By Alan Champion
I’ve just finished watching Netflix’s Cuties, and found the controversy surrounding this engrossing, rites/coming of age narrative ill-placed. Having taught in public schools, grades, K-12, I was immediately touched by Maïmouna Doucouré’s poignant, sensitive and provocative portrayal of preadolescents, and the upshot, influence – derivative – of socialization, and, unremitting indoctrination and inculcation, via, media on this credulous, susceptible cohort. If anyone is to be indicted, coerced, admonished or vilified, it certainly isn’t Maïmouna Doucouré, but, a society, set upon sexualization – for profit, at whatever age – which glamorizes and inundates callow girls with pornographic and erogenous imagery as if to program/condition them, similar to Alex in Stanley Kubrick’s phenomenal, A Clockwork Orange, throughout their formative years.
Sadly, its, yet, this contradictory, double standard that’s the incriminatory culprit, of a labyrinthine, dichotomous archetype that sends conflicting, diametric messages – subliminally or overtly – that these images are exemplary and desirable, yet, that lambastes and castigates young girls for trying to emulate, imbue and realize them. Daddies’ images of their naive “little” girls are sorely fragmentary and selective as behind closed doors, in the bedrooms, locker rooms and/or basements, they, furtively, embody, impersonate and even actualize these “controversial” images.
Maïmouna Doucouré, is a woman, disentangling and explicating her personal experiences – which are universal as teens, beset with hormonal changes, independence issues and budding sexuality, seek out validation/popularity from their peers in order to cope with their disruptive and confounding nascent vicissitudes.
Amy is a practicing Moslem, preteen, black girl, whose family recently moved into their housing development. Ethnically, culturally, religiously outcast, she doesn’t fit into any specific category or group, but, is inundated by and expose to her peers’, at her new school, unfettered attitudes, hedonistic and suggestive behaviors, and tantalizingly alluring comportment, and, conflicted – rebels against her adamantine religious tenets and culture, which allows her father to take a second wife, when, he’s abandoned her mother and family – seeking the companionship and validation of her newfound peers, wherein, she strives to prove her worth by being the most innovative and invaluable dancer, which, ultimately, affirms her status and place amongst her coterie.
Yet, at the end of her adventuring, like, Dorothy Gale in Victor Fleming’s grandiose, The Wizard of Oz, she realizes that her home, and mother’s and family’s love is all that really counts. “There’s no place like home, resounds…” Hence, Amy, our protagonist has evolved with new found enlightenment, but it is only by experiencing her loutish and confounding vicissitudes, head-on, that she gains these new, life-sustaining insights.
Ms. Maïmouna Doucouré is to be congratulated for her no holds candor and trailblazing narrative, which, courageously, shows the causatum impact and victimization of youth – in this case, young girls – through unremitting conditioning and misogynistic manipulation and machination; at last, a causal relationship between stimuli and response… A riveting, psycho-socio-anthropological dig and excavation, Cuties pointedly delineates the persecutor, gudgeon and subjugated paradigm and casuistry.
Notwithstanding, should a filmmaker be criticized for making an honest biographical film based on her personal empiricism, and are we to censor creativity of any sort? Over and above, the controversy hasn’t anything to do with Doucouré’s engrossing story line, but, with the lewd images the headliners portray – which, ironically, are mirrored images of what society promulgates them with. And, yet, it’s the men – that these glaringly lewd, erogenous and aphrodisiac images, targets – who make the loudest, incendiary noises – conjuring up, yet, comparable and analogous, controversial wrangling about abortion, prostitution and even, should women stay home or work… Simply put, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too…”