Critics of “Cuties” say the Netflix film hyper-sexualizes a pre-teen dance troupe, but director Maimouna Doucouré said Monday that she is fighting the “same fight” they are: to stop the exploitation of young girls.
“We have to protect our children,” Doucouré explained in a panel discussion with UniFrance. “The most important thing is watch the film. Watch the film and understand that we are on the same, we have the same fight.”
Doucouré explained that the backlash surrounding “Cuties” all started “with that artwork,” a poster of the film released by Netflix in America that showed the 11-year-old protagonists striking suggestive poses in revealing dance attire.
After Netflix pulled the “inappropriate” poster and apologized, the phrase #CancelNetflix has still picked up steam, and “Cuties” has been the target of vitriol, in particular by conservatives Ted Cruz and Laura Ingraham, among others.
But Doucouré made “Cuties” because she’s responding to the issues faced by young girls everywhere. The movie follows a preteen girl who rebels against her religious mother by joining a dance team, only to experience new emotional issues when her new dance team sexualizes herself and her team. It’s a critical statement of how girls are exploited, and Doucouré says that when the film premiered at Sundance earlier this year, audiences understood its message.
“They really see what made the film, because it’s a universal issue. It’s not only about French society. That hyper-sexualization of our children is everywhere. It’s through social media,” Doucouré said. “American people when I was at Sundance, they agreed with that, and told me that the film is important to open eyes to this issue and try to fix it.”
Doucouré previously said in an interview with Deadline that she received death threats from people as a result of the controversy, and Netflix following the film’s debut for American audiences again defended its content.
“‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to TheWrap last week. “It’s an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”
Doucouré even told TheWrap at the Sundance Film Festival in January that her film mirrors her experience as a young girl when she wanted to be a boy because of the “injustices” towards women she saw around her. You can watch that full interview below, and see the full UniFrance panel discussion here.