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Cuties (Mignonnes

(French, dubbed in English in the Netflix version): Amy, who is Senegalese, lives with her mother and brother in a Paris neighborhood. She wants to become a member of the Cuties, a hip-hop dance group. She befriends Jess, one of the Cuties, and soon teaches herself the dance moves, begins to dress like them, and begins teaching them new dance moves that she has found on the internet. The controversy over this film is completely overblown, but I will leave that aside for the moment and focus on what the film is. It is a striking coming of age film about a preteen girl who finds herself in the conflict between her parents (her father recently returned home with a second wife), who are very conservative, and her friends, who she wants to be like. The Cuties, like many preteen girls, look to the internet for their dance moves, their sense of fashion, their facial expressions. It is fascinating to watch the power that the internet has over these young girls’ perceptions of themselves. Amy starts finding dance moves that are much more suggestive; the girls really have no idea what any of this means, except that whatever it is, the moves, fashion tips, etc. have a lot of likes. As Amy gets more involved with the Cuties, she draws further from her parents, creating a tense dynamic between first-generation parents and the daughter who wants to fit in. There is an element of preteen anger that feels very real. Are there “suggestive elements” in the film? Yes, and they serve their purpose well in making us feel uncomfortable about the world that these girls live in, one that isn’t mediated by messages from these parents that could help to contextualize what is going on. In passing this off as just a film that “exploits girls”, the more important points of the film, including how the internet sexualizes girls and teenagers in a “man’s world”, become lost. This film gets a thumbs up from me. Is it a perfect film? No, but it is a darned good one by the first time (female) director that makes a bold statement. I loved the ending as well – in the end, Amy is just an 11-year-old girl. The film unfortunately suffered from a terrible marketing mistake by Netflix and from the thousands of people who refused to watch the movie and send around memes denouncing it yet speak about it as though they have seen it. I also just started watching The Social Dilemma, and there are some clear parallels here. (2020; 4 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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