Media film critics are praising the controversial tween-twerking movie Cuties as “extraordinary” and “inspired” while playing defense for Netflix against attacks from so-called “scandal-mongers on the right” who have condemned the movie’s highly sexualized depiction of underage girls.
Cuties (Mignonnes), which debuted Thursday on Netflix, tells the story of an 11-year-old girl growing up in France, who attempts to escape the oppressive atmosphere of her Senegalese Muslim family by joining a twerking troupe. The movie features an extended sequence in which the underage girls perform a raunchy dance number, complete with pelvic gyrations and suggestive touching.
The sequence prompted the hashtag #CancelNetflix to trend on Twitter Thursday, with calls for people to cancel their subscriptions. Last month, the movie’s marketing campaign stirred a backlash after the trailer and poster released by Netflix focused heavily on the scene in question.
Critics are arguing that the movie’s sexually charged portrayal of tween girls is actually an artistic commentary thereof — and that right-wing naysayers are missing the point. But as Breitbart News’ John Nolte wrote in his review, “Cuties is not an indictment of the sexualization of children. Cuties sexualizes children,” and portrays twerking as a “path to enlightenment and growth.”
The New Yorker’s Richard Brody gave Cuties a rave review, calling it an “extraordinary Netflix debut” for French filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré. He also dismissed the “scurrilous campaign” from the right, which he claims has failed to grasp the true meaning of the movie. “The subject of Cuties isn’t twerking,” he wrote. “It’s children, especially poor and nonwhite children, who are deprived of the resources — the education, the emotional support, the open family discussion — to put sexualized media and pop culture into perspective.”
In a deleted tweet, the New Yorker referred to those condemning Cuties as “scandal-mongers on the right.”
RogerEbert.com critic Monica Castillo gave the movie four stars, arguing that its “uncomfortable images” are meant to “provoke a serious conversation about the sexualization of girls.” She also defended the film against those who object to its questionable scenes. “The film actively critiques the very thing pearl-clutchers were mad about — the sexualization of children,” she wrote.
Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang praised the movie’s “inspired” contrasts between the “sacred and the secular,” adding that the director has made an “empathetic and analytical movie, not an exploitative one.” He also dissed those who have condemned the movie, referring to them as “putative grownups” who “can never be bothered to do the hard work of looking at something, let alone learning from it.”
Mashable critic Angie Han defended the movie’s sexualized depiction of underage girls. “It’s upsetting, and it’s supposed to be — because the whole point of Cuties is how damn hard it can be for girls to navigate womanhood in a society that’s all too eager to tell girls and women what they should be, and not at all interested in what they might be or want to be.”