What To Do With Mixed Messages: Our Review Of ‘Cuties’ on Netflix

Posted in Movies, Netflix, What's Streaming? by - September 18, 2020
What To Do With Mixed Messages: Our Review Of ‘Cuties’ on Netflix

I’m still struggling whether or not Maimouna Doucoure’ Cuties is, among things, a good character study. And that’s because this is a film about children and I have little memory of anything before I was 12. Amy (Fathia Youssouf Abdillah), the film’s protagonist, is 11. I was 1 once. But being 11 and a Black French female in 2020 is a different field altogether. Anyway, there’s a lot going on in her life. That includes her mother Mariam’s (Maimouna Gueye) second marriage. Amy also develops a platonic attraction to the girls who, at first, bully her. She looks normal, but to them she looks ‘homeless’. The normal instinct is to stay away from one’s bullies.

I’ll never get over how Amy want to be friends with these girls. Because even at 32, these girls make me want to swallow a bunch of Tylenol 3s. And kick them off my non-existent lawn. But Cuties eventually justifies why she and those bullies become friends. Its justification, then, is that these five girls are growing up in a Western society with sex on its subconscious. And that topic in lingers as these girls choreograph their dance routines. They are, after all, a dance crew who call themselves the Cuties. For those asking, my knowledge of dance comes from So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew, and half of their routines has actual dancing and the other half is objectionable.

Sexuality also lingers when they find condoms littering train tracks or cat fishing boys slightly older than them. All these activities show that one girl is always a mistake away from the others ostracizing them. That’s a comment on the precariousness of young friendships as this film absurdly turns into a pre-pubescent version of Showgirls. It also shows how a significant portion of this girls’ lives have IRL and online lives. People on both lives, when they find out their age, them that they’re too young to be sexual. But if that’s true, what about those online videos saying otherwise? Doucoure is doing a lot of things here, and I haven’t read her OP that explains her film that’s self-explanatory.

But to me, she’s commenting what I would call the sexual uncanny valley, a valley deeper than the uncanny valley. Before I explain what that is, a disclaimer that, again, I’m gay. Despite of that, I can appreciate female beauty in a platonic way. And that’s because we live in a society that boxes in girls as visual objects. The film, by the way, is aware of this objectification. Anyway, the sexual uncanny valley shows that every depiction and performance of sexuality is one step away from absurdity. Or worse, that all sexuality is inherently absurd and an object of ridicule. It’s ok for the internet to show videos of sexualized women. But Amy’s fellow crew member Angelica’s (Medina el-Aidi Azouni) performance of it is absurd because she has glasses.

And Amy and Coumba’s (Esther Gouhourou) performance of it is absurd. Because all five girls have awkward bodies and are ELEVEN, an age where such a performance altogether dangerous. Her improper conduct always gets her own step away from discipline. Cuties mostly cuts away from scenes where audiences would assume that an adult would step in. That’s until Amy gets into a violent altercation in school. That altercation makes her mother beat her or blame her for their problems. Or for her Auntie (Black Girl‘s Mbissine Therese Diop) to ‘wash her sins away’. All three approaches don’t address her real problems or her grievances against society’s mixed messages. Amy’s story shows her becoming a part of the cycles of sexual rebellion and rejection. Cuties shows eventually how one can grow despite of that cycle.

Watch Cuties on Netflix because you’re an adult and you watch films before judging them.

  • Release Date: 9/17/2020
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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