The #cancelnetflix hashtag has been trending on Twitter this week, because of Cuties, a French movie directed by Maïmouna Doucouré that critiques society’s sexualization of girls.
Cuties takes a look inside the life of an 11-year-old Senegalese girl from Paris, with dreams of pursuing a career in dance. Against her parents protestations, she joins a local dance clique.
It has been the target of conservative and QAnon groups because of its apparent sexualisation of young girls — prompting some to call it a pedophile film. The film explores the impact of social media on children, the policing of child sexuality, double standards in society and the learning of sexualised behaviours. Doucouré’s is attempting to show that children should have the time to be children.
Cuties won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance this year, and Netflix secured the rights to the film.
Like many fits of outrage today — both on the left and the right — the criticisms the film has drawn took place before its attackers even saw it, based on nothing more than a film poster and without any context. This was primarily the result of the film poster that Netflix designed, which painted the girls in a sexualised light — reminiscent of much older girls in many a hip hop video nowadays.
Whatever your opinion is on the film poster, the outrage and calls to cancel Netflix point to several large issues in society today.
Many criticisms of today’s current affairs lack context. For example, just today a friend sent me a photo of riot police walking through a fruit and veg market in Melbourne, with the caption “the cops have gone too far”. I assumed that they were taking a hard line on people breaking Melbourne’s strict lockdown laws. But it turned out that a large group had organized to meet at said market in order to protest said lockdown laws, hence the riot police. In the case of Cuties, not only was the poster lacking context, but people were criticising the film before they had even seen it.
It has become the norm to rush to cancel anything that doesn’t fit our idealised version of the world — again, both on the right, and in particular nowadays, on the left. Whether it’s Cuties, JK Rowling, Joe Rogan or Chris D’Elia, people have become drunk on the power of collective keystrokes, and rather than make something of our own lives, it’s far easier to gain satisfaction from bringing down others.
Whatever your opinion on Cuties, when we shut down a conversation surrounding the sexualisation of young girls, are we actually doing the cause any good? Ignoring things tends not to make them go away, and by shining a light on these issues, we can have a conversation and actually do something about them — something Doucouré was no doubt hoping to achieve with Cuties.
The first step in any 12-step recovery program is acknowledging that you have a problem, and what films like Cuties do, is highlight that problem.
Life is full of uncomfortable truths, and by fessing up to them, we are more likely to come out the other side better human beings, and with — hopefully — a better society.
Steve Glaveski is on a mission to unlock your potential to do your best work and live your best life. He is the founder of innovation accelerator, Collective Campus, author of several books, including Employee to Entrepreneur and Time Rich, and productivity contributor for Harvard Business Review. He’s a chronic autodidact and is into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and hold a warrior three pose.