that is celebrated for overtly sexualised lyrics in her songs, and inappropriate attire and dance moves in her music videos. An ex-stripper that is now heralded as a cultural icon! And if you don't like my condescending tone about her past occupation, then don't get angry when young girls imitate her because they do! In fact the movie depicts the girls teaching themselves these moves by watching music videos online! This movie is essentially art imitating life...except we don't like what the 'mirror' is showing!
Also, one has to factor in several parameters. Most important being that it's a European movie. European movies in general tend to not sugarcoat issues, there are cultural differences, and that needs to be understood. European movies tend to deliver the moral of a story in a more discrete way, as opposed to the more "in your face" style of American movies. I'm usually very weary when movies are demanded to be "boycotted" since art should transcend such demands. Not meaning of course that anything goes, but if art isn't at least thought provoking then what is it? Cardi B talking about her "wet ass p***y"? I was not happy about The Joker facing this much controversy either!
As for the controversy, let's talk about that and be realistic for a moment. It's not the first time movies have had young actors in mature situations. I can write an entire list, but it's better to give you 2 videos to watch and perhaps realize the hypocrisy behind the outrage for "Cuties". All I have to say is "Cuties" had no where a scene as "controversial" as an 11-year old Kirsten Dunst kissing on the mouth a then 31 year old Brad Pitt in the movie "Interview with the Vampire". Do I condemn it? Of course not! Why? Context!
Hopefully by now you might realize that all of this controversy is unfounded, and even if you are still on the fence about it, do what I did...watch the movie and judge for yourself and see where it focuses on, and how much is it about what you think it is that warrants controversy! On the plus side people are now more aware of European movies, and in the words of Bong Joon Ho during his Oscar speech "Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films"