I am almost grateful to the 600,000 activists who signed the petition on Change.org to cancel since last Thursday Cuties (in original Cute) from Netflix, because it is a delicate and throbbing film that I would never have seen, had it not made Netflix lose 9 billion dollars in one day. On Twitter, the hashtag #cancelnetflix went crazy, while thousands of indignant people (calmly declaring that they only watched the trailer) shared the word “Pedoflix” with the well-known red font of the platform, or the screenshot of the email that canceled the subscription, forcing the distribution giant with heartfelt apologies, a change in the marketing rush, and perhaps the dismissal of those who had chosen the poster with the underage protagonists little dressed and very little educators.
This time the controversy seemed to originate from exponents of the Trumpian right, such as the very Mormon “wife and dog mama” who had launched the campaign on Change. Instead, after a while, among the main supporters of the boycott were also the progressive democrats and some exponents of radical feminism and / or black culture. The protest, which at first seemed politicized, quickly became a human battle against child pornography, well summed up by tweets such as’ gay, lesbian, African American, right, left, there’s only one thing that agrees all: Netflix must retire Cuties».
In any case. Hoping not to end up like the Netflix editor who wrote the plot, I’ll say it’s the story of an eleven-year-old Parisian from an observant Muslim family who dreams of emancipating herself by joining a group of irresistibly vital immigrant dancers. The main accusation that everyone agrees is that 650 girls at the casting of the film (directed by the Franco-Senegalese Maïmouna Doucouré) had to twerk in bra in front of a crew of (presumed) men, and that already this is criminal for a film that aims to denounce the hyper-sexualization of young girls by the media.
Now, it occurs to me that much of the filmography with minor actors is not dedicated to minors (on children in adult films, I opened a modest Instagram profile). Yes, in part there will also be special effects, but isn’t a four-year-old child acting in a scene of family violence then worse than some twelve-year-olds who – surely educated on the meaning of their actions by the director – do a sexy ballet?
But above all, where do the people who want to protect 12-year-old actresses from Niki Minaj ballet live? They are aware that there is no fourth grade girl, not even Steiner, not even Ursuline, not even without TV and mobile phone – unless she is the protagonist of Dogtooth – who hasn’t tried Elettra Lamborghini-like moves in the mirror with his friend? And if our daughters, stuffed with feminist tales about Frida Kalho and Samantha Cristoforetti, shut themselves up in the bathroom to sit up and wiggle, writing status like “please, we get a thousand followers!”, How can we be so big-headed? And blind to think that four suburban girls with their parents who work 12 hours at the restaurant could end up differently from the adorable girls in the film? In the scene of the offending ballet, the jury of the dance competition begins to get indignant (like the Netlfix audience, unable to read a work of art), but the girls show a touching candor, because all the time they do not notice mimic sexual movements. The spectator without the smoke of moralism in his eyes does not re-emerge shocked by the scene, but rather moved. Like when the little girls, squared off by the perverted guardians of a laser game, receive notification of the selection in the dance competition, and celebrate with the childlike joy of those who receive a lollipop.
In defending the film, perhaps the editorialist of the New Yorker Richard Brody, because it makes another ideological question by saying that “it is a film especially about non-white children, who are deprived of the educational resources and emotional support that help put pop culture into perspective.” Also Janice Turner, on the Times, misses a bit by stating that “you cannot be bigoted when you defend children”, while it should say that you cannot must be bigots when you tells childhood.
I think the defense of Cuties must pass from an aesthetic rather than an ethical discourse, because how can you understand a film when you are there to ask yourself if the actress is 11 or 13 years old, and how many straight males were behind the cameras? Cuties it’s wonderful. It opens on the mystery around a closed room in the new house of the protagonist Aminata, which we gradually learn to be the bridal room where the father will settle down with his second wife, to the great pain of the first, who however must pretend to be happy. From this intimate disappointment, the transformation of the girl begins, who continues to lovingly count the cereals of her little brother, while giving him drones with stolen money and watching video clips of shaking buttocks with the cell phone hidden under the veil during the prayer at the mosque. She has a gruff aunt who wishes her an early marriage, and is willing to stab male companions with a compass, photograph their penises, post her genitals and throw a partner in a canal just to get some attention, showing a vitality that can only irritate the retrograde aunt or the internet censors.
Amy’s friends iron their hair while they do the washing for adults, blow condoms found on the floor without understanding, wear baby girl underwear under vulgar and cheap looks, continuing to radiate a stubbornly clean beauty. There is an incredible scene, with the protagonist vibrating as if possessed by the demon of twerking as the women of the house sprinkle holy water on her to purify her of sins. There is the moment in which with horror, she glimpses, hooded in the white veil that also hides her face, the bride of her father, a threatening ghost of a life consecrated to submission. And there is the fairy element: the spirits closed in prayer beads green and used to buy the silence of the little brother, and the traditional dress that Aminata must wear at her father’s wedding, which comes alive, breathes, swells and bleeds the day the protagonist becomes a woman. Just during the wedding party, Amy becomes a child in appearance and manner and, playing a street game, seems to hover like an angel on the suburbs that pin her to the ground.