I heard about the movie Cuties, watched the trailer, and looked at the feedback on Twitter. I was immediately bombarded with hashtags calling for the cancellation of Netflix, with people cancelling their subscriptions.
If I had allowed Twitter to decide on my behalf, I would also be considering DStv packages right this moment. So, I opted to watch the full movie first and deduce from there. I was sold after the first 10 minutes of the movie.
The opening scene was a beautiful tour in the home of 11-year-old Amy who wanted to move into a separate room at their new home with her mom and two younger siblings. I am immediately introduced to an innocent and obedient young girl who did everything her mother told her to.
The film beautifully covers themes of women-led homes, the challenges of being an older sibling, identity, absent fathers, and polygamy in the first half an hour of the movie. I also saw a strong black woman who, when alone, cries at the thought of her husband marrying another woman, even hitting herself for it, but smiles when people are watching.
It saddens me that all we continue to converse about is twerking pre-teens in skimpy outfits.
Yes, at some point in the movie, they twerk and wear skimpy outfits.
How they became twerking tweens is the reason why I can relate to this film, and why it deserved every award and controversy it received.
“The adolescent mind is essentially a mind or moratorium, a psychosocial stage between childhood and adulthood, and between the morality learned by the child, and the ethics to be developed by the adult (Erikson, 1963, p. 245)”
This is according to psychology pioneer Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. For the context of this movie, the section on “ethics to be developed by the adult” is what I would like to focus on.
What content are our pre-teens watching? Who is teaching them what it means to be an adult and a woman? Who is mirroring the ideal behaviour of womanhood? Kim Kardashian? Cardi B?
They wear skimpy clothes and twerk in music videos, and this gets them popularity and likes, which made Ava jump for joy the first time she posted a filtered photo of herself using a stolen phone.
What I find laughable is how the biggest critics of Cuties are people that have not watched it because it’s “soft porn”. People are finding ‘twerking’ 11-year olds pornographic? People are making a decision on the production based on certain clips that, without context, can easily aggravate the viewer.
I put twerking in inverted commas cause they don’t even have bums. They are 11. I sat there watching and thinking “what are they doing?”, which is kind of the point. They are depicting the very reality of millions of pre-teens that are, every day, watching famous women dressed and moving in a certain way.
Like it or not, we are now having conversations regarding the content our kids are consuming, conversations we would not generally talk about without Cuties.
“Isn’t the objectification of women that we often see in our Western culture not another form of oppression?” Cuties director Maïmouna Doucouré asks.
In a Netflix Interview, the French director and writer shared why she wrote and directed a movie that has one of the most disliked trailers on YouTube.
The social media age sees children bombarded with images daily of ‘sexy’ women with millions of followers and likes.
Hell, my three-year-old dances predominantly with her bum now because I watched too many Beyoncé videos.
“Some people have found certain scenes in my film uncomfortable to watch. But if one really listens to 11-year-old girls, their lives are uncomfortable,” Doucouré shares on The Washington Post.
Controversial or not, it is a direct depiction of what is the reality of many pre-teens; using social media influencers as a point of reference to womanhood.
Also Read: TikTok safety tips for teens and parents
Adolescence is hard, but social media obsession makes it harder. How that translates in real life is what we see in the movie; young girls who believe that sex sells, taking pictures of their genitals to prove a point.
I appreciate the uproar.
The movie made its point.
Karabo Mokoena is a wife, a girl mom, a writer and content creator. She is the Resident Contributor for Parenty and a Mommy Blogger, creating relatable parenting content for her blog Black Mom Chronicles. You can engage with her on her Instagram and Facebook pages. She is a Political Science graduate, who has worked in Human Resources for most of her professional career. She loves engaging with people, thus her choice to specialise in recruitment. She loves telling stories and sharing her life’s journey to brighten someone else’s day.