Jacobin - September 15, 2020

"It’s hard to believe it can be news that children both long to grow up faster and feel pressured to mature sexually before many of them can emotionally handle it. Or that adults are often so uneasy with children’s emerging sexuality that they do more harm than good trying to ignore, deny, contain, or punish it out of existence. But apparently, these obvious things are news now, and the absurd Cuties scandal is as good an excuse as any to point out that it’s long past time many stunted adults in this society actually grew up and acquired some emotional competence that would allow them to deal, however belatedly, with the facts of life."

The controversy over the new Netflix movie Cuties is so stupid, you never should’ve heard about it. But it’s gotten so hysterically overblown by this point, it can’t be ignored anymore. Members of Congress are actually calling for the film’s removal from the Netflix lineup as well as a Justice Department investigation of child exploitation and endangerment.

Cuties is a French film originally titled Mignonnes, for which writer-director Maïmouna Doucouré won the Directing Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Film competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. The film has played at a number of film festivals and in France since August without incident. It’s a pretty good film, trying to be honest about the inner lives of children at a certain age, which is rare these days. It’s based on the experiences of writer-director Maïmouna Doucouré, who has said, “As a child, that question of how to become a woman was my obsession.”

Cuties focuses on a crisis in the life of Amy (well played by Fathia Youssouf), an eleven-year-old child of working-class Senegalese immigrants living on the outskirts of Paris. Her family is a traditional Muslim one, and she’s becoming alarmed by how clearly her own adult life is being mapped out before her, modeled on that of her suffering but seemingly dutiful mother’s. From a hiding place, Amy witnesses her mother’s sobbing anguish over the imminent arrival of her husband, who’s bringing home a second wife. And when Amy begins menstruating, she’s told by her elderly aunt that now she’s a woman, eligible to be given in marriage in a few years. ...
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