What people are getting wrong about Netflix’s Cuties
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If you know nothing else about Cuties on Netflix, you know that it centers hypersexualized young girls in the dance world. And you know that because the trailer Netflix dropped ahead of the French independent film’s release did the movie no favors. That preview shows clips that are heavy on the close-ups of these young girls’ bodies, ogling over their glossy crop tops and booty shorts without context. But even without much-needed context, the imagery is pretty standard fare if you’ve ever watched Dance Moms or Toddlers and Tiaras. The difference: These are Black bodies. And thus, the film is being cast in a light that could be seen as exploitative.
The Twitterati pounced on the opportunity to speak up. Some viewers were genuinely disturbed, expecting something appropriate for an audience that was the age of those actually featured in the film. Some, who jumped in with the hashtag #CancelNetflix, were hating on Cuties after a two-minute preview. Of course, the movie became a unifying force among conservatives. Many of them, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, called it “child porn”; two lawmakers even called for the Department of Justice to investigate the streaming service.
To be sure, there are troubling moments in this film as it relates to sexuality — one in particular sees the main character using seduction to get out of a messy situation with two older men. But the truth is, things like that happen every single day to young Black girls. And our community has not collectively protected our children. We either see Black womanhood as nonautonomous sex objects or keep-your-legs crossed sexual demons to be controlled. Both are approaches that hold us back from recognizing a young woman’s moments of self and sexual discovery as valid and indeed enlightening experiences.